All posts by sslocke

“Truths and roses have thorns about them” – Thoreau

As I write, two roses adorn my workspace. Having this little bit of nature at my desk helps pass the long days of COVID quarantine work. But there is also deeper meaning from these blooms, aptly named “Secret”.

These two roses came from my yard – my little piece of the planet. Three new rose bushes sit atop a hill in my yard.  They were planted this May after my first surgery for breast cancer.  I wanted to find a way to honor the loss of part of my body and it seemed fitting to add a plant to my yard to remind me of the growth that has come through this experience (credit goes to my sister who suggested the idea of a plant or tree).  The night before my surgery, I got some finger-paint and made prints of my breasts (I know this sounds strange, but hear me out).  I wanted to have some tangible reminder of this physical part of my being that nourished my children and was a part of my physical identity as a woman. 

New rose bushes in the front yard planted along the walkway.

A few weeks after surgery, I went to a local nursery and found three rose bushes.  One was called “Secret” which is described as having “perfume worth bragging about”.  The blooms were a cream color brushed with rich pink on the tips.  New growth is set off by mahogany-red new foliage. The next was called “Pink Traviata”, named for a mutation of a variety called Traviata.  The bloom is a deep pink old fashioned flower with overlapping petals.  The final rose “Sweet Mademoiselle” has double blooms with color that varies.  In the heat, they are a lighter pink.  When first brought home, they were a vibrant pink.  Getting the roses into the car, two of the “Sweet Mademoiselle” roses broke off, one fully bloomed and another in the bud stage.  I was very sad about it, but decided it was somewhat symbolic given that my cancer had been fully formed on my right side (leading to the mastectomy) and there was a small sign that something “of concern” was on the left (leading to the double mastectomy).  It turns out, the left side showed cancer, DCIS, in the left, so it was a good decision.  When the roses were planted, one of the prints was placed into the soil around the plants. 

Sweet Mademoiselle and Pink Traviata roses with oak leaf hydrangea.

Throughout my recovery, the blooms have continued.  I look out the window on a regular basis to see if I can spot a touch of color indicating a new bloom is ready.  I’ve brought many inside keeping them at my desk and the side of my bed.  As I leave my house (only occasionally due to COVID) for medical appointments, I can keep track of the roses on a more regular interval.  They get a morning drink of water and, just this past week, they got some extra nutrients for the soil.  The roses have been a source of encouragement and symbolic meaning.

Pink Traviata
Pink Traviata, a double bloom of deep pink.
Though the leaf was chewed beyond recognition, the rose still bloomed.

Over the past few weeks as temperatures climbed into the 90s every day, the roses sent out new foliage. I am reminded that the main job of a leaf is to make food for a plant, using sunlight for energy and to take water from the ground and carbon dioxide from the air. The rose has struggled with unwelcome insects chewing the new leaves, blooms, and stems.  Each morning during watering, the rose is given a shower with specific focus on getting rid of the unwanted pests.  Sometimes this takes surgical precision with the delicate stream from organic insecticidal soap. It isn’t lost on me how similar this is to my recent surgery experience. The part of my body removed was designed to provide nourishment, just like the rose’s leaves. Like my rose bushes, there are unwanted pests and other challenges. Sometimes those must be removed. With the skilled radiologists seeing what needed to be removed and surgeons trained to remove it, I am able to have the unwanted part of me removed.  Also symbolic, in order to cut the rose, I must also contend with the thorns. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Truths and roses have thorns about them”.

This morning, the bushes were filled with blooms.  I marveled at how beautiful the blooms were.  It seems the insects had left some of the blooms alone to fully bloom.  The leaves; however, did have some large bites out of them, but I can make peace with that given that the rose isn’t diminished by the loss of a few leaves.  Making peace with pests and invasion, of all sorts, seems to be one of my jobs these days.

“Take time to smell the roses” – Proverb

Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

Stay Inside Your Own Hula Hoop

I love synchronicity. This past week I was treated to a series of synchronistic events. It got my attention.

A week ago, a wise woman I know was sharing a story about a challenge in her life and she remarked, “I need to remember to stay inside my own hula hoop”. The image conjured up in me fond memories of myself as a young girl with a bright pink hula hoop with white stripes. I could hula hoop FOR-E-VER. Sometimes, I would hula hoop while watching “The Love Boat” on Saturday evenings in our family room in St. Louis, Missouri – for the entire episode. If I saw a hula hoop at someone else’s house, I couldn’t help but give it a try. I had not tried using a hula hoop for many years.

Stay inside your own hula hoop….

The image of staying within my hula hoop has been with me since I heard my friend share the idea. I’ve thought about it in my family. As a Mom, I’ve been called a “helecopter parent” and even joked that I was a proud one at that. But, as my children have grown older and wiser, I realize that often it is better for me to let their ideas shine through rather than adding my own advice. Staying in my hula hoop as a Mom means, to me, giving my children room to be themselves and to allow their best selves to emerge. I am often struck by their thoughtfulness and the care with which they make decisions. No two people can share a hula hoop – it doesn’t work. As a Mom, staying in my own hula hoop also reminds me to take care of myself so that I can be there for them when they need me (and not be a burden on them in the future). As a daughter, I know it is important to respect my parent’s space, choices, independence, and lives. My mother has health problems and I am often told by her caregivers, “You need to tell her to do such-and-such (take it easy, don’t do something, etc.)” or they will talk to me with her sitting right there. I take great pains to remind them that she is the patient and gets to decide what is best for her. And so it goes. The hula hoop analogy is helpful to think about in my role as mother, daughter, wife, and friend.

At my work, staying in my hula hoop means to me respecting the hierarchy of my workplace. I work in higher education where there are many layers of leadership. Each person in the chain has an important role and needs to feel both informed and also in charge. It is my nature to want to be informed and to want to know what is going on. Most of the time, it either isn’t my business or isn’t something I need to worry about. Staying in my hula hoop – my lane – my chain of command – my job title – my building – always goes better than letting the hula hoop fall and stepping out of it. There is plenty to do within my own job and role as well. When I step back, people step forward and often better outcomes result.

Photo credit:

Earlier this week, I had a particularly challenging day. I felt anxious and uncertain about the future. I had people around me all wanting different things for me, disappointed in me, etc. I felt I’d let important people down. I felt misunderstood. I decided to take a walk with my dog, Beckham, to think and to settle myself down. It was a Thursday, trash day. As I walked through the neighborhood, I began to settle down. My breathing settled. My heart rate lowered. I began to think more constructively about my situation. I reflected on how long some of my neighbors had been in our community. My next door neighbor has lived in the same home since I was in high school. I’ve watched children being brought home from the hospital, walked in strollers, walking their dog, and walking a graduation stage. I was reminded of taking the long view. Taking one day at a time. Not trying to solve everything at once. Thinking for myself versus thinking through what I perceived as everyone’s expectations of me. As we turned down the street to my house, a glint of light caught my eye. As we came closer, I noticed a stack of colorful hula hoops sitting in my neighbor’s driveway along with their trash cans. I laughed out loud. OF COURSE the hula hoop message was JUST PERFECT for my situation. If I focused on myself, what I could control, and not try to control others, I could at least pare down what was making me anxious into smaller pieces. I looped about five hula hoops over my arm and decided I would put them to good use.

