Category Archives: Group Dynamics

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: Drawception.com

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.

Pinterest.com

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

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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.

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Sweet Briar: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing (It’s Normal!!!!)

Bruce Tuckman Team Development Model
Bruce Tuckman Team Development Model

All my life group and team dynamics have fascinated me.   As a psychology major at Sweet Briar College, I read my textbooks with great interest and began applying that insight in my life.   Over the years, I have supervised hundreds of people, coached synchronized skating teams, served on boards and, more recently, experienced the intense team effort to save Sweet Briar College.

One of the most helpful and elegant models I have found in understanding human and team dynamics comes from Bruce Tuckman, PhD. His model is the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing Model.  He added a fifth stage later in his career “Adjourning”.  This model provides reassurance for those living through a time of uncertainty now.   Applying the Tuckman model helps understand both the individual and team dynamics.

Forming – Stage 1

When a team forms, there is high dependence on a leader (or perceived leader) for guidance and direction.  There is little agreement on the team’s aims and activities unless direction comes from the leader.  Individual roles and responsibilities aren’t clear and often are not yet defined.  Leaders will be besieged by questions about the team’s objectives, purpose, motives and relationships.  

A stone laying atop Indiana Fletcher Williams grave, "Believe" sits next to Daisy's resting place.
A stone laying atop Indiana Fletcher Williams grave, “Believe” sits next to Daisy’s resting place.

On campus, faculty and staff faced an uncertain future.  Those working under the leadership of the President and Board followed their path to closure.

Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. formed and appointed a Board.  They secured legal counsel to launch an important legal challenge.  Their charge and mission was clear; however, there was a misperception that they would or should have the answers to all questions and provide all direction — which was impossible and not their charge.

Stakeholders of all kinds were filled with questions and they directed them in many directions, including the volunteer leaders of Saving Sweet Briar.   The many stakeholders of Sweet Briar were uncertain as to who was leading them.  People waited for direction and answers — answers that sometimes couldn’t be provided given the confidentiality of a legal case.

Social media allowed for teams and subgroups to organize themselves around work they found important:  Students, Admissions, Research, Parents, Friends, and many more.

During the early formation of the teams organized to save Sweet Briar, I was unsure as to my best way to contribute.  As a fundraiser, I saw the need to raise money.  As someone who has worked in higher education for much of my career, I was called to take some of the issues I felt were important to a broader audience.  I turned to my blog.  My march blogs grappled with the broader issues I saw.

Looking back, “forming” was inevitable.  It was understandable.  The fact that this is normal is one of the reasons we must look back with an open mind at both perspectives — those who worked to close and those who worked to save.  Each had their respective leaders and followers who were moving towards — and directed towards — different futures.

Storming – Stage 2

Storming is a normal phase for all teams and teams return to this phase when there is a change (such as a new leadership, key decision, even victory).   In this phase decisions do not come easily in the group.  Team members vie for position as they try to establish themselves in relation to other team members or the leader.  The leader will receive challenges from team members.  Team members will attack each other, especially those who may not appear to comply with what they perceive to be the leader’s goals.  Clarity of purpose grows, but plenty of uncertainties persist.  Power struggles are the norm and factions will form.

Banners protesting the closure and leadership hung from balconies, the bell tower and buildings.
Banners protesting the closure and leadership hung from balconies, the bell tower and buildings.

Chaos reigned in the following weeks.  Chaos of all types.  Students protested the Board’s actions with banners hung from balconies and the bell tower.  Faculty unanimously voted no confidence in the leadership.  Additional suits were filed on behalf of faculty, students and an alumna.

Social media provided a forum where various people and teams working to save Sweet Briar organized – and divided —  themselves.   In the weeks after the initial announcement of closure, “storming” was alive and well.   The different groups working on the issues they felt were important experienced internal and external challenges.  Different teams questioned motives of others.  There was a strong desire to have “one” voice, “one” approach and to muffle any external statements that didn’t comply.

National media reported on the “fight” to save Sweet Briar.  Board members posted opinion pieces.  Op-eds, blogs, articles and social media brought to light the many issues of concern:  Donor rights, honoring the founder’s will, faculty contracts, and more.

The “us” and “them” felt as deep as the Grand Canyon at this time with Board members and “closers” (as they came to be called) fighting it out in Court, through social connections and in the national media.

During this time, I wrote some of my strongest blog posts about what I felt was wrong.  My discontent also took the form of frustration with the lack of process and procedure with the efforts to save the College.  I also was – true to form – frustrated with my leadership.   I wasn’t used to leadership unfolding in this way. I didn’t understand why we didn’t take on more volunteers.  I didn’t want anyone to tell me to wait.  I was in classic “storming” in my April blogs.

