Sep 22, 2023

Outgoing Alumni Council Chair Jennifer Robbins ’97 Welcomes Nicholas Cade ’08 to the Position

Colby sat down with Robbins and Cade to learn more about their experiences as part of the Alumni Council.

Campus Drone Aerial Scenic

Made up of approximately 30 leaders in their professions and communities, Colby’s Alumni Council members are champions of the College, its mission, and its people.

The council features several subcommittees that offer an extra focus on DavisConnects, the C Club, the Colby Fund, and awards given to members of the alumni, faculty and staff. The group governs the Alumni Association, working with partners across the College to foster communication between Colby, alumni, and students. Together they ensure a lasting alumni connection and make a meaningful impact on College policy, initiatives, and student experience on Mayflower Hill. 

The Alumni Council meets on campus twice a year, and the Executive Committee also meets in Boston two additional times a year for planning purposes. This July 1 marked a new term for the council. Six members were welcomed, and Nicholas Cade ’08 was named the new chair, following in the footsteps of Jennifer Robbins ’97, who reached the end of her term. Robbins will stay on the council for one more year as chair emerita. 

Colby sat down with Robbins and Cade to learn more about their experiences as part of the Alumni Council. 

How long have you been on the Alumni Council, and why did you want to give back to Colby in this way?

Jennifer Robbins: I’m headed into my seventh year, so I joined the council six years ago as vice chair. When I was asked to serve on the Alumni Council, I jumped at the opportunity as Colby was such a transformational experience for me, and it completely set the course of my post-education world and career. I really viewed this as a way to give back to the College, and it’s been a tremendous experience. I feel like I’ve made an impact on the College and alumni experience  over the last six years.

Nicholas Cade: I joined in the summer of 2018, so I’ve been on the council for five years. I joined the council in a member-at-large role. I never wound up formally joining one of the standing committees, but wound up taking on a number of ad hoc assignments including revising and then chairing the alumni trustee search committee process. I then stepped into the vice chair role when Jen ascended to the chair position.

I joined the council for much the same reasons as Jen. I feel a tremendous debt of gratitude to the College. It played an incredibly formative role in who I have become and who I am professionally and personally, and who my friends are, who I’m married to.

It was a foundational experience for me, and I do feel compelled to give back. I also think there was a desire to make sure that I was raising my hand to make the alumni experience as meaningfully positive as possible. 

“I really viewed this as a way to give back to the College, and it’s been a tremendous experience.”

What do you like most about being on the Alumni Council?

JR: What I found to be most meaningful is the impact that we’ve had the opportunity to make across different elements of the College. One of my major takeaways was that the Alumni Council is very much valued by President [David] Greene, by members of the executive leadership team, and the Board of Trustees. They’re interested in our perspective. We work very closely with President Greene’s office to make sure that our objective as a council are aligned with the College’s objectives year after year.

I have also really enjoyed the opportunity to play a role in shaping some new programs at Colby. DavisConnects launched around the time that I joined the council. The DavisConnects Committee, which I was part of, played a really big role in those initial years in terms of shaping how DavisConnects would utilize and interact with alumni. Our committee worked collaboratively with the team at DavisConnects as they mapped out their plans for alumni outreach.

I also really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and form relationships with other alumni that I didn’t cross paths with while I was a student. The Colby network has been tremendously important to me in the course of my career. The opportunity to meet more members of the alumni body has been incredibly rewarding. I feel like I have gained so many more new connections and friends through the course of this experience.

NC: Jen took the words right out of my mouth. Broadening my Colby network and getting to know people has been a real highlight.

The Alumni Council also gives us an opportunity to stay connected to the student experience. We try to find opportunities to support new alumni, which is to say, recent graduates. The connection to that student experience has the collateral benefit of helping me feel like I know about emerging trends in the professional world, understanding where the emphasis is in terms of career paths that current students are interested in pursuing.

JR: One of the things that Nick and I have done over the course of the last few years is make the student experience a really important component of our work. We’ve really made sure that during our meetings, we have the opportunity to interact with current students. It’s really important to us as alumni to understand what the student experience is today. 

I think one of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve had personally is to interact with the students, provide mentorship and counsel, but also hear from them in terms of what they’re experiencing. President Greene and his team have done a remarkable job growing the College. The current student experience is really a testament to all of the investments they’ve made. It’s really impressive. In fact, I just hired a recent Colby graduate–I was thrilled to be able to offer a full-time job to a newly minted Colby alum. 