At work, I brought a pink hula hoop and leaned it against my whiteboard. inside the hoop, I wrote, “Stay inside your own hula hoop”. At home, I put a hula hoop in the planter between my garage doors. It is the first thing I see when backing down the driveway in the morning and the last thing I see when I pull into my parking spot at night. In my office at home, I leaned a hula hoop under the wall where I empty my purse at night. In my bedroom, there is a hula hoop peeking out from behind the headboard of my bed. While these may seem strange to those who see them, to me they are a simple reminder of a powerful way of being.

If you hold a hula hoop out in front of you, it creates a frame for whatever you gaze upon. I decided to put the hula hoops in places important to me as a reminder of this perspective. I also saw another “message” in the hula hoop. The letter “C” repeats itself at the left, top, bottom, and right. There are many words that start with the letter “C” that relate to this “stay inside your hula hoop” mantra. The word “CAUSE” is one of them. I could ask myself to remember that I did not cause the situation that is troubling me. Or, if I did, to do what I could to apologize or get out of the way. Another “C” word is “COMPLAIN”. If I complain about a situation, it is not likely to get any better and, more likely, it will get worse. Another “C” word is “CONTROL”. Remembering that I am not in control, that I shouldn’t over-control, and that by trying to control a situation I am likely going to make it worse. A “C” word to avoid is “CAN’T”. Most of the time, I can’t control a situation, but when I can do something about it, saying “I CAN” is better than “I Can’t”.

The three (or more) Cs: I can’t CONTROL the situation, COMPLAINING doesn’t help, I didn’t CAUSE the situation (or if I did, do something about it), and avoid CRITICIZING.

This morning, I shared my story about finding the hula hoops with a group of friends. Several asked me if they might have one of the hula hoops I had found. At the end of the gathering, one of the members walked back into the room with a stack of colorful hula hoops on his arm. He explained that he and his wife had gone to Baltimore the previous day and he thought he would take some hula hoops from his garage with him in case he saw children that might like to have them. He never saw any children. But when he heard my story and the fact that several people wanted to have one, he thought, “Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on”. He went out to his car and brought in the hula hoops to share with our group. The reaction was priceless. Each person got to choose the color and pattern that most appealed to them. It was such an adorable scene: Smiles all around, people asking for particular colors, and people trying their hula hoops. I will long remember the sight of our group walking out to their cars with hula hoops in hand.

The situation that led to my feeling anxious earlier this week is still present, but how I am thinking about it has lightened a bit. While my hula hoops may look like a misplaced piece of plastic and glitter, they are also a portal through which I can see myself and those I love in a fresh way.

Synchronicity is often a sign that something special is going on…

Stay inside your hula hoop – it is a whole lot more fun that way. Photo credit: Vogue June/July 1971

Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

My experience with “locker room banter”…and how I’ve learned to shut it down.

This is not intended as a political post.  This is about my experience as a woman and how I have learned to deal with — and shut down — sexual harassment.  It so happens that the media provides some ample examples recently.  I have purposely left out the names of candidates so as to avoid alienating any reader.

Every once in a while, examples of sexual harassment make the national media.  It is interesting to see people respond to them.  Sometimes the examples caught on tape or relayed in court are so shocking that they impact our collective consciousness.  These are the times when a sea change can occur.   I think news like this is a good thing.  Why?  Because when bad behavior becomes so public, sometimes it makes real change.  We can only hope.

Anita Hill, 1991
Anita Hill, 1991

There was Anita Hill. When Clarence Thomas was a candidate for the Supreme Court, a brave woman named Anita Hill came forward to testify about how Thomas had treated her in the workplace.  It was troubling to hear her relay how Thomas had treated her. It was tame by comparison to some of the recent news caught on tape, but it was equally disgusting.  Anita Hill was very brave and told her story.  She took enormous criticism.  I can’t imagine how much courage it took for her to  take action. This was before the days of sexual harassment protections or workplace training.  I remember many people condemning her. Clarence Thomas still made it to the Supreme Court, but I think men everywhere realized that their “workplace banter” could cause offense and could be considered wrong and harassing.  Some reading this post might not have been born yet, so you should read more about her story if you have a moment.

Photo credit: Daily Beast
Photo credit: Daily Beast

High profile examples of bad behavior sometimes can teach larger lessons. Let’s hope this is one of them. I’ve had my own experiences which I’ve endured over many years, but for the first time a few years ago, I took action.


Like many women, this is part of life in the workforce.  A high profile person came out this week saying, “If women can’t handle sexual harassment in the workplace, they should get another job… they should go teach kindergarten”.  Sadly, it even happens in elementary schools, so there really is no relief.

Mid-1980s.  In College, I was fortunate to attend a woman’s college.  There I could focus on my academics during the day and had plenty of fun outside of class.  There were male colleges near us where we had friends and went for social occasions.  I had few bad situations; however, surrounded by a rather polite group of men,  there were usually a few “big brother” like friends who immediately set the person straight.  We (my friends and I) also traveled in packs.  We didn’t leave anyone alone anywhere and made sure when we left that all were accounted for.  We looked out for each other. I was lucky, it seems there is a worse culture in some colleges now exposing women to very harassing behavior.

Late-1980s:  When I was first out of college in the late 80s, I had frequent challenges in the workplace and just living my life.  This was before the days of legal protections and there was (and is) a culture of harassment.  I remember typing and having someone’s hands slide from my shoulders to down the front of my blouse.  Not just once, many times (even after trying to lean forward, turn myself around, ask the person to stop).  I positioned a mirror on my desk so that I could see if someone could come up behind me and I would snap to attention facing anyone who arrived.  I remember being called to an office only to find no one there and all of the windows covered (I’ll spare you what happened after that).  I remember being asked to sit a particular way while taking notes in an office so that the supervisor could “get a better view of my legs”.  And so on and so on….

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

I remember speaking to my parents about it and they made suggestions about dressing differently, not being the last one in the office, and everything they could think of to help. This was the Laura Ashley fashion period where high-neck lace blouses were actually in fashion, so there wasn’t much more I could do to dress conservatively.   Some people said to me to “not take it personally” or “this is what happens working in a ‘man’s world'” or “boys will be boys” and so on.   It wasn’t what I was wearing, I now realize, it was the mindset of the person who thought he could treat me that way.

1990s Laura Ashley fashion.
1990s Laura Ashley fashion.

At that time, there were no avenues (at least that I knew about) to make it stop.  There were no workplace trainings (as is now customary) to let me know what I did not have to tolerate and to put harassers on notice.   In some cases, I did change jobs.

1990s:  When I had my first fundraising job, I stayed with a woman in New England at a charming home on the coast.  Somewhere in the middle of the night, I realized someone was in my room.  Then, the person actually leapt onto my bed (it was pitch black) and began groping me.  I grabbed whatever I could find (an alarm clock) and started hitting him with it which made him stop.  Shaking violently to the point that I could hardly zip my suitcase or hold my keys, I left in the middle of the night and left a note for the person.  I got a note later saying, “I want to apologize to my son.  He was drunk and went into the wrong bedroom.”  Funny thing about that, he didn’t live there and knew I was staying there as he had stopped by earlier during our visit.

I began to see that some men just assumed that their attentions would be received — or didn’t care what the recipient thought.