“Storming” is understandable.  It is one of the reasons we must forgive each other.  Without every team working towards its individual goals — even if we did not understand them — we might not have crossed the finish line we reached on June 20.

Norming – Stage 3

Agreement and consensus forms among the team.  Leadership is embraced and their roles are further defined.  Stakeholders of all types will see where they can assist and not wait for “spoon feeding” or regular direction by the leader.   There is less questioning of those  willing to work without direction and an appreciation that “many hands make light work”. Big decisions are made by group agreement.  Small decisions may be delegated to individuals or smaller teams.  Unity is strong and commitment grows.  There may be fun and social activities bonding people together.  Working styles emerge.  There is a general respect for the leader and more leadership is shared.  The leader faciliates and enables versus directing.

In response to the President's comment that he "left no stone unturned", this image shows the will of the students, faculty, staff, alumnae and CITIZENS of Virginia crying out for leadership.
In response to the President’s comment that he “left no stone unturned”, this image shows the will of the students, faculty, staff, alumnae and CITIZENS of Virginia crying out for leadership.

Norming took the shape of efficient fundraising.   We celebrated million-dollar-sized milestones along the way.  My team had regular conference calls.  We secured a professional fundraising firm, Alexander Haas, to help coordinate things.  As a fundraiser, this was a Godsend to me!  The processes, procedures, lists and other tools I was used to using were suddenly available.  We still had three different databases and some mis-steps along the way, but our collective apologies, thank yous and phone calls continued to yield success.

Back on campus, the practical matter of students transferring and faculty securing alternative positions outside of Sweet Briar unfolded.  As much as people hoped for a positive outcome, practical steps were needed.

During this phase, I marveled at different teams and how much was being achieved.  Sweet Briar 2.0, a clearinghouse website of all of the ideas and plans, launched.  Plans for Reunion 2015 unfolded with a parallel track for those who didn’t want to support the College’s activities.  My May blogs turned to the broader issues and more advocacy outside of my Sweet Briar community.

Fundraisers all over the country were held.  Class challenges inspired giving from alumnae in far greater numbers than ever before. National news stories began to cover the stories of the fight to SAVE the College.

Performing – Stage 4

In a performing stage, the team is strategically aware.  The team knows what it is doing and why they are doing it.  There is a shared vision.  The leader no longer has to be directive (nor is he/she expected to be).  Sub-groups have confidence of their role and they plunge themselves into useful activity.  Reporting structures become clearer.  The team attends to relationships and processes along the way.  There is self-care and mutual-care with people looking after each other.  The leader is able to deliver even greater results with the efficiencies and often a group of leaders will be able to expand its ranks.  

Salute to Daisy facing Monument Hill
Salute to Daisy facing Monument Hill – a gathering of 100+ women and men as a symbolic show of unity.

Looking back, it seems to me that those working to save Sweet Briar College hit the “performing” stage just in time for Reunion, 2015.  The collective goodwill from the regional events and opportunity to reconnect with campus reinvigorated everyone, even if they couldn’t attend.

On campus, there was greater clarity for students and faculty.  Quietly, there was optimism about the possibility of success.

National media stories continued with coverage of the efforts to save and the broader issues of importance to anyone.  Strong leaders spoke out — and were heard.

The amazing thing to me is the sense of TEAM that has emerged collectively.  I have never looked at my classmates at Sweet Briar and felt we were a TEAM until now.  I didn’t expect to look to the classes around me and see us as a united front.  In fact, there was often subtle competition at Reunions to compete for fundraising with the last class to reach our milestones.  I feel UNITED with students, parents, faculty, staff, alumnae, community and friends.  We, Sweet Briar College, are a TEAM.  This team building we have undergone has been painful, jubilant and TRANSFORMING.

I don’t see how this can be replicated at any other institution in the land and I hope no other place has to go through it.  However, I can honestly say, I would do it all over again to reach this amazing place our team Saving Sweet Briar has reached!

Adjourning – Stage 5

Bruce Tuckman refined his theory in 1975 and added a fifth stage to the Forming Storming Norming Performing Model which he called Adjourning (it is also referred to as Deforming and Mourning).  Tuckman’s fifth stage is the break-up of the group, hopefully when the task is successfully completed.  Everyone can move on to new things, feeling good about what’s been achieved.  From an organizational perspective, sensitivity to this stage is helpful, particularly if members of a group have been closely bonded or feel threatened by the change.  

Indiana Fletcher Williams smiles a bit broader....
Indiana Fletcher Williams smiles a bit broader….

To be honest, I forgot about this step until I prepared to write this post.  When I reviewed the material on Tuckman’s model, I hadn’t noted the fifth stage in the articles.  Yet, it is very helpful to think about now whether from the perspective of the outgoing Sweet Briar College Board, the new members of the Sweet Briar Board or the Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board who announced from the beginning that they hoped to be “out of a job” by the end of their efforts.

