Category Archives: Higher Education

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

IMG_7832

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.

Sponsorship

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....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

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
Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

“Cow Money Challenge”…Putting the FUN in FUNdraising while Saving Sweet Briar

Cow Money Challenge?  That's $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012.
Cow Money Challenge? That’s $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012.

This is a post about fundraising.  And a post about cows.  I never knew the two went together until the Saving Sweet Briar movement.

Allow me to explain.

In the hours after the announcement of closure by the President and Board of Sweet Briar College, students, faculty, staff, alumnae and the community were reeling.   A range of emotions greeted this news from shock to resignation to sadness to anger to passion to advocacy.  Those who saw a future got to work. One brave alumna, Sarah Clement, a former board member, sparked a movement to save the College.  Saving Sweet Briar  was born.

Sarah gathered together other committed alumnae and formed a Board.  I have written about their efforts in several others posts. This post is about fundraising.  And cows.  Because they go together in this case.

In the early days of Saving Sweet Briar – before a website home was established – Facebook and email provided the fertile soil for the germination and later growth of many powerful ideas.

Fundraising in all forms began.  Direct contributions as of this writing surpass $1 million with multi-year commitments over $11 million.

At first these efforts were like the “Wild West” and not tied together; however, leaders emerged and lassoed the organized women and friends of Sweet Briar into groups — some classic to successful fundraising and some not.

Major Gifts Committee

I sit on the Major Donor Task Force, a group of professional fundraisers and volunteers with experience.   Beth Ann Trappold Newton recruited me. This is the logical place for me to volunteer since I got my fundraising start at Sweet Briar as a student in 1984 and later after my reunion in 1993 (and Beth Ann helped me get my first job after leaving campus – in fact I took the job she left to have her first baby).  Having helped raise $13M of the $25M campaign at the time, I cannot sit back and watch the President and Board try to spend down endowment given by people I remember and some I still know!  The Major Donor Task Force  reaches out personally to those who have been very generous to Sweet Briar over the years.  We are organized into regional groups and are led by a volunteer, Mary Pope Hutson, and now pro-bono fundraising consulting through Alexander Haas.  Through weekly conference calls and many emails inbetween, we coordinate our efforts.  The response is inspiring.

Class Representatives, Regional Representatives, State Representatives

I had the pleasure of meeting with Evangeline Taylor, a dedicated Sweet Briar alumna, who provides encouragement and support to hundreds of volunteers.

Class representatives provide regular updates to class leaders which they in turn send to their class.

State representatives have reached out personally by phone, email and personal letters to those in their state.

Some, like my classmate, Katie Keogh Widener, do both!

Challenges

Back to the Cow Challenge…..  It began in the Bedford County Courthouse.  Those of us who could not be in Bedford followed a series of journalists.  Hawes Spencer captured not only the flow of testimony, but his acerbic humor gave those of us working to save Sweet Briar some of the best laughter we had enjoyed in many weeks.

Up until this moment, I didn’t know what “cow money” was.

So what is “cow money” and what is a “Cow Money Challenge”?  I asked and got this answer:  Susan Finn Adams wrote to me, “Sarah ‘ s uncle was a cattle farmer. He left the farm to her family, they later sold it and split the proceeds. Proceeds = “Cow money”.  “Cow Money” is the most precious money you have.  You don’t spend it unless you REALLY need it.

How do you turn “cow money” into gold?  Make it into a challenge of course!  I told you this blog post was inspired by Cows:

Cow Money Challenge:  Sarah reached into her "cow money", now reach into YOURS!
Cow Money Challenge: Sarah reached into her “cow money”, now reach into YOURS!

Brooke Linville created the “Cow Challenge” with the following post:

Our fearless woman Sarah P. Clement told the court that had she known the condition of the college, she would have reached into her COW MONEY to help. So how much is cow money, we wondered…

As it turns out it is $1642.03 for a bred heifer in 2012. I am sure some of our awesome rancher vixens can help us out if this number is wrong. Anyhow, this is our FUNDRAISING GOAL tonight. We are going to raise us some COW MONEY!

savingsweetbriar.com/donations

Kentucky Derby Challenge
Kentucky Derby Challenge

Before the Cow Challenge, there was the “Latte Challenge”.   Hundreds posted photos of themselves holding a cup of coffee (while providing a challenge to Saving Sweet Briar).  This past weekend, there was a challenge around the Kentucky Derby.