Mid-1990s:  Working for a large association in Washington, DC as a meeting planner, I traveled often.  On one trip to Colorado, the Broadmoor, I had just returned from a work reception late and heard the sound of a key.  In walked a bank president who had attended the meeting with a big grin on his face and holding a bottle of wine and two glasses.  “I got the key from the front desk,” he exclaimed.  The assumption that I would be open to such an intrusion bothered me as much as having to deal with the situation to begin with.  I had experienced countless incidents of groping, fondling, comments over the course of that job, but never this far of an extreme.  I managed to get him out of the room (I led the way) and back to the lobby where I confided in a colleague who helped me.  I changed rooms (and now I travel with a small rubber wedge which I stick under the door in addition to closing as many latches available).

As many women faced in this situation, I worried that I would actually have some negative job repercussion for not being responsive to the harassment.  At that time, as with most women, I went about my work and remained silent.  There was no ear to listen.

The Girls Choir at the National Cathedral (I am honored to have raised the gift that created the girls choir); and grateful that they protected me in a time of need.
The Girls Choir at the National Cathedral (I am honored to have raised the gift that created the girls choir); and grateful that they protected me in a time of need.

Late-1990s:  When I was six months pregnant with my second child working at the National Cathedral, I had a particularly egregious situation with a supervisor who had scheduled my performance review (conveniently late in the day after most people had left).  After shutting the door and placing himself between me and the exit, he physically approached me and pushed me down onto a sofa – and then onto the floor – and started kissing me.   I was so horrified that I couldn’t even move initially, but managed to push him onto the ground and bolt for the door.  He tried coming after me and actually grabbed a hold of a cardigan sweater I was wearing that I recall stretched so much that it never regained its shape.   In that case, I confided in one of the priests who was a friend of mine. Within hours the leader of the Cathedral, Dean Nathan Baxter, had phoned me at home and assured me the matter would be dealt with (it turns out, this wasn’t the perpetrator’s first infraction).  The (former) supervisor never returned to work.  I didn’t know such protection was possible, but I was grateful.

 I began to find my voice.  I realized I did not have to take it.

1998:  The year America firmed up its definition of power dynamic.
1998: The year America firmed up its definition of power dynamic.

1998 was the year of the Monica Lewinsky scandal when the intern in the White House had a relationship with the then President Bill Clinton.  We heard about her blue dress, her underwear, and heard things on the national news for many weeks that most had never heard discussed in workplaces, much less on national television.  What this situation really emphasized is that even if a relationship is consensual, when one person has authority over the other, it is inappropriate.  This wasn’t something discussed at the time. This power dynamic became something more workplaces discussed and it began to make its way into workplace policies.  It is inappropriate for someone in a position of authority to exert his or her control over another — even if consensual: A boss over a subordinate, a teacher over a student, a coach over a player, a president over an intern….

What this situation taught America is that even if a relationship is consensual, when one person has authority over the other, it is inappropriate.

Eventually, in the 1990s and early 2000s, sexual harassment suits started being filed and men finally started realizing that this “locker room banter” and “joking around” wasn’t something they could do without consequence.  Anita Hill’s testimony at the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings suddenly thrust workplace harassment into the spotlight.  Unfortunately, in my observation, those who most needed this training – the executive level staff – lead attorneys in law firms – the ones who thought they didn’t have to attend such things – were the ones who needed it the most and then continued to behave as they had before. My theory is that some people, particularly senior, high-level people have not ever had formal sexual harassment training – or diversity training – etc. and so they truly don’t realize how offensive they are being. It just seems “normal” to speak about a woman sexually.   You can read a post I wrote on this here.

What I learned from these trainings is that I DON’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IT.  And, most importantly, supervisors now had a DUTY to report such behavior or they faced consequence.

Current time.  Once it happened in front of my children, I had to act.  I took legal and professional action seeking relief from sexual harassment. I was successful.


The harassment took place over many weekends.  High above the playing field and the locker rooms of the university where I work, tailgating is its own sport.  Most people go to have fun with their families and share the collegial college spirit that accompanies games.  Most people don’t go to these events and expect to be harassed.  Unfortunately, that was my experience. It began with suggestive comments (which I always brushed off and tried to ignore), it progressed to making lewd comments in front of this person’s friends and in front of my husband (we both asked him to stop numerous times), it progressed to commenting about my outfits, my body parts, etc. (which I again asked him to stop and that neither my husband nor I appreciated it). Then, one weekend, with my children with me, the harassment resumed. This time, he actually came up behind me blocking me from moving between him and my car and he made a disgusting comment about what he would like to see me do — while my younger son sat in the back seat overhearing this. My husband and I both reached out limit.

This time, I decided to do something.


I asked the University (athletics) that this person be moved from where he parked for tailgating and they said they couldn’t do anything “without proof”.  It was a classic case of “your word against his” (even though I had my husband as a witness with dates and times of the incidents).  They said I would need to obtain a police report for them to do anything (in retrospect, I’m glad they didn’t assist right away as I probably wouldn’t have followed through with a legal solution).  So, I went to the University police who directed me to go to the nearby courthouse to obtain a peace order (which was granted). At the hearing, the individual admitted to his behavior, wanted to apologize, said “he’d been drinking” (as if this excused the behavior), and said that he was just “kidding around” (a.k.a. “locker room banter”).  It was obvious he didn’t find much wrong with what he had been doing. He agreed to the terms of the peace order.  Then, the criminal charges were served (you don’t get a peace order without a criminal justification, so simultaneous criminal charges are filed, but that is between the State and the individual).  I got calls from someone representing him imploring me to drop the issue because “he is a senior executive at a bank” and “can’t afford to have this on his record”. I told them he should have thought about that before he spent his weekends harassing me – and that the call the person was making violated the terms of the peace order (I filed another peace order in the county in which I lived so that the breech was on record).  The call emboldened me to continue, knowing that his behavior was probably not isolated to the weekends.  The whole process wasn’t easy and it was time consuming.  Upon investigating the incidents, my University workplace deemed that this was harassment and responded in a professional manner which I appreciated.

At this point in my life, I believe I have a duty to speak out when harassment occurs and make sure that I set the person straight.  If I don’t, I know there is a woman after me who will suffer as a result.


My husband, Lyn, and me. Lyn has taught me many things, one of which is standing up to harassment.
My husband, Lyn, and me. Lyn has taught me many things, one of which is standing up to harassment.

Thankfully, I have a respectful husband who defends me.  I’ve learned a lot from him.  He doesn’t tolerate men joking around him about women.  I’ve watched him shut down “locker room banter” many times.  He doesn’t even like hearing it in a movie or on television (he’ll change the channel).  He has empowered me to draw a firmer line in what I will tolerate and has helped me take action when I decided I had reached my limit.

Fortunately, there are laws to not only protect women from such behavior, but also show them the path forward to obtain relief (particularly if their attempts have failed).  Sometimes you have to take action in order to stop someone.  Hopefully the threat of such actions can keep other people in line (who behave as if they can speak or act any way they wish).

Harassment is common. Image courtesy of
Harassment is common. Image courtesy of

I don’t buy the “boys will be boys” comment.  I don’t buy “locker room banter”.  I’ve shared stories about these things with my sons so that they know how women feel — and so that they can shut down this type of discussion when they hear it.  It isn’t just women who are insulted by hearing sexist comments….

