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New Alumni Association President Looks Toward the Future

July 17, 2013

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Theresa Harvey, 2013-14 CSUF Alumni Association President

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Theresa Harvey '81 (B.A. communications and music-music education) is the 2013-14 president of the CSUF Alumni Association. As CEO of the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce and former director of development for the Boys & Girls Club of Fullerton, she brings a diverse background of philanthropy and not-for-profit management experience to the role. Here she shares some of her thoughts on reaching out to CSUF alumni.

This is the second time you have served as president. What made you decide to take on this responsibility after more than two decades between your terms?

I've always remained an active alum. I like to say that I'm one of the only people, not employed by the University, who served on the 25th-, 40th- and 50th-anniversary committees. I've been involved with the Alumni Association under three different administrations. When I first became president in 1987, I was at a very different place in my life. My daughter was born in 1986, followed by my son in 1988. I was young and enthusiastic.

Now, fast forward to today. I'm at a completely different stage of my life. I am in a position of senior management. I have time to give back, and I have a different perspective. The growth in leadership and the growth of the campus encouraged me to become more engaged.

What are some of the priorities you will first pursue as president?

First, I think we need to make sure the University and Alumni Association's priorities are aligned. We have done a lot of work investing in the association, providing scholarships, offering leadership in extracurricular activities, instilling Titan Pride, and so on. We now need to align with the University's strategic plan. To support an environment that enriches students, I see alums serving as mentors, as well as liaisons to potential employers.

In my work with the Fullerton Chamber, I know what employers and the community need. There will be a growing need for college graduates. We can play a role in improving student graduation rates. Alumni can connect with students: We've been there. We can encourage students and since many alums work for local companies, we can provide internships or speak before classes. There are many ways we can enhance opportunities for students.

How do you see the role of the Alumni Association changing? What is your vision?

Just as the University recruits and retains a diverse faculty and staff, we also have to ask if our Alumni Association board reflects the alumni at large. I'm not just talking about ethnic and cultural diversity, although those are important. For instance, are all the colleges represented? Who are we missing? Are we too heavily weighed with recent alums? Do we need to focus more outreach on older alums?

We need to look at our weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Providing philanthropic support is important but I'd also like to see us work with the deans or leaders in the colleges to see if there are ways that alums can become more involved.

We will always have the goals of fundraising and entrepreneurial activities but I'd like to see us emphasize connecting with more donors and the community. We can model ourselves the way that many private universities do. From the time students arrive on campus, we need to treat them as potential alums — as potential investors. What if every alum gave $5? Imagine where we would be. Even with the passage of Prop 30, most of the funding goes to K-8. Quite simply, if we want to keep public education affordable, alumni need to contribute.

What do you see as your role in making this happen?

I'd like to set the vision going forward. We already have some great programs. I'd like us to move to the next level. With numbers of alumni we have, there is great potential.

How do you think your work in non-profit development will inform your decision-making as president?

Even before my work at the Boys & Girls Club and at the chamber, I was involved in fund development. One of my first jobs was working on the Center Campaign for the Orange County Performing Arts Center. My career in philanthropy has spanned 30 years and has dealt with a range of needs: cultural, social service, business support.

From the fund development side, there is strength that the critical mass of the alumni base can bring to the University. We need to focus on getting them engaged and helping them understand the value of investing in our students.

There is also the changing nature of membership. People have different reasons to become engaged. When students graduate, they may want to continue their connection to Cal State Fullerton. We offer affinity programs, discounts. These are attractive to some. Business owners may want to receive some measureable value, a return on their investment.

We also need to ask how we are marketing ourselves. We seem to have a lot of young alums. The question is how do we communicate with more mature alumni? There are some great opportunities there. The alums that graduated in the '60s, '70s, '80s may now be in a position where they may be more likely to invest in the University. We wisely invest in activities such as grad fest and new student recruitment. Now may be the time to apply that same energy to more mature alums who have been involved in the workforce and the community for decades.

The University's new Strategic Plan asserts that "increasing alumni and community engagement is essential" for the University to be more effective in meeting its mission. How will we know when we have increased alumni engagement?

We'll have to measure this by looking at the numbers of individuals who are engaged with the University. We can look at membership levels in the Alumni Association, participation of alums (beyond the recent graduates), how are we reaching out and the depth of alumni association.

By: Valerie Orleans, 657-278-4540

Tags:  CommunityTitan Pride