Presidential Fellows Program Established

Marcus Witherspoon '20, Opinion Editor

This summer Dickinson launched a new initiative in order to engage with alumni and learn more about their time both as students and after graduation.

The Presidential Fellowship Initiative was created by President Ensign, modeling it after a similar initiative by Georgetown University. 27 current students were selected to the first cohort of fellows, considered to be the best representatives of the college based on a series of interviews. Fellows are tasked with meeting with chosen alumni. Alumni identified by the program to be interviewed are chosen based on activities they participated in as students, geographical location, occupation and volunteer work after school, amongst others. By including many different criteria for selecting alumni, [ENSIGN?] hopes it will allow fellows to capture a diverse pool of alumni that represents the diversity of Dickinson ranging from the 1950s through 2018 graduates.

Current fellows interviewed over 700 graduates living in 10 states asking them what sorts of changes they would like to see at Dickinson. They were also asked to reflect on their campus experiences. Responses will be used by program coordinators Assistant Director of the Annual Fund Kate Dunbar, Director of Prospect Management and Research Nicole Simmons and Sunnie Ko ’11. The data will then be used by President Ensign to develop new college initiatives and refine current ones.

“I think that the Presidential Fellowship has accomplished a lot so far,” added Dunbar. This program was an opportunity for the College to listen and learn from its alumni community […] My hope is that we will continue to see engagement and a vested interest from our alumni community in the future of Dickinson.” Dunbar expressed surprise about the level of civic involvement graduates have demonstrated. “Many of them volunteer their time, efforts, and earnings towards a wide range of causes, including sustainability efforts, health organizations and political causes. This speaks to how a Dickinson education translates into a life of meaningful work and dedication to community, even after students graduate.”

Jessica Clark ’11 added insight on her perspective of the fellowship stating, “I believe the Presidential Fellowship is worthwhile because it captures the thoughts from individuals who have lived the Dickinson experience and finds out past students’ perception of how their education has served them in the “real world.” Since the interview process was just this past summer, it is yet to be seen how the data collected will be used exactly, but I always think time for feedback and reflection is important. I am sure alumna have differing and varied opinions on what they enjoyed at Dickinson and what they want to see in Dickinson’s future — so it will be interesting to see how that information is synthesized and used to inform the future direction of Dickinson.