Insisting that it is normal to joke about sexual assault and harassment is also insulting to men.

Watching the recent news that has become public this week doesn’t surprise me at all. It just was one of millions of conversations that go on day in and day out.  However, this time it was caught on tape — and America was horrified. Hopefully, the women subjected to this will speak out and take action. The legal system, it seems, is about the only thing that gets the attention of people set in their ways. There are some good things that could come out from this week — one of them is a sea change in how men speak about and behave around women.

Thanks for reading.


P.S. To dismiss sensitivity about sexual harassment as “political correctness” is to perpetuate behavior that is offensive and illegal.


Stop harassing behavior (scripts and behavior suggestions).

Your rights if sexually harassed.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE
Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE

Stacey brings over twenty-five years of fundraising and nonprofit management with organizations in higher education, independent schools, faith-based organizations, social services, and the arts.   She currently serves as Senior Director of Development for the University of Maryland.  Enthusiasm, innovation, and passion are hallmarks of her work resulting in over $100 million raised for annual operations, capital campaigns, comprehensive campaigns, endowments, planned gifts, and special events. Responsible for raising the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland to establish the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.  Stacey graduated from Sweet Briar College and has completed graduate work at University of Maryland University College.


 Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Don’t be (color)BLIND! SEE DIVERSITY!

Don’t be (color)blind!  Instead, SEE diversity.  And other lessons I learned after inadvertently insulting people.

A few weeks ago while watching the Republican National Convention, I listened to Ivanka Trump give her speech introducing her father. I’ll spare you my opinion of her father as I don’t intend for this to be a political message. I’ve admired Ivanka Trump over the years as someone who seemed to be able to both work and raise her children. I found myself nodding along until she started to go down hill.

No. She. Didn’t. She didn’t just use the term “colorblind” in a positive way.

Yes. She. Did. How sad.

For many reasons which I will explain further if you care to read, I am sensitive to language that can be offensive to others. The term “colorblind” is an offensive term. For many years I used the term “colorblind” as a badge of honor to explain that I was a person who valued race and diversity. Little did I know how troubling that term was and how many lessons I had to learn. This, my dear friends, is a story about just some (of the most painful) lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ll be nodding along with agreement. If not, perhaps I might spare you the embarrassment I had to face.

So, I posted a note on Facebook about my disappointment at Ivanka Trump’s statement and the (to me) obvious lack of formal diversity training this kind of statement said to me. Then,at some point, I retired to bed with memories of my own journey learning about diversity, tolerance, racism, and more over the course of my career. .

I woke up to a sh*tstorm. Many people I knew agreed with me and added their thoughts to the concept. Several of my well-respected friends took offense to my comments and asserted their own “colorblindness” and simultaneous commitment to diversity, etc. Some of my friends argued with the others (though they don’t know each other). I felt badly for those who were getting a firehose of new information which they considered to be insulting their intelligence (these are very smart people, mind you). Everyone probably has now and again a post that takes on a life of its own. That one became one of those posts.

A few brave souls sought me out over the next few days by phone, email, and one in person to ask me to explain the concept further and admitted that they hadn’t realized that their use of the term could be offensive to others. I thought I would share the thoughts here to spare others possible embarrassment or unintended offense. It is surprising to me in today’s world how people do not come across diversity training either in their reading, workplaces, schooling, places of worship, or elsewhere. I shouldn’t assume that people would access information like this I now realize (another hard lesson), but it doesn’t mean that I should stand aside and not correct it.

I learned the hard way. Let me help you fast-forward your learning.

It was in the early 1990s when I first had formal diversity training. I have always considered myself a progressive person, open minded, and definitely not racist in anyway; however, what I was ignorant to were my own biases and privileges that I didn’t even see as a result of being born a white female. I’ll never forget the day when a family sat down in my office at Grace Episcopal Day School.

“How is it in this school that you can buy access to a teacher?” I replied, somewhat dismayed, “Of course you can’t buy access to a teacher.” “Yes you can”, the family replied, “Right here in our school at the school auction rich families can buy a bike trip or an afternoon with their favorite teacher.” I began to wince. This was, sure enough, one of the most popular silent auction items. Every year it got some of the biggest donations — and I had been not only proud of the dollars raised, but advocated in the teacher’s lounge for teachers to volunteer. It so happens that this family (a family of color) had banded together with Aunts and Uncles and a Grandmother to pull together funds to buy the bike trip with a favorite teacher for their daughter for her final year of school. They even took out a short-term loan to get it. They attended the silent auction and bid. They bid some more. When the bidding went over $1,000 for a half-day with the teacher, they backed out. Their daughter was devastated. So was I.

The important thing is that this family would never even come into my office if it weren’t for the fact that we had done some formal diversity training in our school over the course of the past year. As a result of an amazing woman who passed away, Sherryl Talton Gerald, parents in the school banded together to raise funds in her memory. Sherryl was known for bringing all of the different months alive, especially black history month. She created amazing activities during that month enriching the curriculum for all students. When she tragically died suddenly, the parents wanted to keep her work alive. I never had the honor of knowing Sherryl, but I am forever touched by her.

A few months after being on the job as Director of Development for Grace Episcopal Day School, a friendly woman came to my office to say, “What are we doing with the Sherryl Talton Gerald funds?” At the time, I wasn’t sure what fund they were talking about. “It’s December”, my parent said, “We need to plan something with the funds for this coming February”. Thus the work began. In a small school where there aren’t too many people to do extra things, the job fell to me and a band of parents. We launched a lecture featuring Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). It was wildly successful. I became the defacto Diversity Coordinator while serving as Development Director.

It was also confronting. Some of the families who came to the lectures asked difficult questions of the speaker during the question and answer period — questions that hinted at subtle and overt racism in our school and problems they faced. These were systemic problems. Problems every school, workplace, and institution faces. I heard things like:

“My child doesn’t get invited to birthday parties.”
“We were invited to a birthday party at a private club and turned away by the valet driver.”
“My child’s teacher uses the term “colorblind” like it is a badge of honor… doesn’t she realize my child would rather be SEEN and appreciated?”

It was clear we had work to do. The head of school, Carol Franek, and I worked with families to choose a consultant to do some formal training with faculty, staff, and eventually the community. We hired Randolph Carter of East Ed. It was a very interesting process.

In classic form, many people in the majority (over)reacted to the notion of offering diversity training.  Some parents made wildly inappropriate statements (not unlike some things heard on the campaign rail this year).  Most felt they didn’t need it. Many said things like, “I raise my child to be color blind. She doesn’t need to learn about diversity, we practice it all the time.” These were the same people who questioned why we needed a “Parents of Children of Color” group. Questioning ethnic or racial groups choosing to sit together or share common experiences is often seen as threatening in some ways and critiqued. Beverly Tatum in her best-selling book, “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria” is suggested reading on this concept. Here, I’ll save you time and give you the cliff notes: White people affiliate all the time. Tatum writes, “Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support?” Answer: No and yes.

What I learned about families of color wanting to share common experiences is that many needed to share ideas about how to manage the racial discrimination already impacting their children at the youngest ages. Far be it for me to question this need. I learned the concept of “Affinity groups” and I learned to appreciate their importance. I started to become an ally.

Side note – we don’t question religious groups meeting together on Sundays or at other times. Why would we question groups who wish to share a similar experience at another time?