Beyond interacting with students, what are some other aspects of the Alumni Council that the average alum should know?

NC: There’s the alumni and student connection and the opportunity to build relationships, networking, and mentorship. And then of course, the Alumni Council engages in a lot of fundraising efforts and development and support for the College.

But the two other things that I would emphasize is the role that we can play in supporting the DavisConnects experience, and alumni awards we present each year. Those awards are given out for a number of different things, from a demonstrated commitment to the College to professional expertise or an outstanding achievement in a particular field. They are unique opportunities to highlight somebody’s experience professionally and to celebrate them within this Colby community. 

JR: There are a number of ways for alumni to give back to Colby. I’m sure that Nick and I are not the only ones that feel so indebted to the College and what it’s done for us. And it doesn’t require joining the council and committing to a set program. Anyone who wants to give back could contact DavisConnects and offer to do mock interviews or sit or have conversations with students about certain career opportunities.

The other thing that I think is really important for alumni to know is that the Board of Trustees is made up of corporate trustees as well as alumni trustees. It is our job as the Alumni Council to identify and nominate the alumni that we put forth to that board. This is a very important function of the council.

“It’s a real privilege to be able to step into the leadership role for this council.”

Jen, what are some of the biggest takeaways from being chair? Any favorite memories?

JR: One of my biggest takeaways is how important this body is to the College. And when I say important, it’s the way that we are viewed or valued by the President’s Office as well as the Board of Trustees. They really do value our input and our perspective. 

The other key takeaway is that there really is a need to continue to increase the profile of the Alumni Council. We are continuously working to find ways to increase awareness, make alumni understand what the opportunities are, and encourage people to reach out and put their hat in the ring to sit on the council. 

Every meeting we’ve had has just been a wonderful experience. We have had so much fun as council members during these meetings as well as during our social events. I’m going to take away with me so many new connections and friendships that I’ve made over the last few years. I look forward to serving the College in a different capacity in the years to come.

What advice do you have for Nick as he steps into this role?

JR: I am so thrilled that I’m handing the baton to Nick. The council will be in such great hands with him. I have admired his leadership and commitment to the College, so I’m really excited to see what he does in the next few years.

In terms of advice, I would say that the Alumni Council does best when we ensure that our yearly goals and priorities are aligned with the College because we can work together. And I think that makes us a more effective body.

Nick, can you talk a little bit about your motivation for taking on this role and what you hope to accomplish or gain from this experience?

NC: It’s a real privilege to be able to step into the leadership role for this council. It’s a group that I’ve been proud to be affiliated with, and Jen leaves some very large shoes to fill. It’s a real pleasure and opportunity to try and make an impact and to try and make the alumni experience as positive as as possible for alumni.

My number one priority is going to be thinking about the ways the Alumni Council can positively and effectively impacts alumni experiences and lives post-COVID, and to make sure that folks know what we bring to the table across the board. We also want to take another look at how we engage with alumni at large, particularly outside of New England, and understand what that experience looks like for alumni who maybe aren’t as close to the campus. 

What would you say to an alum who is considering joining the Alumni Council?

NC: To anybody who’s interested in getting involved or lending a hand or being engaged: we’re excited to have you and to have more diverse perspectives on the council. I would tell them they should feel excited about the opportunity to feel closer to the campus.

I would note that they will have the opportunity to observe how the campus has evolved and continues to grow. It’s been a very exciting period of growth for Colby for the last 10–15 years. And particularly for alumni who have been away from campus for a while, it’s can be really exciting to watch that progress and to know that you are joining a council that plays a direct and impactful role in expanding that growth not just as the campus transforms, but as the alumni body continues to evolve and grow, too. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this committee.

JR: There are so many different ways to maximize your time as a council member, and my advice would be to take advantage of all the different opportunities. Council members are typically assigned to a particular committee, whether it be the C Club Committee, Colby Fund Committee, DavisConnects and Awards and Nominating. And that’s their opportunity to do hands-on work.

Take advantage of your time on campus to interact with students. The experience on the council can be as much as somebody is willing to invest their time and energy in. And the more that you do, the more rewarding it is.

Our Alumni Council meeting in October will fall on the same weekend as Homecoming [Oct. 20–22]. So if you’re interested, join us for Homecoming Weekend. We’ll be all over campus at the various events, and we would love to speak with everybody.