Trustees Make Student Interactions “More Public”

Kristina Rodriguez ’19, Staff Writer

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The Board of Trustees met with more than 100 students during its annual on-campus meeting from Jan. 26 to 29, fueling speculations that the Board is strategically increasing its engagement with students. However, Jennifer Ward Reynolds ’77, chair of the Board of Trustees, said that there is no change in the relationship between the students and trustees.

Reynolds explained that the board has always been enthusiastic about spending some time with the students, but people might think there has been a change because their interactions with students are “becoming more public.” Reynolds listed a few of the events that allow the trustees to get to know some of the students in their free time on campus. These include focus groups, dinners at the president’s house and gatherings in Allison Hall with food and music. In October 2015, there was a reception held by the Board of Trustees for all the seniors and the night before, there was a reception for athletes.

Members of the Board of Trustees include Dickinson alumni who are the voice of the students, such as Kayla Muirhead ’15 and Margot Cardamone ’14, who are currently on the board through the Young Alumni Trustee Program. The program elects a student from the graduating class each year to be a member of the Board of Trustees for a two-year term.

“The idea of this position and why it was originally introduced in the board is so that we as young alums can talk to the students about what trustees do, they can tell us what’s happening on campus and we are kind of the lifeline for…connecting [the trustees] with students,” Muirhead explained.

“I think the really powerful thing about the position is that the board members really value our opinion,” Cardamone added. “We are full members of the board so we have all the same voting rights and…our opinions hold the same weight, if not more because we are just out of the [college] experience.”

Reynolds suggested that the level of student interest in meeting and talking to the trustees plays a major role in the perceived relationship with the trustees and the student body. Seniors preparing for the next step in their adulthood have a network to build.

“When you’re a senior, I think you’re interested in making some contacts for whatever is next,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds explained that the trustees could become further enthralled in Dickinson students’ lives after college because “a lot of our trustees have hired students for internships, for jobs when they get out [of college]. So, it’s a strong alumni community.”

Muirhead acknowledged that it is difficult to reach out to all of Dickinson’s student body when the trustees are visiting on campus due to most of their schedule entailing meetings. Only four people attended the open hours that Muirhead and Cardamone hosted on campus, leaving Muirhead asking “Do students not want to talk to the board about stuff? Do they know that the board is here? Do they know what we do and what they could talk to us about?”

Reynolds wants Dickinsonians to know that “[Their] voice is very important. [The trustees] do care…We care deeply that students have a good Dickinson experience.”

Reynolds stated, “Student engagement is important. We are all part of this really incredible community and… it’s our school, too. We love this school,” which is why she values the voice of the student and thinks their input matters.

Cardamone stated that the board is currently attempting “to set up an email account that students could reach out directly to [the trustees] and ask whatever questions they need.”

The board is working on ways they could build a deeper bond with Dickinson students.

“We want to come up with ways to better engage with students, and let’s be creative about it!” said Reynolds.

Reynolds added that trustees “have to balance the here and now [needs]…with the long-term sustainability of the college.”

According to the Dickinson Gateway website, the roles of the board include, “sole fiduciary responsibility for the college, oversees matters of basic policy, elects and reviews the performance of the president of the college and is empowered to appoint board committees and to elect board officers.”