Author: Casey Ryan, C’95
I’m going to take a different angle for Locust Walk Talk this week and share with you what we Alumni Relations professionals do to hone our craft. Annually, the Alumni Relations groups of the 8 Ivy League Universities as well as MIT and Stanford gather for the Ivy Plus Alumni Relations Conference, or Ivy+ for short. This year, the conference was hosted by Dartmouth College.
Nestled in the town of Hanover, NH, Dartmouth College sits as an idyllic institution of higher education. So perfect is the image, Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 said “this is what a college is supposed to look like.” It is quite charming and, if Penn didn’t exist, I would agree with Eisenhower (for the record, I think that Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Yale are all what college is supposed to look like.)
The Dartmouth Alumni Relations staff dazzled us with their school pride and shared with us their traditions like the Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, the Salty Dog Rag, the Winter Carnival, and Homecoming. From D-Term to Animal House, from Sophomore Summer to Occom Pond, we were taken on a crash course of all that is Dartmouth. By the end, several of us were seeing green – Dartmouth Green.
Each of us found our specific conference track – focused on our area of expertise, including Affinity Groups and Shared Interest Groups; Alumni Education and Travel; Classes and Reunions; Clubs and Regional Associations; Marketing, Communications and Technology; Student and Young Alumni Programs; and Volunteer Management and Alumni Boards. In these sessions, we discussed best practices and shared success stories that we can hopefully adapt at our home University. The intent is that when we return to our campus, we follow up and continue the conversations started at Ivy+.
Outside of our tracks of expertise, we had daily plenary sessions. Two of these featured Christopher Trimble, adjunct professor of Business Administration and Vijay Govindarajan, the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College – the authors of The Other Side of Innovation. During Ivy+, their discussions were based on our pre-conference reading (a.k.a. homework), How Stella Saved The Farm: A Wild and Woolly Tale About Making Innovation Happen, a fable based on their business best-seller. The discussions revolved around how to change the way we think about the planning for the future (where will the firm be in 20 years and what products or services will being the firm there) and addressing the need of mutual respect for the business’s production engine and its innovation team (both of which will be in conflict with each other).
The other plenary discussion was from fellow Pennsylvanian, Peter Post, C’72, Director, The Emily Post Institute who discussed the etiquette of tough situations. Peter annually comes to Dartmouth during their sophomore summer for a lunch which pairs the current sophomore class (the Class of 2015) with the matching 50th reunion class (the Class of 1965). The lunch is a wonderful opportunity for the two classes to make connections and discover each others class, while learning (or refreshing) their table etiquette. For us, though, Peter focused on what the contemporary meaning of etiquette is while being true to his great-grandmother’s mission: etiquette is the relationship between two people that is respectful, considerate, and based in honest. In remembering these three tenets, Peter assured us that we would have proper etiquette in the business world. He finished his talk with some role play to manage some of the most challenging interactions in today’s social world.
We talked shop, but we had fun too. On Wednesday, we had the options of a tour of the Hood Museum of Art for the show – Nature Transformed: Edward Burynsky’s Vermont Quarry Photographs in Context, a walking tour of campus led by Dartmouth sophomores or underground steam tunnel tour. On Thursday, we had a Dr. Seuss-themed Oh, the Places You’ll Go! excursion (Theodor Seuss Geisel is a Dartmouth Class of 1925 alumnus), which mirrored the Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, to the Connecticut River for either canoeing or kayaking, to King Arthur Flour Store and Bakery, to Simon Pearce – glassblowing and pottery studio, to a guided hike along the Connecticut, to the Hood Museum for the presentation “Ancient Art, New Media: Bringing the Past to Life,” or to the Harpoon Brewery. I opted for Harpoon.
At the end of the three days, the conference ended with a handful of TEDx-styled talks from our peers, including our own Elise Betz. They were charming, informative, evocative and emotional. The motivational chats moved the audience and summarized the amazing experience of getting to spend 3 days with our Ivy+ peers, sharing our skills, brainstorming ideas and meeting such impressive people who love their alma mater! Ending on a high note, we announced that Penn would be hosting Ivy+ in 2013. It’s a lot of work, but we’re looking forward to it.