The Elizabethtown College Alumni Council held its winter meeting this past Saturday, Feb. 4. The Alumni Council meets four times per year and represents the entire Elizabethtown College Alumni Association (ECAA).
Saturday’s meeting took place in the Susquehanna Room in Myer Residence Hall at 9 a.m. A continental breakfast was available starting at 8:30 a.m.
About two dozen Alumni Council members were in attendance and several more participated over the phone and through social media.
Executive Director of College Engagement Opportunities Mark Clapper started the meeting by wishing one member a happy birthday and welcoming new member and 2013 Etown graduate Kristen Lacaillade to the council.
Lacaillade recalled attending Alumni Council meetings as a Student Senate representative, saying such interactions “allow alums to hear from students in order to be involved with the College and be able to be a part of the College’s evolution.”
Clapper and Associate Professor of Japanese Dr. Mahua Bhattacharya updated the council members on many plans for the future of the College as a whole.
Before the meeting, each member was given a copy of the first draft of the College’s “Envision 2020” Strategic Plan.
Clapper and Bhattacharya explained the different goals outlined in the plan, as well as things like the College’s vision and mission statements, which were organized into different infographics.
One aspect of the Strategic Plan that received attention was the College’s value proposition, which explains what students will gain from an Etown education.
Some council members expressed concerns that the proposition was too vague and would not make Etown stand out among similar colleges.
“It’s a marketing thing. You know something’s working when you don’t have to associate a name with it,” council member Erika Butler, ’06, said. “In terms of the College, we’ll know the value proposition fits when we can take out the word ‘Etown’ and still know what school it means.”
Several members discussed the language used in some of the other goals. Some believed that the things that make Etown unique should be included more prominently.
One of these unique elements the members discussed was the College’s commitment to peace, nonviolence and service.
One member explained that many colleges encourage students to lead lives of service, but not many colleges go as out of their way to do so as Etown. The member suggested that those values be written into the value proposition because of their uniqueness to Etown.
Clapper emphasized how important it was to receive this constructive criticism early in the writing process and reminded those attending that the final draft of the Strategic Plan will most likely be very different from the one the members analyzed.
Council members briefly discussed the College’s recent problems with student recruitment and retention.
The Class of 2020 has a total of 442 students, which is short of the College’s annual goal of having 500 students in each incoming class.
When the similarly small size of the Class of 2018 is taken into account, the potential financial consequences of this drop in enrollment become more serious.
Still, Alumni Council President Ryan Unger, ’01, said that the College is doing a good job of acknowledging the enrollment issue and taking steps to solve it.
Attendees also discussed topics that deal with the Alumni Council itself.
All members were given a quiz that asked them everything from who can nominate candidates for membership, to the minimum number of members required to hold a meeting.
The main topic the members discussed was the council’s own recruitment and retention situation.
Several members are leaving the council because their terms are expiring or because they are stepping down. Many expressed concerns about the council possibly not having enough members to fill all of the committee positions and discussed possible ways to recruit new members to replace those who choose not to continue.
One suggestion was holding an open enrollment period for the remainder of this year.
Alumni Council Vice President Patti Hivner, ’86, then challenged each present member to recruit one fellow classmate to apply for membership.
Clapper and Director of Major Gifts Marty Thomas-Brummé gave an update on the College’s BE Inspired campaign, which was launched in April 2016.
The campaign is designed to raise money to benefit all aspects of life for Etown students and is organized around certain goals.
With well over $34 million donated or pledged to be donated to the campaign so far, the College is more than halfway to its goal of raising $50 million by 2020. Of this total, over $30 million comes from cash and pledged donations.
Clapper mentioned that the campaign’s goals include the construction of the College’s Sports, Fitness and Wellness Center (SFWC).
The College’s Board of Trustees voted to proceed with designing the center at its fall meeting in October.
According to Clapper and Thomas-Brummé, the College has raised over $11 million of the $15 million goal toward funding the design and building of the SFWC, with an additional $270,000 donated since the Trustees’ decision.
The College plans to break ground for the SFWC later this year, and the building is tentatively set to open in the fall of 2018.
Members also discussed the College’s other donation-centered projects. The ECAA is in charge of the Elizabethtown College Fund (ECF), which is used to improve many aspects of the campus community.
Clapper mentioned the ECAA’s goal of having every council member contribute to the fund and encouraged them to do so.
Members then received information about Power of One Day, an annual 24-hour event designed to raise as much money for the College as possible in one day.
This year’s Power of One Day is Tuesday, Mar. 14, and Alumni Council members were encouraged to participate.
Each of the Alumni Council’s standing committees provided updates.
During the meeting, the council members were asked to think of one word to describe what they received from the College.
Senior Tyler Latshaw, who attended the meeting as a representative of Student Senate, said he enjoyed hearing the alumni use words like “support,” “community” and “opportunity.”
“Looking back as a senior, I can say that since Day One the College has made me a better person,” Latshaw said. “It’s nice to hear the same sentiments expressed from people who knew Etown before I did because it means that in that aspect, Etown hasn’t changed.”