December 10, 2021 | NEWS | By Riley Prillwitz
What does a Colorado College student think of when they are asked about the Office of Alumni? Maybe they assume it is a bunch of people constantly asking alumni for money. Maybe they wonder if there are actual alumni doing some type of work for the school. Maybe they simply have no idea.
In reality, there is a lot that happens over at the Tutt Alumni House. Not only are alumni involved in organizing homecoming, reunions, and other events, but they also are a part of multiple councils and committees within the alumni organization.
For one, the Alumni Association Council (AAC) works to “encourage alumni participation through service, volunteerism, and philanthropy in support of the college’s mission,” as stated on the CC website. The AAC is a group of 29 alumni members who make up committees within the association. These committees have different purposes within the council, but they all are meant to keep alumni supporting the school and involved in current CC events.
The Nominations and Awards Committee, for example, does a lot of work involving the alumni community and engagement in CC. Former Director of Alumni and Family Relations Tiffany Kelly emphasized the importance of the committee.
“[The Nominations and Awards Committee’s] job is to review nominations for the alumni awards that happen every year at homecoming,” Kelly said. “They also review nominations for an elected alumni trustee, who sits on the Board of Trustees, and a young alumni trustee who [also] sits on the Board of Trustees.”
Kelly explained that at the moment, the committee is not receiving many submissions or nominations for alumni awards, and none of those submissions are coming from current students, though they are allowed to make submissions.
Mark Schlessman ’74 is the current chair of the Nominations and Awards Committee. He spoke to the importance of the work of the committee and the engagement from the council.
“One of the interesting aspects of [CC’s] location is that the average distance of an individual alumni from campus is really far, because a bunch of alums are in the big cities on the coast,” Schlessman said. The outreach that the council and specific committees do is important because of this geographic distribution. “The whole idea now is to try to build pride in the community, ” he said.
The purpose of the Nominations and Awards Committee, to Schlessman, is to keep alumni involved and returning to campus despite the geographic distance.
The AAC is hoping to not only increase alumni involvement, but to engage students in feeling like they can also be a part of award nominations and decisions that the council makes. After all, students are automatically part of the alumni community once they graduate CC. Therefore, this is a great way to keep them connected to the college throughout their lives.
Students also do not have to wait until they see their first gray hairs to get involved. Elliott Williams ’21 is already an acting member of the council and sits on the Alumni and Students Engagement Committee, as well as the Scholarship Committee. Though he graduated less than a year ago, he already plays an important hand in engaging alumni, and would like to be able to reach out to students for their involvement as well.
“Students aren’t on the committees, which I think if students are interested, it would be really cool to have student representatives on the Alumni Council,” Williams said. “You know, students are just future alumni.”
So far, Williams has pushed for students to be included in more of the outreach content that the Alumni Office releases for parents and alumni of the college. Williams has developed a rough idea for a podcast, he said, to “tell stories of alumni.”
He is hoping that using this media would be the best form of storytelling and thus find success in reaching students, faculty, and alumni themselves.
Williams talked about how unique CC culture is, in that students come to the school loving to learn and wanting to support their peers in all of their endeavors. This carries over into his attitude as an alumni as well. Eventually, being able to support each other does include financial support as well.
“I’m really passionate about alumni who are able giving back to the school and supporting students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come here without scholarship opportunities,” Wiliams said.
Even if an alum is unable to give back, especially fresh out of college, it is important for them to be aware of what is occurring on campus to eventually inspire giving back. With more student involvement, alumni would better understand the important events at the school worth paying attention to and supporting.
“I think if there is student involvement, it should come from a place of students saying, ‘Hey, we want to be involved,’ and not a place of the committee just requesting students to be involved,” Williams said.
He also thinks that if students see an area of the school they would like to improve, involvement in the council is a great way to start, because “I believe to best change something that you care about is to be involved in it.”
Schlessman has similar thoughts as well. While he encourages student involvement with the council, he wants students to know that it does not (and should not) be a major commitment.
“It’s good for students to know about this stuff, but I don’t want to turn you into an alum while you’re still a student, you know. You’ve got your student stuff to do.”
The council really wants students to know that they are dedicated to keeping CC a school where students are excited to learn and want to stay all throughout college. Simply being aware of what they are doing for the college already makes their jobs worthwhile.
“They are a diverse group of individuals who care deeply about the future of CC,” Kelly said. “They not only give of their time, but also their talent…[and] their dollars. They do a lot of work to be sure that CC constituents feel connected, and everybody feels part of the greater CC community.”