Colgate’s Alumni Council has long sought to serve the interests of the University’s 35,000+ alumni and to connect what’s happening on campus with what’s going on in the alumni world. When Colgate unveiled the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan in November 2019, the Alumni Council saw an opportunity to align its efforts with Colgate’s while paving the way for a more inclusive council.
At its January 2020 meeting, the Alumni Council created an ad hoc committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Council president Chris Johnson ’02 explains, “We knew there were things we could do related to DEI that were immediate in nature, having a direct impact on the council, while also taking a longer-term perspective on how DEI fits within what the council does.”
Throughout the summer, the Alumni Council went further, making structural changes and updating its bylaws to better reflect the importance of DEI work. They made the ad hoc committee a permanent DEI Committee, whose members serve on the other standing committees to prioritize DEI in all the council’s work.
Also, the DEI Committee chair was made a permanent Alumni Council officer. Carlton Walker ’10, the first holder of that position, helped guide the committee through the process of creating a statement of its mission, goals, core values, and principles. “The document represents our first true focus on DEI for all alumni,” Walker says. “It’s an opportunity to stake our claim on what it means to be an alumnus of Colgate.”
Walker credits the Alumni Council membership for providing enthusiasm for the effort. “The ‘why’ came from the heart of our members,” he says. “We found that the Alumni Council cared about inclusivity but had yet to connect it to the core of the council. As an advisory council to the University, we want to make sure we’re capturing the voices [of people who feel unheard or underrepresented], those individuals and their diverse perspectives, and make sure we counsel the University appropriately with the diversity of thoughts, backgrounds, locations, and interests in mind.”
The Alumni Council’s DEI document is just the beginning of its work. Johnson and Walker are eager to attract diverse representation to the council, offer DEI training to its members, and incorporate DEI into their efforts on behalf of campus relations and career exploration.
“It takes time to have a more diverse Alumni Council, but the changes to our bylaws will enhance our efforts on DEI,” Johnson says. “DEI is not its own mission. It’s perfectly intertwined in everything we’re doing to engage our alumni.”