Alumni Executive Council Virtual Business Meeting

October 24, 2020

President Sue North called the meeting to order at 11:03 am EST.

Alumni Executive Council Logo

Following roll call by Secretary Laura Patrick, a quorum was documented.

Present:  Acuria, Bates, Baucom, Cassidy, Cochran, Colton, Colucci, Danielson, DeCamp, Frank, Friedlander, Gilbert, Giles, Glass, Gross, Hakewill, Hann, Higgins, Ireland, Kallet, Lancaster, Levi, Lloyd, Martin, McGee, McManus, McSweeney, Michaelson, Merrell, North, Patrick, Pollard, Price, Rana, Richman, Russell, M. Ryan, Smith, Sylla, Wells, Willis, Wilson, Woolf, Zonitch

Not Present:  Abernethy, Bickford, Blank, Egbert, Hartz, Jenkins, Johnson, Kelly, D. Ryan, Santini, Stern, Wieland

A motion to approve the 16 July 2020 Business Meeting minutes was made by Molly Hann and seconded by Gary Zonitch.  All approved.

President’s Report – Sue North

President North’s report focused on updates from her attendance at the October Board of Trustees meeting plenary session which focused primarily on the Experience St. Lawrence Task Force planning initiative.  Thus far, the Board has decided to move forward with initiatives in the following areas:

  • Academic offerings
  • Career development
  • E-Sports
  • IT initiatives

The focus of Experience St. Lawrence is to focus on initiatives that will improve the University’s outlook during the next 3 – 5 years as well as increase points of differentiation with our competitors.  We will hear more about Experience St. Lawrence during our November 5 session.

Sue also shared highlights of President Fox’s presentation during the Board’s business meeting.  President Fox framed his talk around three words:  Plan, Mood, and Touch.

Plan:  President Fox discussed planning that has been done (return to campus in the fall and planning for the handling of COVID-19 testing and quarantine logistics) as well as all the planning that continues to take place as circumstances change and current plans are re-evaluated.  This includes residential living, academics, sports, and the return of students in January with the need to offer outdoor programming.  SLU has also begun to use wastewater testing for early and focused COVID-19 detection.

Mood:  President Fox talked about focusing on the positive and giving thoughtful analysis to the things we are all feeling.  He gave examples of how we might think about some of the feelings, or moods, as they come up by considering the words upon which we focus.  Examples he shared are:

Grief, not grievance

Determination, not pre-determined

Fatigue, not fatalism

Touch:  This word asks us to focus on things that offer tangible hope or relief from the on-going situation.  Examples are:

Chapel bells ringing

Dedication of the room named for Kathleen Buckley

Information sessions provided by various departments of the university

Engagement activities such as trivia night giving us an opportunity to focus on something different

Sports practices even though there are no intercollegiate games / matches, etc.

The art of conversation

Overall, the board meeting was very positive.  She also shared that approximately 40% of students on campus have requested to stay through the Thanksgiving break to the end of the semester.  Sue will be sending out a copy of the formal AEC report she provided to the Board.

Campus Report – Kim Hissong

Kim provided a brief update on The Campaign for Every Laurentian.  A new gift has been received from Hilary Valentine ’89, in the amount of $3 million.  This gift has been designated to the Power of Connections as a means to launch the new Center for Career Excellence with a focus on the center’s effort to invigorate mentor programming, increase internship opportunities, and develop a sequence of course to help students leverage their liberal arts education.

The Campaign to date has raised $185 million out of the stated goal of $225 million.

The University will also be restructuring the current administration to reflect an enrollment management model.  There will be a strong focus on recruitment and retention.  Florence Hines will have a newly expanded role as VP for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid.  Bob Durocher and Jillian McKernan-Walley will report to Hines in this new structure.  This will align recruiting more closely with Admissions and will move the Center for Career Excellence under this umbrella.  More information will be forthcoming as to what all this means for growth.

Other changes in support of this restructuring include IT now reporting to Steve Hietsch, VP for Finance & Administration.

Kim also reported that there has been a great response to the launch of the new E-Sports team.
 St. Lawrence has increasingly been hearing about increased interest in E-Sports and made the team official this fall.  It is expected to have a positive impact on admissions activity.

Student Delegate Report – Evelin Gilbert, Tarrah Price, Sohel Rana, Hammi Sylla, Dylan Woolf

Hammi Sylla reported that he is off-campus this semester and has found the experience challenging.  He acknowledged that members of the University (in particular, Career Services, Sharon Rodriguez, Rance Davis) are making efforts to listen to the student feedback and identify ways in which SLU can improve its support for students both on- and off- campus.  He thanked Sajana for her assistance to him personally.

Tarrah Price reported out on Dining Services, Career Services and student club activity.  Opportunities for improvement/enhancement have been identified in Dining Services.  This includes the ability to order on-line for the Pub and a suggestion to offer little eateries to expand variety.  Tarrah reported that Career Services has been working closely with students to keep students focused and moving forward.  There has been positive response to the SLU Connect LIVE and Alumni Insight Series. 

