Volunteer Groups Advance Pamplin Vision

How can Pamplin make the most of the service that its alumni and friends provide and the resources and opportunities such volunteers, current and future, represent?

How can busy department and other program heads manage such interactions efficiently and effectively? What might be good ways to promote the sharing of ideas and best practices among Pamplin’s volunteer groups?

A total of 21 volunteer organizations — Pamplin Advisory Council (PAC), Pamplin Society, and 19 advisory boards — with nearly 480 members overall serve the college and its departments, centers, and other programs.

The organizations have distinct missions and priorities. They range in size from 5 to 66 members and in vintage from long established to newly minted. Member activities include mentoring students, serving as guest speakers or panelists in classes or special events, advising on curriculum development, assisting in recruiting and job placement, and fundraising.

Engaging Students for Future Success

At Pamplin’s Engagement Summit, the college’s administrators and volunteer leaders gathered to learn about and from each other’s boards, discussing such topics as board governance, shared challenges, best practices, and communications.

The summit featured three distinct breakout sessions, each facilitated by a PAC member: “Hokie Mentorship Connect,” “Pamplin Alumni Life Cycle,” and “The Role of Volunteer Advisory Leaders.”

The mentorship session, led by Brad Casper (FIN ’82), chair of the PAC student engagement committee, focused on ways in which alumni can partner with Pamplin staff to promote student mentoring.

The Pamplin Alumni Life Cycle session, facilitated by Kevin Lane (ACCT ’95, MACCT ’00), chair of the PAC alumni engagement committee, explored opportunities for a much broader concept of alumni engagement than exists today.

The third breakout session, with approximately 50 participants, explored various roles and expectations of advisory board members, including term length, meeting frequency, and philanthropy. This session was led by Ron Hodge (MKTG ’80) and Chris Xystros (ACCT ’84).

Participants mentioned noteworthy recent accomplishments of their boards and possible best practices. They discussed their major priorities and problems and approaches to them. To tackle certain initiatives — strategy, fundraising, scholarships, or student, faculty, or alumni engagement — some boards have created committees in order to engage volunteer alumni in these initiatives.

To orient new members, most boards have formal or informal onboarding processes, including phone conversations with board leaders, a “buddy” system pairing new and older members, and an annual special event.

Participants were eager to collaborate on shared challenges of their respective boards. They agreed on the need to sustain the interest and momentum created by the summit and to find practical and effective communication tools and processes to share future information and ideas and work together. To that end, the newly launched Pamplin Community for Leadership and Engagement (PCLE) held its inaugural meeting in December.

“The premise driving the PCLE is that we can provide a platform for advisory boards to collaborate, share best practice, and increase overall awareness of board, Pamplin, and university activities,” said Jim Hatch (MACCT ’72), interim chair of the PCLE.

Hatch noted that participants at the PCLE meeting were enthusiastic about the summit and are looking forward to holding similar events in the future.

They regard it as a great first step but want to know how Pamplin plans to build on the momentum and turn the energy into action, he said. “What are the areas of collaboration, and how can the PCLE drive this? Finally, how do we ensure constructive feedback is heard and acted upon for future events?”

Issuing a “call to arms” at the close of the summit’s plenary session, Kevin Lane (ACCT ’95, MACCT ’00) noted the myriad opportunities ahead for alumni engagement.

“We have to take full advantage of all the talent we have,” he said. “We know there’s more we don’t know, and we need your insights. Data collection begins today, ideation begins today. Every person in the room is officially deputized as a champion of alumni engagement.”

– Sookhan Ho