When the faculty went through their diversity training, a similar range of emotions and reactions unfolded. Some reactions surprised me, particularly from those who considered themselves to be very unbiased and open minded. As they heard from their colleagues and parents from diverse backgrounds, they had the privilege of seeing how their unintended biases and statements hurt people. They learned that terms like “color blind” offend people of color. They learned that appreciating diversity of all kinds enriches relationships, a school, a workplace, and a community. Trying to see past it, not talk about it, or question other people’s adaptive behavior is part of being in the majority. Some call this “white privilege”.

Side note – yes this is a loaded term. Yes this makes people feel uncomfortable. No, I will not try to find another term. If you find it uncomfortable, that’s the point. White priviledge is real and it is something every white person (in my opinion) should learn about as a citizen of our planet. If you don’t like it, get over it.

White privilege is not a term that was born in this election cycle. I was introduced to it in 1988 while attending Sweet Briar College by our Chaplain, The Rev. Susan Lehman. She shared Peggy McIntosh’s research which later became an iconic article, “Unpacking the invisible knapsack”.

This concept of whiteness was a revelation to me — being responsible for it; recognizing the benefits I have by being born white; recognizing my role as an ally to those who face discrimination on the basis of the color of their skin. I got a great education at Sweet Briar College, but it was this concept introduced to me by our Episcopal Chaplain that is one of the best life lessons I took away. This was 1988 folks. I am simply astonished that in 2016 there are people who haven’t heard this term nor haven’t participated in formal diversity training.

Side note – if you haven’t done any formal diversity training, get some. Need some suggested reading?  The links in this article. Should it make you feel uncomfortable? Probably. The truth is, we all have biases. Learning about those biases will make us better people in all situations. If you don’t like it, get over it. Life isn’t about being comfortable. Life also isn’t about unseeing.

So, back to the parent sitting in my office. Even after two years of diversity work, we still had our blinders on. While we had made some very good changes in terms of respecting racial, ethnic, religious and other types of diversity, we had major blinders on when it came to socioeconomic diversity. As the parent sat with tears sliding down her face, I felt horrified and embarassed. Of COURSE it was wrong to auction off a teacher to the highest bidder in a small community. I hadn’t seen it. My desire to raise funds and the wild success of rapidly-increasing special teacher outings blinded me to how it would feel to those who couldn’t afford them.

Then I spoke to the teachers.

It turns out, the teachers HATED these special outings. They were embarrassed to single out one or two children for a special outing and felt terrible when those children returned to class raving about it in front of the other children. They admitted they felt conflicted when it came to grading and disciplinary actions knowing a parent had paid so much for a simple afternoon for their child. With this, I visited the Parent Teacher Organization and the practice was immediately stopped. We still did teacher outings, but the teachers did something with their whole class and parents could contribute any amount for the special activity. Some of our best field trips resulted from this change.

Fast forward to this election cycle, it is stunning to hear elected officials, their family, and their supporters saying things that in a school, workplace, religious institution (at least some), or household sound and are deeply offensive. In some places, these statements would be grounds for disciplinary action, termination, or legal action. A frightening number of hate groups rally behind a leader who speaks in these terms.

Somehow decades of work, suffering, and laws to achieve social justice is now being lumped into a category of “political correctness” — as if it should be undone.

The person speaking this way is glorified for “speaking their mind”.

For me, the lessons learned about treating people fairly and with tolerance is an ongoing journey. I know I still have my biases and blinders and blindness. The difference is, I am not proud of it. And I certainly don’t speak of these things as a badge of honor. Imagine if I said, “I’m sexual orientation blind”, “I’m ethnic blind”, “I’m age blind”, etc. Sounds strange, right? Why, then, do we think it is okay to say, “I’m color blind.”

As Chair of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee for the University of Maryland Senate, I have worked with many people to create policies for nondiscrimination, against sexual harassment, and advocating for LGBTQ rights. I am constantly learning lessons by hearing stories of people who daily experience discrimination in their lives. It is gut wrenching.

As a white woman in today’s world, I see one of my most important roles beyond being a wife, mother, daughter, and friend is being an ALLY. I now use my privilege to advocate for those who may not have the same ability to navigate the world as I do. I stick up for the underdog. I stand up against the bully. And, I call out racism — subtle or unintended — when I see it. I do the same for sexism and other isms. I especially try to do this for those I care about to help them avoid insulting others unawares.

These are my crib notes. These are the things I wish I’d learned earlier in life and I share with you now.

Don’t be colorblind. See color. See race. See ethnicity. See religion. See sexual expression. See diversity.

Then, appreciate it.

It isn’t political correctness. It isn’t politics. It is SEEING our fellow humans on this precious planet earth.








DIVERSITYFollow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Shared Governance: Roses Emerge from the Briars – Stakeholder Engagement after the Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar College

shared governance

This spring my Nonprofit Management course assigned a research project on critical trends facing the nonprofit sector.  There is nothing more critical than governance.  The success of Sweet Briar College surviving a closure attempt by its former board provides ample inspiration for research on governance.

As an elected member of the University of Maryland Senate, I have a new appreciation for shared governance.  I chair the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the University Senate.  As a staff member, I have never been engaged in shared governance until now.  It is quite amazing sitting alongside students (undergraduate, graduate and post-gradate); faculty (tenured and professional track); staff (hourly, professsional and managerial); and ex-officio members from key departments.  This spring, we worked on four new policies for the University including a policy on Nondiscrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Disability.  Our original policy will have to wait until next semester for action, but it is very important (a policy on students who change their name or gender and need consistency with University databases).  Shared governance works extremely well at the University of Maryland and I can see how it would benefit any institution.

I chose to focus my research paper on shared governance as it is a topic very near and dear to many stakeholders of Sweet Briar College.  The attempted closure of Sweet Briar College resulted in multiple law suits seeking to stop the closure.  The mediation brokered by the Virginia Attorney General allowed each party to the suit to appoint three members of the new Sweet Briar College board.  Students, alumnae, faculty and the Commonwealth of Virginia suit (funded by alumnae) were able to appoint new members.  This new board ushers in a new era of governance at Sweet Briar College more inclusive than past boards. The new board of Sweet Briar has expressed a commitment to engaging stakeholders.

This annotated bibliography and research paper focuses on best practices for shared governance examining the key stakeholders responsible for the saving of Sweet Briar College:  Students, faculty, staff, community, and the founder.

My abstract follows:

Higher education is in crisis. In March, 2015, the President and Board of Sweet Briar College, whose symbol is a rose, attempted to close the 100-year-old institution in rural Virginia.  Stakeholders revolted, filed suits and ultimately control of the College was handed to a new board.  The circumstances faced by Sweet Briar are not unique and point to trends in higher education. The suits filed and the saving of Sweet Briar provide examples of engaged stakeholders fighting for their rights.  This paper examines each stakeholder’s role in the attempted closure and examples from other institutions practicing shared governance.  Shared governance can be a path through crisis. References provide trend data on higher education and examples of shared governance at other institutions.  Sources also provide glimpses into the trends of higher education faced by governing boards and stakeholders, including where there are breakdowns in communication and governance. Reference sources highlight stakeholder groups including student, faculty, staff (administrators and support), alumni and the wider community.  Sweet Briar College must reinvent itself and its governance.  Lessons learned from other institutions can be considered for the future. The collective voices represented in shared governance yields more roses than briars.