The Sweet Briar College Board collectively resigned after the Memorandum of Understanding was reached between the parties filing suit and Sweet Briar College.   To their credit, they saw that their job was done.  They took a vote, they took steps to execute that vote for closure and held their course.  They served in a very difficult time and I am compassionate for how this must have been for them.

The Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board’s role for funding the important legal counsel was a victory – the County Attorney of Amherst achieved her desired goals and the outcome of “getting back the keys” resulted.  The fundraising effort launched surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations.   The work to secure a new President was successful.  All parties to the suits put forward suggested names for new Board members for Sweet Briar College.

Fortunately, there is no “adjourning” for those who have worked to save the College.  The cycle begins anew.

Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing

We can expect all of these stages in the weeks ahead.  Hopefully, it can help us be more compassionate with those who are working on campus to welcome back students.  Perhaps it could help us reach out to those who thought differently from us and welcome them into this future.   We need all leaders, followers, rank-and-file, do-ers possible to begin the cycle again.

To support Saving Sweet Briar, visit:  www.savingsweetbriar.com

Soon, we will bring to you our regularly scheduled links at the College, but we don’t yet have the keys….

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 and she feels a sense of duty that those donations are not used for the closure of the College or for any other purposes than the donors intended. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement. She raises funds for Saving Sweet Briar, a charitable organization committed to the future of the College  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.

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In Front of the Camera saving Sweet Briar: Footage from the Cutting Room Floor….

Jeff Goldberg of WJLA ABC7 (DC) interviews Christine Bump and Stacey Sickels Locke
Jeff Goldberg of WJLA ABC7 (DC) interviews Christine Bump and Stacey Sickels Locke

Normally I use my blog, social media or just about any conversation I am in lately to share about Sweet Briar College and the amazing fight to save it. Tonight I am supposed to be on television.  More precisely, on the news.  WJLA 7 in the DC Metro area will air Part II on Sweet Briar and the efforts to save the College.  You can see Part I here.

Link to WJLA ABC7 which will also stream live:  http://www.wjla.com/video/2015/05/closing-of-sweet-briar-college.html

My fellow interviewee, Christine Bump, invited me to participate.  Christine is amazing.   The effort to save Sweet Briar is blessed to have people like Christine.  In Christine we have legal expertise, passion for Sweet Briar and a gifted writer.  Most of the communication distributed to thousands of alumnae began from her pen.

These types of interviews and opportunities do not come about by accident.  A team of dedicated volunteers working to save Sweet Briar reaches out constantly to news media to share the “savers” side of the story.  In the early days of the announcement, the “closers” story seemed to prevail.  Thankfully, the tide is turning.  In this story the reported WANTED to hear about the efforts.  We hope we did them justice.

The “interview” was actually a conversation with the reporter, Jeff Goldberg.   There is nothing like a television camera trained in one’s direction to clarify one’s thoughts (or leave a gaping hole where thoughts once were :)!!)  It was so much better to do the interviews together.   Jeff told us that the story would be three minutes — a very generous and lengthy story in news land — so that meant much would be clipped.

I thought I would share today some of the things that may make it into the story and some that are likely on the cutting room floor.  I’ve also added some information learned since the interviews.  I’ll share them in the form of the questions Jeff asked:

What do you think is going on here?

Christine pointed out this could be a “land grab“.  James Jones, “President” of Sweet Briar College, is recorded as saying in a faculty meeting that he had received “Many proposals” for the College.  The question is whether there are ties to board members from the entities expressing interest.  There is evidence that Sweet Briar approached Hollins University two years ago regarding possible closure.  Everett Stern, private investigator, who hosted a press conference at Sweet Briar recently, found evidence of fraud and possible land interests.

View of campus from Monument Hill.  Sweet Briar has over 3,000 acres.  Are there plans for the land already?
View of campus from Monument Hill. Sweet Briar has over 3,000 acres. Are there plans for the land already?

Financial benefit.   The stated plan is to provide severance packages to employees.  As much as I respect the faculty and staff at Sweet Briar, I would rather have them keep their jobs than to use endowment funds to pay severance packages.  Usually employees of Colleges receive a small percentage of their salary each year towards their retirement.  Those with the largest salaries would gain the most from the severance payment plan.  Furthermore, using the endowment to close the College is against every law designed to protect donor gift intent.

