• Brushing up on Recent History: A First-Year Councilor on the 196th Session of the Alumni Council

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

by Louisa Guthrie '79


As I conclude the first year of my three-year volunteer term as a member of the Dartmouth Alumni Council, I have three words to describe my role: I love it.

There's no question that service on the Alumni Council comes with responsibilities and work, but the chance it's given me to interact with students, reconnect with fellow classmates, meet other alums, and support the College makes the work worthwhile--and a lot of fun. Already I'm feeling that my time on the council is going by too quickly!

All councilors are required to attend two council sessions in Hanover each year. Our most recent session, the 196th session of the Alumni Council, took place May 15-17, and gave us many opportunities to talk with students--part of the councilor role that I especially like.

Our first activity consisted of attending one of four student-councilor discussion groups. I was the facilitator for the group that discussed issues around campus social space, including the needs for more housing for sororities, open gathering spaces for non-Greek activities, late-night alternatives to frat row activities, and general spaces that facilitate students' spontaneous get-togethers. Although I'd heard about the shortage of sorority space, our group's discussion of the broader social space needs on campus, and the complex factors behind them, was enlightening for me and the other councilors who participated in the group. We look forward to putting together a summary of our discussion--from the alumni perspective--to share with the administration.

On our first night, we had the chance to share a meal with students in a range of dorms and affinity, fraternity, and sorority houses. I attended a dinner with the Alpha Theta co-ed organization, and with 12 students in our group, our conversation was another great opportunity to get a feel for campus life and current happenings!

A real highlight of the weekend was a chance to "go back to school." From a lengthy list of classes open to councilors' attendance, I chose Professor Joseph Nelson's class, Recent U.S. History, since part of my major was American history. The professor was dynamic and current and gave a well-balanced review of the presidencies of George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, covering their achievements and failures. It was absolutely terrific.

During each of our sessions, we have the chance to hear from a number of faculty members and administrators. In our May session, in addition to a meeting with trustee Al Mulley '70, who sought our input and gave a progress report on the search for the next Dartmouth president, we had meetings with the head of Admissions; the new dean of the College; the athletic director; and the director and student leaders of Greek letter organizations. We even had an interesting theoretical discussion, led by Professor Don Pease, on the purpose of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.

As usual, our 196th session presented a full and busy weekend, and just as I did after my first council session last fall, I left the May session with renewed love for Dartmouth and pride in the educational and other opportunities it provides to students.

As you can imagine, this is an interesting time to be a councilor, with the presidential search underway and some of the alumni community engaged in debate over recent changes in the College's governance structure. Communicating with my constituency, the Classes of 1979 and 1980, is another aspect of serving on the council that I love. I see my role as sharing the facts, providing context, and fostering an open forum for alumni to express their opinions, make suggestions, and learn more about campus life. Many '79s and '80s have responded to my earlier communications with lots of lively dialogue, and they didn't let me down on my report on the 196th council session!

It's an exciting time to be on the council!

Louisa Guthrie '79 is the Classes of 1979 and 1980 representative to the Alumni Council.