Annotated Bibliography:   Saving the Rose – Stakeholder Engagement at Sweet briar College

Research Paper:  Roses Emerge from the Briars — Stakeholder Engagement after the Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar CollegeFollow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Lessons learned from a phoenix and a vixen: Examining the attempted closure of Wilson College and Sweet Briar College

Fox in flames (credit: Fur Nation)

I am currently in graduate school pursuing a Masters in Business with Nonprofit Management concentration.  This semester, I am taking Organizational Theory and Nonprofit Management.  Each course required me to prepare an annotated bibliography and an individual paper.  With my instructor’s permission, I chose Sweet Briar College, my alma mater, as my focus (normally, you cannot pursue the same research subject in different courses).

My first assignment came in the Organizational Theory course.  We were to take a case study covered in an academic journal and use it as a basis for our individual paper.   This seemed daunting at first.  However, as I began my research, I found many case studies with similarities to Sweet Briar College.  The attempted closure of Wilson College has startling similarities to the attempted closure of Sweet Briar College.  The annotated bibliography provides a “deep dive” in issues facing higher education and the lessons available to learn from Wilson College.  You may find a link below.

Annotated Bibliography:  Phoenix rose emerges from the briar fire (annotated bibliography comparing Wilson College’s attempted closure to Sweet Briar College).

Research Paper:  Lessons learned from a phoenix and a vixen.

fox and flames

As the paper came together, the title changed and some sources fell away in favor of others.  The lessons learned from the attempted closure of Wilson College are relevant for many colleges.  The abstract follows:

Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, whose mascot is the phoenix, survived a closure attempt in the 1980s. Sweet Briar College, in Amherst, Virginia, whose mascot is a vixen (fox), faced attempted closure in 2015 and was saved by its stakeholders six months later. This paper explores case studies and articles reporting on Wilson College and Sweet Briar College.  Other articles elaborate on trends faced by the Colleges and the broader sector of higher education.  Reviewing these colleges provides valuable lessons on challenges facing higher education, particularly for private, single-sex institutions.  The case for this research is Wilson College with comparisons to Sweet Briar College. Both colleges are small women’s colleges with enrollment under 1,000.

Keywords: Sweet Briar College, Wilson College, stakeholders, shared governance, students, faculty, staff, exempt staff, non-exempt staff, alumni, alumnae, minority, president, board.




 Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

THIS I BELIEVE: Sailing Teaches Life Lessons

I have left the safe harbor of a BA in English and Psychology from Sweet Briar College and have embarked on graduate work. My first paper in graduate school was assigned by my Orientation to Graduate Studies course.  It was an essay designed to prepare students for academic writing. It has been a LONG time since I have done academic writing.  it is very different than blogging!  I had fun writing it and was touched by Dr. Beth Cook’s feedback, “Beautiful job. I loved your use of metaphor and sailing terminology throughout. Your essay shows an unusual sophistication with writing. Great job.”  This put some wind in my sails….so I thought I would share.

Stacey Sickels Locke

UCSP 615 9063 Orientation to Graduate Studies at UMUC (2162)

Dr. Beth Cook

15 February 2016

sailing 1

This I Believe: Sailing Teaches Life Lessons


I learned a lot from having a sailing captain as a mother and an Olympic athlete as a father.  As a girl living in the Midwest, I sailed only small boats on little lakes. As I grew older and moved to the East Coast, I learned to sail larger bodies of water.  Sailing has been a constant theme throughout my life from which I have learned many lessons.

sailing chart

In sailing, charting a course is essential.  Without navigational charts and obeying markers on the water, I learned the hard way that I would run aground or miss a destination completely.  In my career, the “destinations” were positions in fundraising with progressively greater responsibilities.  The  “markers” in my life were key people who advised me and helped me navigate.  Without a course charted over the years, I am sure I would be floundering like a boat lost at sea today.

sailing tacking

When sailing, winds and strong seas will constantly take a boat off its course.  Yet, by adjusting the sails, a boat can tack from side to side while still making forward progress.  Growing up, I moved fourteen times and had four high schools.  I got very good at changing tack.  Moving so many times makes me a very flexible and adaptable person.  I know that I can weather any issue if I just adjust my attitude like I would adjust a sail in the strong wind.

sailing waving

There is a practice when sailing to wave at passing vessels whether it is a speedy powerboat, a gorgeous yacht or a small canoe with a couple.  As a fundraiser, I work with extremely wealthy people.  At the same time, I rely on people at all levels of the organization to get things done.  Respecting diversity and keeping myself humble has led to a regatta of valued colleagues and friends.

sailing wake

When sailing, a good sailor leaves a clean wake.  This includes not  throwing trash overboard or leaving a sheen of oil on the water from a dirty engine. It has always been important to me to do the right thing.  When I leave a job, I give double the notice time so that I leave things ready for the next person.  I take care to return borrowed items either with a special treat or cleaner than I found them.  Leaving a clean wake is a goal in life and on the water.

sailing adjusting

It wasn’t effortless sailing through life, in fact, it was often stormy and difficult.  Having a clear destination in mind and guides along the way has kept me on track. Adjusting my attitude like the sails on a boat keeps me pressing forward despite occasional setbacks.  Respecting diversity allows me to set sail in life or work with any group of people and be successful.  Finally, treating people well and doing the right thing leaves me with a “clean wake” in life.  My next voyage is a Master’s degree from UMUC.  The lessons of the sea will guide me along the way.

 Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Giving Tuesday: Give WHERE, WHY, HOW, and to WHAT Inspires YOU

#GivingTuesday - support your favorite organization.
#GivingTuesday – support your favorite organization.

Giving Tuesday

Black Friday.  Small Business Saturday.  Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday.

For professional fundraisers, every day is “Giving Tuesday” – we go through our weeks with Giving Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (and, for many Saturday and Sunday).

Don’t get me wrong.  I love #GivingTuesday.  On this #GivingTuesday – I encourage you to make a gift that feels FANTASTIC and it EXACTLY what inspires YOU.  The organizations you care about are undoubtedly sending you numerous appeals to join the masses and be counted.  If that inspires you, great.  But I encourage you to think a little deeper.  Think about giving in honor of someone who inspired you such as a coach or college professor.  Think about giving to an organization you see doing good work in your community.  Choose a special project you think could use a little boost.  If you are a loyal tither or have an existing pledge with your organization, consider doing something outside of that in an area you’ve been curious about.

Give to Inspire

As I enter my 25th year of raising funds for a living, I truly feel honored to work in my profession.  I get to work with generous people making the world a better place – through giving to students, institutions, projects, religious organizations, and environmental causes.  Donors make music come alive; buildings come out of the ground; dancers take the stage; athletes competing on the field; ideas creating movements; save animals from extinction and uplift social justice.  Engaging donors to fulfill these visions and dreams is truly inspiring.

But we don’t make it easy for them.  Donors, that is.  As fundraisers, we don’t make giving easy.  Instead, we use terms that disenfranchise or uninspire and we put out materials that act as a funnel for creative ideas which, I believe, leads to a smaller gift at the other end.  We create big campaigns which sometimes make people feel their impact is a drop in the bucket.  We create challenges and deadlines that are sometimes self imposed.  We have paper forms to complete, long memorandums for gift agreements, complicated reports, and our giving “opportunities” either read like diner menus or a one-item-only blue light special.

