One way that young alumni stay in touch with the alma mater is through
serving on the Alumni Executive Council.
By Colleen M. Fenity
| The youngest members of the Alumni Council
gathered in the new student center at the council's meeting in January. From
left are Joe Kerper '00, Dawn-Marie Webster '96, E-Ben
Grisby '99, Joellen Hornig '96 and Peter Darcy '98.
In her article, Director of Alumni and Parent
Programs Kim Robinson Hissong '94 points on that that "there
is a large contingent of young alumni who feel disconnected from our
alma mater." Six young alumni who serve on the University's
Alumni Executive Council are certainly more connected than most. Recently,
three of them reflected on how their time spent "being connected" by
volunteering as council members has affected them; through their service
they have come to see how much St. Lawrence shapes people's lives
and how much it relies on the support of those people after they graduate.
Joellen Hornig '96 credits her service to the council for helping
her to become "more aware of the voice that the alumni body is
given" at St. Lawrence and is pleased that "the feedback
that is provided is taken very seriously by the administration." When
asked how she perceives the University differently now than when she
was a student, Hornig, who works in human resources for MetLife Financial
Services in New York City, responds, "I see the ‘business' side
of running the University. I've gained an understanding
of costs and the challenges of raising capital for upcoming projects."
Becoming involved with the University has also opened her eyes to
some of the issues facing its future. In her time on the council, Hornig
has discovered how the percentage of alumni giving affects St. Lawrence's
rankings in US News & World Report and has learned that "this
is one of the factors holding us back from achieving parity with institutions
that we consider our peers."
Joe Kerper '00 says he was drawn to St. Lawrence the moment
that he set foot on campus because "It fit my vision of what
the small liberal arts school should truly represent." The youngest
member of the Alumni Executive Council, he feels he's in "the
most advantageous position to appreciate and benefit from just what
the council says about the St. Lawrence experience. Being able to work
with graduates from such diverse backgrounds—age, race, place
of residence—has taught me more about SLU than I thought possible.
"Being able to talk with folks, all of whom experienced SLU
in a completely different light," Kerper continues, "has
allowed me to reconnect and further appreciate just what the University
offers to students. I've come to understand that St. Lawrence
has given something different, though equally beneficial, to each graduate,
in the form of the stories that they leave with. Walking through the
new Student Center, remembering my own days in the old ‘UC,' reminds
me of my connection with St. Lawrence and proves that that connection
is anything but static," says Kerper, a communications specialist
with the National Rifle Association.
"One of the biggest things I've learned since leaving St. Lawrence
and becoming a member of the Alumni Executive Council is how much of
a difference small efforts make," says Dawn-Marie Webster '96. "It's
very frustrating when I encounter peers who have a negative view of St.
Lawrence. I know how important they would say their experience at SLU
was to them – how important the people they met are to them still." Webster
believes her life would not be what it is today without her experiences
at St. Lawrence. "I was a North Country scholar and attended St.
Lawrence with the Cadillac of financial aid packages," she points
out. "I met friends that I still have to this day. My internship
in University communications gave me enough experience to get my foot
in the door in advertising. I got my first job through a St. Lawrence
connection. I'm a Canadian who speaks two languages working in
New York City for a St. Lawrence alum," says Webster, an account
executive at the advertising firm Grey Worldwide. "None of this
would have happened if I hadn't attended St. Lawrence. I spend so much
time and effort volunteering for current students and fellow alums for
the same reason that I did when I was in school--just to give something
back to an institution that took a chance on me. Because as far as I'm
concerned it was a chance that's paid off in spades." Perhaps Webster
summarizes the feelings of the others when she says, "St. Lawrence
sells itself as a student-centered institution, and I think delivers
on that. I also think it does a great job of being an alumni-centered
place. I have a much better perspective now on how this University
cannot function without the full support and participation of all Laurentians. There
is not one that isn't essential."
A 2002 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hamilton College, Colleen Fenity is assistant
director of alumni and parent programs; she helps foster connections by paying
particular attention to young alumni programming and Saints Network events.