Events.  From Washington DC to San Francisco to around the world, events helped alumnae and friends connect and raise needed funds.  At one event in Atlanta, pledges totaling over $600K have matched an initial challenge by Teresa Tomlinson, Sweet Briar alumna and Mayor of Columbus, Georgia.

Shopping for Sweet Briar

Meanwhile, back on the web, fundraisers of all kinds continued to grow.  When the going get’s rough….

lets shop

Clothing.  Sweet Briar Alumnae Goods features something for every corner of your home.  Virtually anyone with a shingle and a heart can make a contribution.  Examples include:  Coffee Table Book, Decals, Luggage, baby clothes, ring dishes, prayer beads, men’s ties….

Goods of all kinds to #saveSweetBriar
Goods of all kinds to #saveSweetBriar
Baby clothes and fashion galore!
Baby clothes and fashion galore!

Home and Garden.   Everything you might need for home, garden and College:  Yard flags, cookbooks,

Everything for home and garden and College....
Everything for home and garden and College….
Wine plugs, ornaments, key chains...
Wine plugs, ornaments, key chains…
Stelladot jewelry - a favorite.
Stelladot jewelry – a favorite.

They Sell That?  Some of the more unusual offerings included “Jamberry” press-on fingernail polish, Tattoos and even bull riding competitions,

Bull riding?  This alumna offers a 50:50 raffle at her husband's bull riding competition!
Bull riding? This alumna offers a 50:50 raffle at her husband’s bull riding competition!
Tattoo fundraiser.  Yep, we had that too.  Who says SBC is all pink, green and pearls?
Tattoo fundraiser. Yep, we had that too. Who says SBC is all pink, green and pearls?
"Sometimes you have to put on some pink and green and crush it! Rise Up Climbing will changing their colors from black and red to host a pink and green climb night." (Raleigh Durham Club)
“Sometimes you have to put on some pink and green and crush it! Rise Up Climbing will changing their colors from black and red to host a pink and green climb night.” (Raleigh Durham Club)
Sports fundraisers - many SBC field hockey and lacrosse players returned to campus.
Sports fundraisers – many SBC field hockey and lacrosse players returned to campus.
Bumper stickers, decals, anything to share our #saveSweetBriar spirit.
Bumper stickers, decals, anything to share our #saveSweetBriar spirit (Margaret Fisher).
Vixen vodka - the perfect compliment to fundraising....
Vixen vodka – the perfect compliment to fundraising….

As of this writing, alumnae gave the equivalent of multiple cows.  One alumna, Christina Savage Lytle, joked, “Now we are going to need to raise enough for a barn…”

There is no category for this... it just made me giggle.
There is no category for this… it just made me giggle.

What we have here is a recipe for fundraising success.  We have a recipe for institutional success.  HUNDREDS of volunteers divided thoughtfully into groups by expertise and passion are working hourly, daily, weekly and constantly for Saving Sweet Briar.

This is the most fun I’ve had fundraising in a very long time.  The last time I had this much fun was when I was Reunion Gift Chair for my 25th Reunion.  Before that, calling as a Freshman in 1984 when I literally “dialed for dollars’ (and treats).

This is all without formal records or professional staff.  Imagine what could be done for the future?

Care to help?  Check out Saving Sweet Briar and Sweet Briar Alumnae Goods

P.S.  For a post about “cow money” I would be remiss if I didn’t add a parting comment by an amazing woman (whose name I did not catch) who served in the Marine after Sweet Briar.  On the call with the “President”, Missy Witherow, Interim VP of Development, and Sandra Taylor, member of the Board and President of the Alumnae Association, she said,

We have a term for this kind of behavior in the Marines.  It’s called BULL.  I throw down the “bullsh*t flag” on this behavior leading to this decision.

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
Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Behind the Scenes of Saving Sweet Briar — an inspiring example of passion, purpose and progress.

Never ever depend on Governments or institutions to solve any major problems.  All solutions come from the passion of individuals.

