As presented to CUAA Council on July 15, 2015 during Orientation.
1. Background & Current Challenges
Before we embark on what lies ahead, we need to contemplate the current moment. We are four years into the biggest crisis Cooper Union has ever faced. One year ago, the prior administration kicked us out entirely, in an unsuccessful attempt to marginalize the CUAA. The CUAA rose to this challenge. We recreated our contact list, built an independent website, hosted our second annual Block Party, and ran an election with historic turnout. The election demonstrated that the CUAA is, more than ever, the representative body for Cooper alumni, and gave us a clear mandate to aggressively pursue the return to a full-tuition scholarship for all students. We have remained engaged, and the Board of Trustees, the administration, and the Office of the Attorney General view the CUAA as an essential party to any solution to the crisis. However, we are still in crisis, with both upsides and downsides. On the downside, there has been frustration, burnout, often poor delegation, lack of transparency, and uncertainty as to how to participate. On the upside, we are on our feet. Excellent work is being done. There is continued participation and a strong desire to seize the momentum. Most important, we have a window of opportunity to make a real difference in the future of Cooper Union and the CUAA.
2. The Arc of The Year Ahead
Our challenge this year will be to begin the transition from a crisis mode to a more inclusive, effective, engaging CUAA. This transition will happen incrementally, over the entire year. We’ll need to make this transition at the same time we continue doing everything the CUAA already does. The CUAA serves the alumni and school in many ways, including organizing events, publishing a newsletter, maintaining a website, maintaining and building an alumni contact list, responding to inquiries, keeping our members well informed, finding and nominating candidates and running elections, supporting students, recognizing outstanding alumni, hosting an annual Founders Day, maintaining communication with the schools of Art, Architecture and Engineering, and coordinating with the administration in a host of ways. Add to this a possible election for additional alumni Trustees, the need to rebuild our working relationship with the school, the need to establish legal status for the CUAA, the need to update our Constitution, the need to fundraise, among other challenges. Add to this the need to support The Cooper Union in every way possible during its time of greatest need.
How can an all-volunteer organization possibly achieve all of this? Yet we have no other choice. What could we possibly leave off this list? If you’re afraid we will fall short, have no doubt. We will. How we respond in those moments will determine our success in the long run. We must meet disappointments with patience and compassion and determination. The CUAA is what we collectively make of it. Our job is to make that a reality. Doing this is neither heroic nor abstract. It simply means joining or leading a committee, and doing the work to make it successful. It means supporting one another. It means reaching out to fellow alumni to listen to their concerns, and presenting them with opportunities to get involved.
3. Three Values
Simply put, my vision for this year is to focus on three values that I believe are essential to the CUAA: inclusion, participation, and engagement. I view these values as three trajectories of action:
deals with how we create an open, welcoming organization that attracts broad participation by alumni. Inclusion comes from who we are as an organization, and travels on a trajectory from the outside in.
is the flow and exchange of work, ideas, and activity within the CUAA. It is Operations and Governance. It is what we do. It is how we create an inclusive space, and how we successfully engage alumni and support Cooper Union. The trajectory of participation is the complex, internal circulation of the organization.
goes from the inside outwards. It is our relevance and value to alumni and the school. It is events, mentorships, friendships, fundraising. It is why we exist as an organization. These three values — inclusion, participation, and engagement — will serve as a touchstone throughout the year.
Thank you for listening, and thank you for being here. I look forward to working with you to serve the alumni and The Cooper Union in the year ahead.