Even on #GivingTuesday, I find myself rather uninspired by the messages from the charities I care about.  The plea is to give.  Very few say why or the difference that it would make.

We need to interrupt these practices, take a step back, listen longer, encourage dreaming.  The largest gifts I have helped to usher in were from donors passionate about something.  The reason I give is when I know someone is sharing their passion and invites me to help make a dream come true.

“Unrestricted” Giving vs. Partnership

Early in my career, I was responsible for raising “annual gifts”.  While I had the same eager donors with whom to work, the “menu” I was able to offer them was much narrower.  I had a bucket to fill for my organization and gifts outside of that bucket were not only not welcomed, sometimes I couldn’t even accept them.  Or, gifts below a certain dollar range automatically went into an unrestricted fund.

Consider the term “unrestricted giving”.  It is one of the least inspiring terms in the fundraising lexicon, yet we use it all the time. Every organization needs budget-relieving gifts.   But instead of breaking the operating budget into pieces that might appeal to donors, we try instead to induct the dreaming donor into the dreary world of “need” and “keeping the lights on” and spend a good deal of time on the “how” of giving (monthly, annually, via credit card, etc.) rather than the WHAT of giving.  We save the big projects, big ideas and gifts for special things for those with the largest resources (or those who are smart enough to ask).

Just this evening I was invited to a conversation with a group working on their College reunion.  The eager volunteer had been asked to be a Class Agent and she was excited!  What I found interesting (and helpful as a fundraiser) was hearing the dialogue from her peers who had held the role previously.  Their “lessons learned” read like a “DO NOT EVER DO THIS” to me as a fundraiser.  One of the key points was how little room for creativity and designation there existed for the volunteer as well as the donor.  The experienced volunteer gave advice we all should follow, “Inspire people!  If they cared about English, let them give there.  If they loved soccer, let them give there.”  Getting people started giving where they care and have a personal relationship is the best way to inspire philanthropy.  By building that relationship, there is a greater possibility of guiding someone to a project that might need investment.

Every organization needs valuable donor partners who trust the organization enough to give a gift where it is most needed.  We need to inspire this type of giving, not demand it.  We need to treat our donors so well that a gift to our organization feels like one of the most special they give.  We also need to give choices, even if those choices are within the budget categories that keep our organization running.

Micro Campaigns

The greatest innovation in philanthropy in recent years is the movement towards micro giving and micro campaigns.  With these campaigns, donors can choose to fund projects.  The interesting thing is that donors often give multiple times throughout the year and enjoy participating in these grass roots campaigns with clear goals and exciting outcomes.  An example at the University of Maryland is a campaign for the program to restore bee populations and train bee keepers:

These types of campaigns get people excited about giving.  I’ve seen some of my University’s major donors and board members give to these micro campaigns throughout the year.

Giving doesn’t have to be a day.  It doesn’t have to be annual.  It doesn’t have to be obligatory.  It should inspire.

Inspired #GivingTuesday 

Make this #GivingTuesday your own micro campaign.  Choose something that inspires you.  If it is becoming a partner for an organization, do consider a gift without restriction; however, don’t be bashful if the thing you want to support isn’t on the “list” or check box.

And if you are a fundraiser, take a moment to make your own gift to something that inspires you.

Want some ideas?

Consider investing in the College that was saved by its alumnae and features some of the most loyal students in the country!  Give to the Sweet Briar College Fund.  You can read about their story here. 

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  Stacey is a Senior Director of  in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.  She is working with the Department of Computer Science on a campaign for a new building, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation made possible by  the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland, $31 million.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

#GivingTuesday - support your favorite organization.
#GivingTuesday – support your favorite organization.
Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

“The Little College that Could: Saving Sweet Briar College” — link to my article in CASE Currents


CASE Cover photo with students and alumnae (photo credit:
CASE Cover photo with students and alumnae (photo credit:

The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) prints a monthly magazine for professionals working in Advancement.  I’ve had the honor of writing for them twice this year about two significant fundraising experiences I’ve had.  The first was writing about the Largest Gift in the History of the University of Maryland from Brendan Iribe.  While this was an amazing experience personally and professionally, the saving of my College is right up there among my proudest moments.  Below is a link to this month’s magazine:

Full Magazine Article Link (scroll down to page 20):  “The Little College that Could… How Alumnae Saved Sweet Briar College”

Online version (without photos):  

 Link to the Digital Edition (for CASE members this may take you to the login screen; for non CASE members,  you can email me [staceysickels @ – remove spaces first] for a guest password, but I can’t print it here).

I’ve written at length about the amazing success story of Sweet Briar College here in my blog.  This article is written from my perspective as a professional fundraiser working – as a volunteer – to help save my College. It answers the questions I am often asked by colleagues, “How did you do it?” and “How can I learn from this?”

CASE Cover Photo with Tracy Stuart and students (photo credit:
CASE Cover Photo with Tracy Stuart and students (photo credit:

I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Major Gift Committee for saving Sweet Briar and have been asked to serve as a regional representative for the new Alumnae Alliance for Sweet Briar.

CASE Cover photo with students (Photo credit:
CASE Cover photo with students (Photo credit:

The team at CASE:  Ken Budd, Toni Coleman and Angela Carpenter do an amazing job every month pulling together ideas, authors,  photographs and creative graphic design.  So glad that Becky Johnston-Lambert and Russell Harrison’s photo credits are included.  I will share comments below with the CASE editorial staff so thanks for sharing!

Enjoy!  PDF link:  “The Little College that Could… How Alumnae Saved Sweet Briar College”

 Please consider supporting the amazing students, faculty, staff and community at Sweet Briar College.

CASE Cover photo (Seth Meyers photo bombed!). Photo credit:
CASE Cover photo (Seth Meyers photo bombed!). Photo credit:

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  Stacey is a Senior Director of  in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.  She is working with the Department of Computer Science on a campaign for a new building, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation made possible by  the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland, $31 million.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Sweet Briar College debuts at Technica, the First All-Women’s Hackathon at the University of Maryland


What is a Hackathon?

First, let’s dispel a common misconception:  A hackathon is not about cyber crime, hacking into companies or personal information or anything illegal.  Let’s break it down:

“Hackathon” doesn’t (yet) exist in Webster’s Dictionary, but the best way to understand it is how it breaks down.  “Hack” refers to the old fashioned use of the term to create, break something down, a project.  “Thon” refers to an extended collective effort just like a “dance-a-thons”.

Technica, University of Maryland’s first All-Women’s Hackathon

This past weekend, Technica, the University of Maryland’s first all-women’s Hackathon launched at Ritchie Coliseum with over 400 participants.  University of Maryland’s Terrapin Hackers have been national leaders since their inaugural “Bitcamp” hackathon in 2013.

I had the pleasure of witnessing Sweet Briar College’s first visit to a hackathon.  I was particularly delighted to welcome this group as they come from my alma mater which is undergoing a resurgence after nearly facing closure by the prior administration in March of 2015.  Sweet Briar has one of only two accredited Engineering programs at a woman’s college, the Margaret Jones Wylie `45 Engineering Program.

