UK Alumnae Open Forum

Monday, 22nd May 2019


Left to right, back row: Shira Auerbach Fox 05; Anna Moses 13; Inna Poliakova Cook 04; Rosa Andújar 03; Masa Dikanovic ’10; Laura St. Germain Adamczyk ’87


Middle row: Caroline Dupraz 13; Mary Kenefake 13; Saya Yada 12; Yu-Rong Lim 18; Becca Lucas 14, Jennifer Schwalbenberg 04; Emma Sydenham 04; Zsofia Schweger 12


Bottom row: Lauren Hurwitz ’08; Laura Malkin ’82; Kris de Juniac ’72; Audrey Mandela ’80; Marisa Shariatdoust ’09

In May UK alums from the classes of 2002 to 2018 took part in an open discussion about Wellesley engagement and philanthropy. The evening featured brief talks by current and former Wellesley trustees Kris de Juniac ’72 and Laura Malkin ’82, and Club President Audrey Mandela ’80, and a roundtable exchange on Wellesley's finances, coordination of communications, transparency, and giving. The event was arranged by Marisa Shariatdoust ’09, Development Officer, at Wellesley; Laura St. Germain Adamczyk ’87, Senior Development Officer at Wellesley also attended.

The goal of the discussion was to help Wellesley shape how the College supports our community and inspires active participation to empower the next generation of leaders. 

Kris, Laura, and Audrey talked about their Wellesley experiences, careers, and reasons for giving to Wellesley. We were also reminded that every gift, no matter how small, helps to increase Wellesley's participation rate. A higher participation rate means a higher ranking among sources such as U.S. News Best Colleges rankings. The 2020 edition of their list places Wellesley at #3 among National Liberal Arts Colleges, although lately our participation rate is somewhat lower than that of a number of similar-sized liberal arts colleges.

This led to a discussion of Wellesley's finances. Marisa provided an information sheet that included some details on sources of funding for each year's budget:


It was clear from the discussion that there's a great appetite for more detailed information on Wellesley’s finances. Alums were interested to learn more about the annual budget and how it breaks down; what the endowment is, how it's funded, and how it's invested; and current tuition costs. Some felt that the financial details are easily understood by those who work in finance but that for others simpler explanations might be required.

Some alums also expressed frustration that much of the communication from the College takes the form of requests for funds. There was a sense that the College may not be sensitive to the fact that many in this generation are burdened with large student loans, and at the same time are taking longer to find meaningful employment. 


There was also confusion about giving: while most alums understand the principle of participation rate, it isn’t always clear what sort of contribution counts toward this goal. Giving to Club, Classes, and Shared Identity Groups, for example, does not count as giving to Wellesley, and therefore doesn't improve the participation rate. 

Finally, alums asked if Wellesley could work harder to coordinate communications so individuals aren’t spammed. This could prove a challenge, but Marisa and Laura took it away as an action to work on.

As Marisa noted after the event, “The biggest takeaway from the meeting? Open and frequent communication and education are key! Additionally, alums’ suggestions to centralize information across departments and groups, segment our efforts, and better educate our alum community were enormously helpful in our understanding of areas where communication can improve.”

-Contributed by Audrey Mandela ’80