Never ever depend on Governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All solutions come from the passion of individuals. – Margaret Mead

While there are many issues to examine with respect to the President, Board and operations of Sweet Briar College, it seems fitting to focus for a moment on the efforts to SAVE the College.  I feel I can take a little break from my ranting against the horrible leadership, governance and lack of proper administration for a bit. The legal team inspires confidence and there national experts rolling up their sleeves and taking aim at those issues.  Most recently it is the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.  I thought today I would share a glimpse at the amazing work being done to #saveSweetBriar.

Yesterday I attended a farewell gathering of a colleague at the University of Maryland and was asked by many in the room about Sweet Briar.  I found myself describing my efforts and those of my fellow alumnae and felt my spirits rising with each retelling.  It is a story built on determination.  It is a saga filled with drama and intrigue.  It is a case study in alumni activism that will likely become an inspiration for our sister Colleges and other small liberal arts Colleges around the country.  I can also confidently say we have worthwhile lessons to share with colleagues around the WORLD.  I met a visitor from the University of Manchester in England who asked me to share some of the key lessons learned.  The Saving Sweet Briar efforts are the very example of what Margaret Mead famously wrote.  Wait for it… (this isn’t the quote you are thinking I am going to use),

“Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems.  All social change comes from the passion of individuals.” — Margaret Mead.

I have served on many boards from schools to arts organizations to sports teams.  Alongside many passionate parents (and some alumni), I have added my weight to a collective effort to move something forward.  Never in my 30 years of volunteerism or professional experience have I seen the likes of the mobilized alumnae of Saving Sweet Briar.  Allow me to pull back the curtain and share a few examples….

Saving Sweet Briar, Inc.  Within days of the announcement of the Sweet Briar College President and Board’s decision to close, a group of courageous women banded together to formally fight the closure.  First, they opened up their pocketbook to pay for necessary legal counsel in Troutman and Sanders.  Second, they established a Board.  Third, they applied for 501C3 status for Saving Sweet Briar, Inc.  They had a vision and mission statement, a segment of which is here:

Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. was established to block the closure of Sweet Briar College and provide accurate information to students, faculty, and alumnae about the true financial condition of Sweet Briar College and the viable alternatives to closure. The organization is also dedicated to raising the necessary funds to fight the closure and help erase the school’s financial shortfall. Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. is also committed to identifying highly talented individuals who can serve on the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors to help lead an immediate turnaround for the institution while developing a longer term strategy with input from key stakeholders. Success in achieving our mission will ensure that future generations of women can proudly call themselves Sweet Briar alumnae.

In their own words, they all wish to be “out of a job” and see themselves as temporary stewards.  An example of the kind of top-notch experts they have hired to provide advice and guidance for the future include a forensic accountant, R. Stephen Spitzer,  and a college turnaround expert with solid examples of other institutions.   The Board vets candidates for a new Board; they have a list of interested College Presidents with proven turnaround experience; experts on a number of fields are being vetted to provide real advice for the future.

The call to action is clear:

Spread the word

Share your Sweet Briar Story with your friends on social media using the hashtags #savesweetbriar and #thinkisforgirls

Volunteer

Do you have particular talents that would help us with our mission to save our school? Contact us.

Raise Money

We need money to support our school! Given the state of financial aid and higher ed, Sweet Briar needs to grow its endowment to stay viable. Crowdfunding information to follow.

Help Keep Our School Alive

There are over 500 women on campus who need our support. Help us help them keep our school alive.

In the meantime, the thousands of alumnae have managed to create an organizational structure rivaling some of the largest Universities (I speak with experience working for a B1G school, University of Maryland and serve on the University Senate).  There are literally HUNDREDS of Committees of EXPERTS in their professional areas reporting up through Chairs who compile the information into master documents.  The first of these documents, a Strategic Plan, was delivered to the Saving Sweet Briar board in time for the first injunction hearing.   There are PhD experts, attorneys, professional fundraisers, accountants, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, coaches, scientists, elected officials, C-suite executives of every type providing advice that the College — any College or nonprofit — would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure (I say this with experience having watched schools hire consultants for narrowly focused work and deliverables).  Sweet Briar College itself by the Board’s own admission paid over $1 MILLION for a report that was never concluded and the Board members were not able to keep after reading it and voting to close the College.

quote-margaret-mead-if-we-are-to-achieve-a-richer-5707

Committee Structure.  This is a case for the power of social media if there ever were one.  Facebook, in particular, has provided the platform for alumnae to organize their efforts.  Early in the process, pages were created for experts to share suggestions in different areas in the “Saving SBC Professional Roundtable” (a closed group so not hyperlinked here).  Categories include every aspect of operations:

Academic Affairs, Admissions, Development/Fundraising, Diversity, Career Counseling, College Placement, Grounds & Facilities, Information Technology, Land (Creative Use of/Maintaining), Legal, Student Affairs, Social Life.