Board Governance.   There is a total lack of communication measured by the shock from students, parents, faculty, staff, community members and elected officials.  The Board refuses to share its documents leading to its decision to close.  The President has conflicted himself numerous times.  Statements made about the financial need continue to change.  I have worked for a school facing possible closure and they were honest with alumnae asking the questions, “What would you do if the school were in peril?” And, “What would a world be like without the school?”  There are ways to ask these tough questions and Sweet Briar did not.  It is misleading to pursue alternatives like a merger with another College when simultaneously recruiting students and accepting donations.  Based on documents now public, it would seem that the functioning of this Board is cause for concern.

Misuse of charitable funds.  Funds given by generous donors over the years should not be used to close the College.  I worked for the College in the 1990s during their Great Expectations Campaign and raised $13 million of a $25 million effort.  I still remember those donors and I feel strongly about fighting for their interests – some of whom are no longer with us.

Lack of Leadership.  There is a profound lack of leadership on display since the President and Board announced its intention to close.   The early statements about why the College had to close were embarrassing and should be a lesson to any leader how NOT to speak about higher education, women or diversity in 2015.  The students whose lives were disrupted and especially those who felt blamed (particularly first generation college students and those receiving Pell awards), deserve far better treatment.  Faculty feel their contract with the College was violated.

Why are you working to Save the College?

I shared that Sweet Briar is a home to me.  It was the place I came after four high schools and 14 moves.  I got an excellent education and still have many ties to the College.  I also worked in Development and started my career there.  

Class of 1988 at Step Singing our senior year.
Class of 1988 at Step Singing our senior year.

I am also working to Save the College because the world needs Sweet Briar and its graduates!  Companies need female leaders.  Tech companies with whom I work are desperate for diversity.  Women’s Colleges have a track record for producing women leaders.

It is amazing to see the outcry and volunteerism from students, parents, faculty, staff, alumnae and the community.  I believe we are seeing one of the most effective stakeholder revolts the nonprofit world has ever seen.  Supporting this effort will find those who have worked so hard on the right side of history!

Beyond the Sweet Briar community, there are lessons here for all schools, colleges and nonprofits — lessons that need to be brought to light.  We count on Boards to protect the interests of the organizations we love and support.  There is a collapse here in Board governance.   As donors to charities, we count that our gifts are used as we intend — people should know they have a Donor Bill of Rights.  If the Attorney General allows the College to unravel the endowment, this should cause concern to donors everywhere!  There are other States where their Attorney General’s have protected  donors and intervened when poor governance might be at play. As a mother with a College Freshman, I would feel very misled if my son had been recruited to a College that had an uncertain financial future and an intention to close.  The transfer process has not gone well for students and has left families reeling.

Donor Bill of Rights - all donors have these rights and institutions have a duty to uphold them.
Donor Bill of Rights – all donors have these rights and institutions have a duty to uphold them.

Christine shared that Sweet Briar College, like all women’s colleges, should be an option for the next generation of young women.  It is a niche school, and it is not ideal for everyone, but that does not mean it does not have an important place in the educational landscape.  Its small size, the attention paid by and dedication of all of the professors, and the immense opportunities it provides allow young women to push themselves to the fullest, find their true voice, and forge their own path in the world.  Sweet Briar gave Christine the courage to step out from behind what everyone expected of her and define who she was supposed to be.  Without Sweet Briar, she says she would have continued being who everyone thought she was. The next generation of women deserve that opportunity.  Sweet Briar is the most important place in the world to Christine and she holds a place in her heart behind only my husband and my parents.

What does the future hold?

We are seeing one of the greatest stakeholder movements I believe the nonprofit world has seen.  Sweet Briar can return stronger.  Alumnae are ready for change — even if that change means going co-ed (and I hope people can hold open a piece of their heart for the possibility that my sons could attend one day).  My father was part of the Citadel during its media flurry over its first female applicant.  The media exposure and the increased enrollment leaves it stronger today than it ever was.  I think we could thrive and have lines of students down the driveway.

Christine ended our interview with this poignant message:

We believe that saving the College will be one of its biggest strengths.  Many institutions tout the strength of their alumnae network; what young woman wouldn’t want to attend a college with such a strong network of alumnae that they were actually able to challenge and overtake the status quo and save the school?  Once we do that, however, Sweet Briar has to remain relevant.  Alumnae are working on multiple committees to design what we are calling Sweet Briar 2.0.  We are restructuring the College’s governing documents so that the Board no longer has ultimate authority.  We are making curriculum changes to attract more students and integrate Sweet Briar’s biggest resource — its land — into the curriculum.  There are many ideas being considered and foundations being laid so that we never face another crisis like this again.

Christine is right, who WOULDN’T want to be part of the amazing network that is the family of Sweet Briar College?

Thank you WJLA ABC7 for helping us tell our story….  To thank ABC7 you can tweet “@ABC7News”.  T

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 and she feels a sense of duty that those donations are not used for the closure of the College or for any other purposes than the donors intended. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement.  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 Sickels Locke, CFRE

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