Engaging Alumni with Philanthropy

By: Julie Cheney

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was born in Maryland but lived in Texas for a few years before my family moved to Athens, Georgia in the mid-80s. I received two degrees from the University of Georgia and spent the most significant time of my career to date at UGA. I absolutely love my job and I’m always working towards work-life balance—some times more successful than others. When I do find balance, you will find me enjoying live music, listening to music and singing poorly and loud. I also love photography and pottery. Recently, I purchased a kayak and plan to explore my new home from that view. I am also self-described as the happiest alumni director in the country, which is usually my answer to those who ask, “How are you enjoying FSU?”

Q: How do you feel about taking on this new role as president and chief executive officer for the FSU Alumni Association?

A: I love it! I am so thankful every day to be working at Florida State University and serving our 352,000 alumni. We have an abundance of opportunity to move our Alumni Association forward and build an organization that not only helps our members but also engages all alumni near and far. I am convinced I am the luckiest alumni director with the absolute best staff. Our team works so passionately each day to bring new ideas, evolve programs and build on an already great foundation.

Q: What are your priorities for your first year?

A: It is a balance to listen very carefully and understand while also not waiting to seize opportunities. I have enjoyed connecting with our internal and external stakeholders any chance I get, and I’m thrilled to hear about their experiences and what they expect or desire from the Alumni Association. I endeavor to communicate that our alumni team from the top down is here to collaborate, innovate and be a part of moving FSU forward in every way—from academics to athletics.

Q: What is your favorite moment on campus so far?

A: My absolute favorite memory is hearing about how FSU graduates speak about Florida State. The eloquence and passion with which they recall their time here, I swear, makes me tear up. In my 20 years of working in this field, [I have not heard] graduates speak about an institution so beautifully. Also, our campus is astoundingly beautiful, and I love walking through campus to take pictures.

"Women are integral to moving our institutions of higher education forward and for public higher education to remain a public good available to all who seek it."

Q: Why do you feel it is crucial for women to engage in philanthropy?

A: Women make up a majority of our graduates and are changing the impact of philanthropic engagement. Women are becoming the degree holders and are often the primary decision-makers of donations to any organization. When talking about giving back, women need to be an essential part of that conversation and engagement. Furthermore, women hold many qualities of 21st century transformational leadership. Women are integral to moving our institutions of higher education forward and for public higher education to remain a public good available to all who seek it.

Q: What ideas do you have for how the Alumni Association and W4FSU can partner in the future to support FSU?

A: With the majority of our alumni being female, it wouldn’t make sense for the Alumni Association not to be a good partner. In my experience, women seek to engage in purposeful opportunities with the intention of impacting future generations. We have the chance not only to collaborate with one another but to also partner with other campus entities. In doing such, we can provide a wealth of mentorships, scholarships and thriving networks.