Each group has professionals who have spent their careers in these areas with best practices to share. The alumnae’s willingness to help is not just lip service.  Examples of alumnae offers and efforts to assist include:

Deferred maintenance problems?  Check.  Habitat for Humanity-like plans for improvement including painting, plastering and even building repair by licensed contractors paid for by alumnae or their own companies.  These are documented offers to help as they cannot execute these plans without coordination from the facility leadership.

Admissions/Recruitment problems?  Check.  Alumnae from around the Country have offered to reinvigorate a dormant network of volunteers to attend College Fairs, visit area feeder schools (and aspirant feeder schools), house admissions staff traveling, personally write interested students and their families.  In addition,  the Alumnae Angel Network are alumnae who sponsor students needing support transferring to another College.  Even if this might mean losing a student needed for the future, the movement is supporting the current students in tangible ways.

Fundraising problems?  Check.   As of this writing, over $1 million in cash is in the Saving Sweet Briar accounts.  Over $10 million in pledges over five years are being held in trust by Saving Sweet Briar for the College once the closure decision is reversed and there is a Board and Administration committed to the future.  A Major Donor Task Force (of which I am a part) has weekly conference calls to coordinate outreach to past donors to the College and those who care and aren’t even affiliated.  A Regional Task Force from each state writing to their residents, particularly those not on social media.  Liaisons to classes (a traditional way to communicate with alumnae) share information on a weekly and even daily basis with links to give, participate and support.  All of this has been accomplished without the tools fundraisers usually have (I know because I am one).  For example, a donor database has been faithfully RECREATED through years of magazines publishing giving information and even programs from past campaign celebrations kept as keepsakes — now data for a defacto giving database.   It is INCREDIBLE to watch and witness.  This is worthy of its own blog post, stay tuned.

Communications Strategy?  Check.  The initial news stories reported the Board’s decision to close.  The news of the alumnae outcry and mobilization was relegated to the comment section of most stories.  However, the tide has turned.  Now, major news outlets are reporting on the success of the alumnae efforts and on the amazing accomplishments of our alumnae, the morning of my writing the New York Times wrote about our alumnae and the efforts to save the College.  This type of media battle and reversal of message does not happen easily.  It has occurred through professionals and passionate individuals working with contacts to share opinion, provide worthwhile facts to report, verify stories and share perspective.  Interestingly, the headlines of some of the earlier stories have changed from “College imploding” to “Alumnae Fight Closure”.

Conspiracy Theories?  Check.  One of my favorite movements within the Saving Sweet Briar collective, is a group a la Erin Brokovich that dedicates itself to researching the “back story”.  The team (which includes some with investigative journalism experience) posts pieces of documents, theories, lists, etc. and a broad network do their further work and reports results.  Some of these get passed along – once vetted — for journalists or the Saving Sweet Briar Board.  Just when my own efforts to Save Sweet Briar might flag or my confidence wane or my enthusiasm might be dampened by some new comment by the “President”, someone from the group will post some new theory or angle that gets me MAD.  They have even inspired and commissioned political cartoons.  I have the one of the women turning over the rock next to my phone (for when I “dial for dollars”).

The efforts of the alumnae are truly inspiring.

Imagine – just imagine – if their efforts were harnessed BEFORE the College announced it must close.

Imagine if the Board took stock of this advice and reconsidered their decision?

Imagine if YOUR organization harnessed your stakeholders?

Sweet Briar is receiving DAILY national attention.  Sweet Briar students, faculty, staff, alumni and community are rallying to share their expertise.  The future IS bright and there is much to hope for with this kind of passion.

At this point, I cling to the other Margaret Mead quote – the one you know by heart – because I am seeing it validated on an hourly basis.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

Our aim is not the world for now.  For now it is a small piece of the planet located in Southern Virginia, Sweet Briar.

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
Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!