From the desk of Sterly Wilder: One office with one goal—engaging our alumni

Last October 30, Dave Kennedy, then the vice president for alumni affairs and development, unveiled a new structure for the staffs of the Duke Alumni Association and University Development. Historically, both of these organizations have reported to associate vice presidents who in turn reported to the vice president. Now these two offices would be merged into one organization under one new title—DUKE ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT—and one new vision. Our work would be conducted as one office with the goal and purpose of creating more seamless and coordinated programs and developing even more meaningful ways to engage our alumni, parents, and friends.

But let’s take a step back—in May 2018, President Vincent Price rolled out his vision for Duke to the board of trustees. His strategic framework had five planks, and “Activating the Global Network” was the fifth one. Rarely, if ever, does a university president call out engaging alumni as a top priority! The president convened a yearlong board of trustees task force co-chaired by Katy Hollister ’81, a trustee, and Dave Kennedy. It quickly became clear that with the support of the president and the trustees, this was the perfect time to create an aligned organization focused on becoming the most engaged and committed global network of alumni, students, parents, organizations, and friends. As an organization, we are committed to exercising unparalleled rigor around one strategy: fostering engagement among our constituents to inspire loyalty over a lifetime. Dave shared the following in his October 30 memo, that going forward we would:

• Speak to our audience with one voice.

• Set ambitious goals that could only be met together.

• Make decisions and prioritize work based on what the data tell us our audience wants and needs from Duke.

• Unleash our organization’s full potential, leading to more time, talent, and treasure contributed to further Duke’s vision.

In addition, this is how we will become organizationally ready to commence the most ambitious and collaborative campaign in Duke’s history. And, even more important, this is how we will help Duke achieve its ideals and highest aspirations.

As the longtime associate vice president of alumni affairs and one who is steeped in the history of this institution, I know that change has its challenges and that, for many of our alumni, the Alumni Affairs office was a key touch point during their student days and beyond. While there no longer is an alumni office, Duke Alumni continues to be the largest constituent group of this university. Our collective power and network hasn’t changed and, in fact, will grow even stronger. We are excited to share our journey over the past few months and look forward to sharing more in the time ahead.

So, stay tuned and, as always, stay FOREVER DUKE. 

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