Bringing the FSAA’s Vision to Life

What excites you most about the Ford Scholar Alumni Association?

How do you identify the FSAA’s desired impacts in the next few years?

What questions and possibilities does this suggest?

These were questions that more than 20 FSAA members explored during the FSAA General Membership Meeting that was held Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Friendly House in Portland.

“It provides us an opportunity to share what we do as a board with our alumni and to hear what it is our members want out of the FSAA,” says FSAA President Rozalyn Patrick of the annual event. “The general meeting also creates an opportunity for alumni to build relationships with one another and share their voice with us.”

Eight of the 11 FSAA board members and 13 general members were present either in person or virtually in addition to The Ford Family Foundation’s Manager of Scholar and Alumni Engagement, Bonnie Williams.

Following presentations from members of the Events, Communications and Development committees as well as the treasurer’s report, Williams shared a history of the relationship between FSAA and the Foundation and an overview of the Foundation’s approach to alumni engagement.

“As of now, we’re providing 100 percent of the FSAA’s funding,” Williams said of the Foundation. “When I talk about moving forward together, there are four key areas that we identified.”

Those four areas include: Forge a mutual understanding of shared goals; establish clear priorities; develop shared agreement of how to work together; and examine the pros and cons of the legal structure of the alumni association.

Williams invited Chris Tebben to facilitate a discussion on FSAA and the Foundation.

Tebben, a nationally recognized strategist, advisor and facilitator, has a deep commitment to educational opportunity and student-centered learning practices. She leads Sapient Solutions, LLC, a consultancy specializing in strategy, meeting design and facilitation and partnership development for education organizations.

“I chose Chris because of her expertise in working with educational non-profits and their boards to increase effectiveness and impact,” Williams said. “Additionally, Chris has worked with multiple departments within the Foundation and brings an understanding of the broader Foundation work.”

During the FSAA General Meeting, Tebben facilitated a group exercise.

“What do you as an alumni association really want to accomplish? What do you see as your next chapter and then how does that line up with what the Foundation says it’s trying to do?” she asked alumni.

Members wrote on Post-it notes what they expected to see the FSAA accomplish in the next three to five years if the FSAA were fulfilling its mission.

The popular themes that arose included: alumni professional development and events; mentoring; increasing alumni engagement and service events; regional outreach; online alumni directory; board development; reflective participation; international scale and impact; and alumni as professional resources and leaders.

After a lunch break, alumni split up into four small groups, including the online participants, to explore the intersections of the FSAA and the Foundation’s desired impacts, adding the themes to a Venn diagram.

Then, each group discussed what excites them about the FSAA, what raises questions, and what new possibilities does this suggest.

During the April board meeting, board members will prioritize the themes and decide what they’d like to accomplish within the next couple of years.

Patrick says she appreciates everyone who participated in the general meeting and hopes to continue creating opportunities for alumni to share their vision for the FSAA.

“We are excited to see the outcome of our facilitated discussions and will be sure to keep our alumni informed of the progress we make,” she said.

FSAA Vice President Marshall Curry was also pleased with the turnout.

“It was good to see both new faces who have great experiences and willingness to support our efforts and familiar faces that have been a part of different iterations of the work throughout the years and have joined,” he said.

Patrick said it was nice to see everyone engaged in helping shape the future of the FSAA both in person and virtually.

“Being able to connect with Scholars and hear their ideas even if they were across the United States was amazing and reassured us that we are taking the organization in the right direction,” she said.