Sweet Briar College students attend their first Hackathon, "Technica" at the University of Maryland.
Sweet Briar College students attend their first Hackathon, “Technica” at the University of Maryland. Left to right: Alicia Wooten, Erika Stepel, Des’Rae Davis, and Ashton Reid.

“This year over 50,000 students will participate in over 150 official Major League Hacking sanctioned hackathons around the globe. The student hacker community has been doubling in size every semester since 2013 and it is clearly here to stay. Hackathons are growing at warp speed,” — Major League Hacking.

Many describe hackathons as tomorrow’s classroom, career fair and even the rebirth of America’s economy.   In this article in the Chronicle of Education (which also features my son, then a high school student), Brian Matthews describes his first experience at a Hackathon being the “frontier of education”.

Hackathons are a movement taking hold across the country bringing together people and ideas.  They can take many forms from technological to social justice to artistic.

“Hackathons have grown to become a global student movement. By fast-tracking the software and hardware development process, hackathons provide students with valuable technical skills they will need in their future careers. Students learn by doing and finish with a final project that has the potential to turn into a real business. Collaborating in a high-stakes environment, students learn how to work effectively on a team. Students meet like-minded peers from around the world and also have a chance to interact with professional engineers and recruiters. Their new motivation and creativity remains after the hackathon, as hacker culture grows and a more diverse array of students travel to other collegiate hackathons to make new friends and win prizes.”

Students arrive at hackathons by car, bus, plane and other forms of transportation (including their parents driving them if they are in middle or high school).  Some hackathons even reimburse for transportation, but all are free to participants.

Sweet Briar College students arrive at their first Major League hackathon.
Sweet Briar College students arrive at their first Major League hackathon.

A view of a hackathon from above.
A view of a hackathon from above.

Students select their “home” for the weekend, a spot at one of many folding chairs and tables.  After some introductory remarks including shared values for a positive group experience, participants have many choices.  Workshops kick off right way offering many opportunities to learn new skills from coding to design to  fun activities.  When I left the Sweet Briar College team, they were in a class to learn python.  Many of the strongest candidates for jobs in higher education today are learning skills outside of the classroom.  Hackathons are a great way to add skills to one’s resume.

Hackathons don’t just offer coding, there are many things to learn. Some teams come in with ideas.  Others arrive as individuals and form teams over shared interests.  Some come out of the weekend with projects including the germination of a business while others are happy to learn new skills and return home.

Hackathons are great for Colleges and Universities because they do not require new resources.  Skills taught at hackathons add to student’s skill sets and make them more employable.   Technology changes so quickly, it is very difficult for academic institutions to prepare curriculum to keep pace.  With hackathons, students have access to the latest technology that some institutions may not be able to provide.

Companies interested in students also become more connected to the Colleges and Universities sending students and hosting hackathons.  These corporate-college relationships often expand into support for other programs, professorships, scholarships and even capital projects.

What is delightful is to see the joy and fun participants have through organized games and shared experiences.


Sponsors make hackathons accessible to anyone.  Cost is not an obstacle as most are free (some even reimburse for transporation costs).  Sponsors linger through the weekend providing mentorship and getting to know participants personally.  Sponsors also offer feedback on projects during demonstrations on Sundays.

In my work I have the opportunity work with University Relations recruiters from some of the nation’s top companies.  More and more I am seeing them select hackathons as their “student engagement” of choice.

Sponsors of hackathons are able to have informal and formal interactions with participants.  Most hackathons offer a resume database at the end to match interested students with potential companies.  What makes hackathons “tomorrow’s career fair” is that companies can mentor students over the weekend and watch both student’s intellect at work as well as their personal skills.  One recruiter told me, “You get to see their brains at work.”

Showcase vs. Competition

At the end of a hackathon, students have an opportunity to showcase their work over the weekend.  Not everyone participates.  The environment is one of showcasing over a competition.  Prizes are awarded for categories.  Sponsors have the latitude to create categories or to provide special recognition.  Major League Hacking even has a category called, “I see where you are going with that…” and “Punny-ist Web Name”.

When I arrived on Sunday, the vixens were going strong.   Wrapped in blankets, they had smiles on their faces and declared, “WE DID IT!  IT WORKS!”  I was impressed!  Many teams don’t finish the weekend and a large majority do not actually come out with a finished project.  What is even more amazing — and speaks to the quality of the education provided over a weekend — the girls pursued learning a new computer coding language and never dreamed they would have a finished project by the end.  As an alumna knowing the importance of enrollment, it was incredibly gratifying to see their project:  An app for prospective students.

An Alternative Homecoming

At the University of Maryland, my colleagues in University Relations are embracing hackathons as an alternative to homecoming.  We find our alumni (I work in the sciences) relish the opportunity to attend an event exploring technology, the arts, and bringing together students, faculty and corporate leaders.  Hackathons are also a family-friendly opportunity for alumni to bring their children and introduce them to the world of technology.

Finish Line – “Demos” (Demonstrations)

Every race has a finish line and every hackathon has a closing ceremony.   The feeling is more of a campfire than a formal ceremony.  Participants sit in a large circle and sponsors share feedback on the projects they particularly liked.  Industry leaders offer their personal stories and encouragement.

The Sweet Briar College team tidied up their table of water bottles, leftover snacks, notes and laptops and cleared the way for their demonstration.  They created an account on DevPost, a site dedicated to showcase digital portfolios.  A DevPost entry is also the portal to officially representing your college or university at a hackathon and earning points.  Sponsors streamed by their table and the students worked out their pitch.  One described what they had learned, another pointed out the features of their app, another talked about the benefits of a hackathon, another pointed out the benefits of their college.  By happy coincidence, the kit I had used at a recent college fair was in my car and the students put the materials to good use decorating their table.  They were even interviewed by WTOP — Washington’s largest radio station.

The creativity around the room was inspiring!  Participants came up with creations with laser printers.  One team even came up with a way for children to make 3D printable furniture for their stuffed animals, dolls or barbies.

As I have raised money for Technica and the students know me, they were kind to allow me to take a moment in the program to tell the Sweet Briar College story and to acknowledge the students.  I donned a pink “alumna” shirt over my University of Maryland polo for the occasion. The Sweet Briar College vixens earned loud applause and left with trophies wrapped in pink and green (the school colors).

Technica wrapped up with students hugging one another, paying final visits to sponsors and then streaming out to the awaiting buses and their cars.   The Sweet Briar College team had a four-hour drive home, but they said their excitement would keep them awake.  WTOP aired their story on Technica with Sweet Briar students as the lead story:

For more insight on hackathons, please visit my son Kent Heckel’s vlog where he provides a video journey through a hackathon (note – this hackathon was from Friday to Sunday):

Over the past three years, I have seen students create amazing projects at hackathons.  Spending a weekend creating is a wholesome way to have fun while boosting skills.

The students of Sweet Briar told me they are looking forward to Pearl Hacks at the University of North Carolina.

There is a hackathon (sometimes two) nearly every weekend of the year.  Check out one near you!  

Photo credit:  Major League Hacking,

Sweet Briar College hackathon team.
Sweet Briar College hackathon team.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  Stacey is a Senior Director of  in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.  She is working with the Department of Computer Science on a campaign for a new building, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation made possible by  the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland, $31 million.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.Follow us....Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!