From the Alumni Prez

By Greg Byshenk ’89
Greg Byshenk

Greg Byshenk ’89

As most of you will already be aware, Reed is currently engaging in a strategic planning process. More or less coincidentally, the alumni association has been doing something similar. 

Our long-range vision, as described in the strategic plan for 2012–22, includes the goals to “provide leadership development opportunities in areas such as governance, strategic planning, and fundraising; and encourage and support efforts to develop new and creative ways to engage alumni in the life of the college.” Unfortunately, in looking into various historical practices, we realized that some of our formal policies and procedures serve to hinder, rather than help, our goals.

For example, the committee and chapter structure as written into the constitution is quite limiting. The constitution recognizes only one committee (Reunions), and does not provide for any means of formally recognizing new standing committees, nor any means of associating with groups that are not formally committees of the alumni association. As new groups of alumni begin to work with college in new activities, it would be good for the alumni association to have a way to recognize and coordinate with these groups, even if some of those groups might remain independent of our formal structure. Things like Alumni Fundraising for Reed, Working Weekend, and the outreach committee’s recent work with admission show that alumni can provide a valuable contribution to the college, but some sort of structure is required in order to build a stable, ongoing process.

Relating more purely with alumni, the structure of alumni association chapters has worked well for some years, but some have noticed limitations, in that the constitution states that chapters must be local organizations. Given the spread of networking and ease of travel, we are now finding communities that organize themselves on the basis of interest rather than geography, and may have members spread all across the country, or even the world. It might similarly be good to create a way for such communities of interest to be recognized by the alumni association.

Finally, in a more procedural area, our nominations process is extremely cumbersome. It requires a great deal of work by the nominations committee and the nominees very early in the process, followed by a long empty downtime between nomination and finally taking office. While there certainly needs to be some waiting period sufficient to enable the possibility of challenges to the slate proposed by the nominations committee, the current procedures, requiring almost a full year between nomination and appointment, seem somewhat excessive. In recent years both the number and quality of candidates have increased tremendously, and it is something of a waste to set our volunteers aside for so long a time. In this area also, given the improvements in communication over the last 20 years, it seems that we could produce something more streamlined while retaining the ability of members to challenge candidates.

For these reasons, the alumni board of directors has formed an ad hoc policies and procedures committee. This committee, chaired by Kristen Earl ’05, board secretary, will consider and propose changes to our bylaws and constitution to align them with the vision and goals we have adopted. Changes to the constitution require the consent of the alumni association as a whole, so be aware that proposals will be coming forward in the future. We also welcome comment from the alumni association as a whole. The current board guidebook is available from the alumni board website, where you can also find the strategic plan and the current constitution and bylaws. If you do have advice, please contact me, or any members of the alumni board.