Last Monday, the members of Alfred University’s LEAD 300 class were competing for the A’s, as in grades, and the G’s, as in a share of a $10,000 prize. It was a great honor and pleasure to be able to co-teach the course this semester with Dr. Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, dean of the Inamori School of Engineering. “LEAD 300: Improving Alfred University” is a new elective offering that is part of the leadership minor that our University recently launched.
To add some excitement to the course, trustee Charlie Joyce and Sherry Walton ’80, ’88 MS, offered a $10,000 prize, with $5,000 to be shared among the members of the winning team and another $5,000 going to our University to help implement the top idea.
Each team had to identify a problem and present a solution. The winning entry was based on which idea would most advance our University and was determined by judges including Greg Connors ’92, chair of the Alfred University Board of Trustees; Josh Dahlman ’97; Charlie Joyce; Yasmin Mattox ’07; and Sherry Walton.
The winning team was “Alfred Hello” and was comprised of Victoria Cramp ‘20, Emma Karch ’20, Marquis Russ ’20, and Angelica Sudore ’20. The team proposed using videos to communicate with alumni as well as other key constituencies such as faculty, staff, current students, and prospective students. The videos would be crowd-sourced, submitted by students, with a student oversight team to cull out the best items to distribute through a video messaging service. Also providing oversight would be a faculty member and our University’s Marketing and Communications Team.
The end goal, according to team members, is to increase alumni engagement with and encourage support for our University. Since making their presentation last Monday, Alfred Hello has already begun generating success for our University along the lines the team envisioned. Mark Mertel ’67, an alumnus who is a serial entrepreneur based in Phoenix, Arizona, contacted us later in the week after he had reviewed the Alfred Hello presentation and made a $10,000 philanthropic investment to help implement the idea over the coming year.
Sherry Walton praised the Alfred Hello group. “They did their research. The presentation was both oral and visual, and included current statistics and desired goals.” Additionally, she noted, the concept is “sustainable and makes good use of technology (email, video, and crowd-sourcing.) She was pleased that it included opportunities for student internships as well through Alfred University’s new APEX program. APEX allows students to apply for financial grants to pursue applied/experiential learning opportunities beyond those covered in a traditional classroom setting.
A similar experience through an independent study course when she was a student at Alfred University “permitted me to put my education to work. I was able to expand my knowledge base beyond the classroom,” Sherry added.
“To me, the Alfred Hello presentation fit seamlessly with many of our strategic initiatives in student and alumni engagement and communication,” said Charlie Joyce, explaining his choice for the winning team. Charlie added that “I was impressed by all the participants’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for their projects…the LEAD 300 course is a major winner.”
Sherry liked the enthusiasm displayed by all the teams, and noted “The course offers hands-on, practical applications and experience working with a team, all of which will benefit the participants now and going forward.”
While the Alfred Hello team walked away with the prize money, the other teams’ projects were also deemed to be meritorious by the judges and will be beneficial to our University.
Some may be implemented right away as well. The “AU Fast and Fresh” team, for example, suggested that vending machines, stocked with fresh, healthy food options, be placed around campus for the benefit of students who might miss a meal due to scheduling conflicts or co-curricular activities. Of particular concern were athletes who might miss meals because of their practice or workout schedules. AU Fresh, the University’s food service provider, has already agreed to place a vending machine with healthy options in the Joyce and Walton Wellness Center, adjacent to our McLane Physical Education Center.
The members of the “AU Fast and Fresh” team were Ruggiany Georges ’20, Samantha Gleason ’21, Shannon Mendola ’21, and Alexandra Taylor ’20.
“Fostering our Future” proposed a 10-year plan for making Foster Lake a more highly utilized facility for our University and surrounding community. Members of that team were graduate students David Dobesh ’19 MS in Glass Science; Andrew King ’19 MS in Materials Science; Sean Locker ’20 PhD in Glass Science; and Robin Mazejka ’20 MBA.
Our University’s Advancement and Enrollment Management units will be implementing several of the ideas offered by the “Fiat Link” team as well. The team focused its recommendations on better linking alumni with current students and consisted of Anastasia Campbell ’20, Julio Fuentes ’25, Tiffany Gannon ’19, Victor Liz Lascano ’22, and Dillon Smith ‘19.
One of the things making the course so enjoyable to teach was that it enrolled students from every college and school at our University, and at every level, from first-year to graduate students. That kind of mix is rare in any class and gratifying to see in the inaugural run of LEAD 300.
We are so grateful to Sherry and Charlie for the prize money that provided an extra spark to our students’ work. The real winner from their efforts is Alfred University. We acquired some terrific ideas—some of which will be implemented in the short-term—about how to advance our University’s goals. Perhaps most importantly, we gained 17 new leaders who want to build a better future for Alfred University.