The use of ZOOM and plenty of outdoor offerings have allowed students to engage with clubs and find meaningful activities within them.

Dylan Woolf gave a campus update on athletics.  Planning for teams extends about a week at a time given current uncertainties.  Teams are continuing to practice and hold intra-squad competitions.  There is concern about spring sports as they were negatively impacted in 2020.  Hoping for a spring 2021 sports season.

Men’s and Women’s hockey has been practicing since September hoping for some kind of playing season.  Other leagues (Big 10) have decided to play.  The Fitness Center has opened with a limit of 12 users at a time.  This is managed through a sign-up system.  Cycling classes have also been made available.

Sohel Rana reported on student community outreach.  Students participated in the annual Make a Difference Day (working in the community raking leaves, etc.).  SLU Buddies are working with Canton schools to help mentor students as they learn to go to school / complete work in an on-line setting.  Campus Kitchens is running, but struggling to find volunteers.  With regard to Safety & Security, work is being done to address issues that have arisen as students who are not following rules become involved in arguments with security personnel attempting to enforce rules on campus.  (Items agreed to in the Laurentian Pact.)  Overall, the effort to control parties that occur on campus has been successful.

Evelin Gilbert shared that the health center has been working hard to keep everyone safe on campus by providing additional access to counselors (and more counselors) for students both on- and off-campus.

Sohel added that as holidays are nearing, it would be nice, if able, if Alumni Could extend invitations to students unable to go home.  There is also a fundraiser to support a Laurentian Care Package for local high school students – more information forthcoming.

There are also efforts working to engage with HEOP alumni from a networking perspective.

Treasurer’s Report/Finance & Resources Committee – Paul Danielson

Paul began with a review of the 2020/2021 Budget.  As expected, expenditures have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Spending in Advancement, Engagement, and Student Services was down.  Committees are re-working budget requests to reflect the current environment.  There have been budget request increases for Engagement (+$3,500), Student Services (+$2,000), and the new Diversity & Inclusion (+$1,000) and Auction IT platform (+$2,000) Task Forces.

As we continue to budget in excess of our AEC income, we will be looking for auction income and assistance from the Power of Connections Fund as dollars become available to offset particular budget items.

We continue to keep a $10,000 “rainy day” reserve.

Current internship endowment stands at $356,306 while the new Power of Connections Endowment (for non-internship programs) stands at $48,625 prior to planned December 2020 funding request to current and former AEC members.

Paul reviewed the budget timeline for 2021.  Sally McSweeney asked a question with regard to a pending $1,500 budget request for Engagement.  Sally moved to adopt the budget with the addition of these funds for Engagement.

Gretchen Bates expressed concern about the availability of extra funding for expenses that have yet to present for the spring.  Paul indicated that as the current environment (COVID-19) makes for a fluid situation some expenditures may not be made, thus making funding for unforeseen expenses possible.  An example of this is $2,500 initially budgeted in 2020 for L4L Week had been reassigned to support the Emergency Student Assistance Fund established in the spring.  Additional budget requests will be handled on an ad hoc basis.  He also pointed out that several ideas coming out of committees are more a matter of time and talent, not actual funding.

Hammi Sylla asked about the source of funding to the AEC.  Funding for the AEC used to come from a share of the bookstore funding.  It is now fully supported through the University Advancement budget.

The vote was held to approve the 2021 budget.  Approval passed unanimously.


Admissions – Scott Giles and Sarah Wieland

Scott Giles began by thanking everyone for their letter writing support in the spring for admitted students.  Given all the challenges of spring 2020, the Class of 2024 held up remarkably well versus our competitors with enrollment over 600.  With regard to Florence Hines’ expanded role, there will be increased efforts with regard to on-campus retention.  The committee will be meeting with Florence in a couple of weeks to review admissions / retention objectives and assess the impact of potential programming.

The Admissions committee will continue to look for ways to support both new and continuing students.

Sam Colton asked about any drop-off in the class prior to the return to campus in the fall.  There was some attrition out of August and the committee should be receiving additional details shortly.

Advancement – Rob Glass / Carol Lancaster

Rob Glass reported that the committee met with Beth Dixon and Joe Keniston.  Fundraising is down as expected (active fundraising was paused in the spring).  As mentioned previously, The Campaign for Every Laurentian is at about $185 million out of $225 million.  The hope is to hit $200 million within the next couple of months.  The committee has been working with Joe and Beth on identifying ways the AEC can continue to help to support both the Campaign and annual fundraising.  Anticipated positive impacts to fundraising efforts are Calling All Saints (student calls to alumni and parents) and the combined reunion planned for summer 2021.

Carol Lancaster added that she is part of the planning committee for her 50th Reunion and will have more information as that progresses.

Jeff Wells brought up the topic of “donor advised funds” with SLU as the beneficiary as a useful tool for fundraising.  Terri Selby, Executive Director of Major & Planned Gifts, and Kurt Terrell, Director of Planned Gifts, work with these.

