Bonnie Williams is impressed with the Ford Scholar Alumni Association and is excited to work with the FSAA Board to take the 13-year-old organization into the future.
“They’ve done incredible work with very little logistical support from the Foundation,” said Williams, who joined The Ford Family Foundation Scholarship Office in Eugene as the manager of scholar and alumni engagement in October. “Now that the Foundation has a dedicated position working on alumni issues and with the FSAA, this increased capacity will allow us to do more for alumni and do more to connect alumni back to the Foundation.”
The addition of Williams to the Scholarship Office team is a goal Denise Callahan had when she started at the Foundation as the director of postsecondary success three years ago.
“The purpose of my position is to engage alumni across all of the scholarship programs for the purpose of creating enhanced opportunities for our alumni and for current Scholars,” Williams said. “What I’ve been charged with is the whole umbrella of alumni relations. I see the FSAA playing an important part.”
Callahan believes the investments made in connecting recipients while they’re students can be enhanced as they transition to alumni and begin offering their support back to current students.
“We regularly hear from alumni of all programs asking how they can give back and support the next generation of scholarship recipients,” Callahan said. “Until now, we’ve not had the capacity to be really responsive.”
Up until January, the FSAA included only graduates of the Ford Scholar Program. At the Jan. 9 FSAA general meeting, the board voted to amend the bylaws to include Ford Opportunity and Ford ReStart alumni in the FSAA.
Williams attended the general meeting, where she heard from alumni interested in professional development and building connections with other Ford Family Alumni.
“I think there are some great opportunities there to support each other professionally,” she said.
Williams brings seven years of professional development experience to the position. She worked at the University of Oregon School of Law as the associate director of the Center for Career Planning and Professional Development, where she counseled law students and graduates on career goals and transitions. She also worked with alumni to develop programs that connected them with each other and students.
“Bonnie’s experience, skill and personality make her the perfect person for this job,” Callahan said, adding that Williams is building relationships, listening and learning, and taking leadership in supporting the connection of students and alumni.
Williams was raised in Eagle River, a small community 30 minutes outside of Anchorage, Alaska. She and her husband, Erik Bishoff, live in Springfield with their two children, Hollander, 11, and Noemi, 6.
Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication from the University of Alaska in 1998 and a law degree from the UO in 2004.
In her first few months on the job, Williams said she is learning the nuances of all of the scholarship programs and the interests and backgrounds of alumni from each program.
She held a Call and Connect series of conference calls in January in which experienced alumni panelists visited with current Scholars and recent graduates within their career fields.
“Alumni really want to be engaged and connect with other alumni – that has been so clear to me,” Williams said.
She pointed out that not everybody is going to participate in a formal alumni program. However, she wants to develop other paths that allow those alumni to connect with other alumni and the Foundation.
“Part of what I’m trying to do in my first year is about infrastructure – what do our systems look like and can we make them more effective in getting all of the alumni together, whether that’s in person or through technology,” she explained.
She likes to look at the big picture – building infrastructure and looking at where the FSAA is going – but also being responsive to immediate demands and needs of Scholars and alumni to engage with one another.
Look for more ways to get involved with the Foundation and with your fellow alumni in the coming year.
“We’re planning mentor programs, regional events, and professional development programming,” Williams said. “The Ford Family Scholarship recipients already have such a strong sense of community and a desire to be engaged, I’m just here to create avenues and facilitate that engagement.”
Callahan says, “The opportunity to further strengthen the experience for all who have benefited from Kenneth and Hallie Ford’s generosity well beyond graduation is exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it will go.”
Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541)762-2524.
By Holly Scholz