The mission of the Calvin Alumni Association is to “connect, strengthen and inspire,” and the October agenda of the organization’s board gave evidence to the mission’s importance.

Led by board executives Scott Vandenberg ‘94 (president, Lynden, Wash.); Dare Odumosu ‘05 (president-elect, Philadelphia, Pa.); and Amy Puls Bax ‘94 (secretary, London, Ont.), the 20-member leadership group met with a variety of Calvin community members to meet all three mission goals.

“We have a dynamic and energetic group of alumni representatives,” said Vandenberg. "There were many great interactions and important connections made.”

The alumni directory project, a first-time partnership with a for-profit company, Publishing Concepts, Inc. (PCI), is producing an impressive alumni data update result. By the end of October, 40 percent of alumni had responded to the request for information updating. That will result in improved networking capabilities for all Calvin grads (the “connect” of the mission).

“The board is aware that the directory project necessitated numerous calls, emails and postcards to alumni from PCI over the summer and fall, and that was uncomfortable for some,” said alumni director Mike Van Denend ’78. “We have apologized to confused or upset alumni about this, but in almost every instance when we had the chance to explain the larger reason for the project, the alums understood our decision and method.”­­

More than 2,000 alumni also purchased the forthcoming Calvin Alumni Directory, the first such volume since 2002. PCI is producing the book in hard cover in gratitude for the partnership with Calvin, and the book will appear next spring.

Key work was also accomplished in the admissions and alumni networks areas, crucial to the “connect” theme of the board.

The “strengthen” portion of the association’s mission was evidenced in the faculty and staff interactions during the board sessions.

Calvin political science professor Becca McBride gave a presentation on her research into teaching a diverse, multicultural classroom through lessons she learned from the training Disney does for its multicultural employees. McBride received an alumni association research grant for her work.

McBride expressed her gratitude for alumni support in her research report: “There is no greater honor you can give a scholar than to financially support her work. This is especially true for projects that are less conventional, like my idea of applying insights from Disney to Calvin classrooms. I will forever remember the ­­­fact that Calvin’s Alumni Association believed in my work, supported my work and waited with anticipation to learn how I would achieve my goals.”  

One of the board’s working groups also spent time with the new director of career development at Calvin, Ta Rita Johnson, and brainstormed ideas that involve engaging alumni in career readiness programming.

Another group focusing on intercultural support reviewed the work already done to encourage current students of color through a video interview of alumni of color moderated by board member Rhonda Roorda ’92. The video was shown at orientation and the group will make more use of the footage for additional encouragement from alumni to students.

“Inspiration” was covered in a couple of ways. A panel of student leaders met with the board and the exchange of perspective and ideas was heartening to all.

The alumni association’s first-ever Alumni ArtPrize Award was getting attention as well—with the first alumni artist recipient about to be named (see page xx for story).

“One of the highlights of the weekend for me was participating in the ArtPrize Amazing Race that our K4L student-alumni group sponsored,” said Vandenberg. “I am impressed with the planning our K4L team does and their new programming efforts.”

Also important for the weekend was a discussion about the future of Spark magazine. In the conversations about branding that has been prevalent on campus over the last year, a decision to “re-imagine” the alumni publication emerged. Work is underway to give that new magazine some shape.

As part of these changes, the board’s communication working group agreed that Spark would cease to run marriage and newcomer announcements since the advent of social media sources for sharing such personal news has made Spark’s listings somewhat archaic—and there are far less of these notices coming in to the alumni office as a result.

The class notes section of the magazine will continue but be primarily focused on vocational news to highlight what our alumni are doing in the world as “agents of renewal.”

The new version of Spark will appear next March.

With a long list of assignments in hand, the alumni board members departed campus and are due to return in February.