Communications & Marketing – Alyssa Cochran and Dave Bickford

Alyssa reported that the AEC Social Media Help Guide is just about ready to go.  They are also working on a plan for wishing AEC members a “Happy Birthday” – to be rolled out shortly.  Alyssa also reminded committees that they should reach out at any time if they need support on any projects from the Communications & Marketing Committee.

Engagement – Sally McSweeney and Randy Wilson

On behalf of Sally and himself, Randy thanked the committee for their effort and commitment over the last few months.  The group has been working hard and really coming together to come up with a variety of ways to engage alumni and students.  Recent events include a virtual wine tasting initially planned for 50 alumni, but was expanded to 150 in response to high demand and a quick sell out.  Trivia on a Saturday afternoon was also well-received.  The committee will continue to work with University Engagement to offer creative programming throughout the winter.

Membership & Honors – Amy Pollard

Amy gave a brief update on the work of the M&H committee.  The committee has been working on the following:

  • Finishing up second term conversations with current AEC members completing their first three-year term.
  • Reviewing nominations in order to fill seven open positions
  • Sending out a request (look for it soon) for nominations for Alumni Citations and the Sol Feinstone Award

Student Services – Elizabeth Colucci and Cheryl Gross

Cheryl mentioned that there was great participation in the Laurentian Connection challenge – thank you!

Career Services has been working on several initiatives:

  • Senior Appointments – speaking with current seniors to ensure they are working on identifying their own career pathing.  160 participating seniors.
  • LINC has 127 sophomore/alum pairs enrolled
  • SLU Connect LIVE has kicked off, offering a variety of virtual events.  Programs have been well-attended.  170 and 50 students participated in the Finance and Communications sessions respectively.  Additional sessions TBD.

During the Laurentian Connection challenge for AEC members, 363 alumni were contacted.  The group with the best conversion rate (alums who filled out an entry) was for Group V.  Group II made the most contacts.  Lessons learned from this program:  need to jump start it and sustain momentum, need updated e-mail information on alumni, figure out a way to have older information transfer to new platform, promote on FB and other social media platforms.  In addition, participants would have benefitted from a step-by-step guide for the challenge.

The next ask from Student Services will be with regard to Career Conversations (“speed dating” with students).  This program is typically held when Council in on campus.  Career Services is looking at two alternatives for the winter event (the first or second week of February):

  • Let students decide who they speak to, or
  • Career services will match students with AEC members

More to come on this event.  In the meantime, if you’d like to volunteer, please reach out to Cheryl or Elizabeth.


Power of Connections – Gary Zonitch and Mike Kallet

A letter to current and past AEC members has been drafted and will be sent out shortly following final editing.  The website is being updated to enable on-line donations that will track to the AEC endowment fund.  Mike Kallet explained that the AEC Endowment for Internships has concluded its fundraising.  As the current AEC budget continues to run at about a $6,000 deficit, it is hoped that this new, more broadly defined, endowment can be effective in creating increased stability in the AEC income stream.  Sue North added that a special letter would be sent to past AEC presidents because of the work they had done to establish the internship fund.

Affinities & Affiliations – Brian Abernethy and Mike Santini

No report.

Auction – Paige Friedlander and Gary Zonitch

Paige explained that the funds requested in the budget were for a new contract for an auction platform.  It is the same company used as before, but with enhanced capabilities.  The goal of the newly introduced auction would be to raise $6,000.  She asked members to start thinking about ideas for an AEC auction item.  Please send ideas to Gary or Paige. 

Diversity & Inclusion – Randy Wilson reporting

Randy began by thanking everyone for their participation in the session led by Kimberly Flint-Hamilton and John Robert O’Connor.  There will be a survey on the workshop forthcoming.  Randy explained the current budget request as funds for students identified with a need for assistance in purchasing books.  The committee will be looking not only for ways to educate and support efforts around D & I, but to also identify opportunities to celebrate diversity on campus and within the alumni body.

The task force continues to look at the connection between its objectives and those of the AEC as a whole.

Faculty Engagement – Anne McGrath and Stevie Michaelson

Preparations are being made for the 11/19 council session with Professors Dan Look (Mathematics) and Elizabeth Regosin (History).  They will be speaking with us about the planning process undertaken over the summer to ensure readiness for the start of school in the fall. 

The committee is working to complete a proposal for the office of Laurentian Engagement (Joe Keniston) with regard to hosting a series of faculty presentations (remote) available to the alumni body.

Tarrah Price has offered to help the task force outreach on campus.

Faculty Engagement is also looking into how we might be able to replicate the class attendance program typically done when Council is on campus. 

New York City Semester – Penn Egbert

Programming has been cancelled for the fall and spring semesters due to COVID-19.

New Business

No new business.


The Alma Mater was sung and the meeting was adjourned at 12:32 pm EST by President Sue North.

Notes submitted by Laura Patrick, Secretary.