June 19, 2015

President Jane K. Fernandes


Telling the Guilford College story is among my most important and treasured opportunities. Since beginning as president last July, I have been talking with everyone I meet about how Guilford, with its excellence in the practical liberal arts, is a dynamic place to learn and when our students graduate, they are uniquely prepared for careers, graduate studies and lifelong learning.

I am inspired when alumni tell the Guilford College story.

I wish all of you could enjoy the conversations I have had with alumni visiting campus for Homecoming and other occasions, at Alumni Board meetings, and at gatherings across the country. They are passionate people influencing community in profound ways, and their stories are amazing!

QUAKE TALKS – “Stories Worth Telling” – feature alumni reflecting on their Guilford experience. Through short presentations, like the popular TED talks, alumni share their knowledge, experiences and post-college navigation with current and prospective students, fellow alumni and peers. In doing so, they educate others about the value of a Guilford education. Organized by our Office of Alumni Relations this year, the series began on Homecoming Weekend and has continued on campus and at various alumni gatherings throughout the year.

At Homecoming, Sol Weiner ’14, explained how he created a documentary – “Swine Country: The Fight for Clean Air and Water in Duplin County, N.C.” – with Tom Clement ’14 as part of the Cape Fear River Basin Studies Program under the auspices of the Center for Principled Problem Solving. In the first ever Quake Talk, Sol spoke about building new community relationships from a work ethic instilled in him at Guilford. He cited Guilford’s strength as providing an environment where there is an explicit interconnectedness between all disciplines. Sol is currently in the Folklore Program in the Department of American Studies at UNC where he says he has found his way to more colleagues who are using academia for the purposes of social justice and change.

Recently, I had the honor of being present with alumni in Cambridge, Mass., and Brooklyn, N.Y., for Quake Talks:

John McSheffrey ’90 spoke passionately about how Guilford’s practical liberal arts gave him a competitive advantage over students from other colleges. Through his work at WQFS, our award-winning campus radio station, he developed essential job and life skills in addition to the knowledge imparted through his coursework.

Simon Kress ’02 shared that Guilford gave his “punk rock” energy a direction that involved asking questions such as how to live in a conviction-filled way amid uncertainty. It focused on adhering to critical thinking, insisting on values but remaining humble towards the world as it is, participating vs. spectating, and retaining a commitment to community. Simon earned a Ph.D. in English, taught as a college professor, and recently resigned at the pinnacle of his success to begin law school, thereby continuing to explore the nature of being called to a vocation.

Misty Koger-Ojure ’02 eloquently described the richness of her education at Guilford as a first-generation college student. In graduate school she gained even more appreciation for Guilford’s commitment to diversity of perspective. Through her work in development and grant writing, she attributes her ability to work with diverse audiences, understand history, and to articulate shared vision to the liberal arts education she received here.

As a college, we need to do an even better job of telling the Guilford story. We are in a community conversation about refining Guilford’s value proposition – a summary statement of what makes the College a valuable and worthy investment. This will be the foundation for improved marketing efforts in student recruitment and fundraising. Alumni experiences are invaluable in making the case for Guilford College. When you share your Guilford experience and recommend us to prospective students and their families, you are giving us an invaluable gift for which we are grateful.

As you know, delivering (and receiving) a liberal arts education in 2015 is expensive. Like many small liberal arts colleges with a modest endowment, Guilford balances its expenses with revenues from tuition, fees, annual gifts and endowment support. The Quaker testimony of integrity necessitates that we operate with a balanced budget. We are working very hard to be good stewards of our resources and appreciate all of your gifts, in all their forms, both large and small.

Guilford will thrive as a small college of excellence doing a few things splendidly. I am proud to be your ninth president, and I’m passionate as you are about the College, its values, history and future. Please check out my Twitter feed @GuilfordJane for updates about our progress and the wonderful people who make it possible.

Come home soon!