Alumni Council: Linking Alumni Across Generations

“As chair, I’ve made it a priority for the Alumni Council to find ways to interact directly with students, which allows us to learn from each other,” says Alumni Council Chair Jen Robbins ’97.

Made up of more than 30 leaders in their professions, communities, and at Colby, Colby’s Alumni Council members are champions of the College, its mission, and its people. Within the Alumni Council, there are committees that offer extra focus on DavisConnects, C Club, the Colby Fund, and awards and nominating. 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 the policy, initiatives, and the student experience on Mayflower Hill. 

This July 1 marked a new term for the Alumni Council, when they welcomed nine new members. One of those members is Justin Masella ’21, a recent graduate whose time on Mayflower Hill as mathematics major and student leader prepared him to offer the Alumni Council a fresh understanding of the student experience. Masella connected with Alumni Council Chair Jen Robbins ’97 to discuss his upcoming role and learn about her experiences as a dedicated and innovative leader of the group. 

Jen Robbins ’97 Asks Justin Masella ’21 

How was your experience as a student at Colby enhanced by one or more alumni?

Each football season our coaches invited alumni and former players back to speak to us about their experiences, their time on the team, and how they were led to where they are now. I always appreciated hearing their stories. By realizing the similarities in your experiences, you immediately feel engaged with all they have to offer. Each of them left crumbs of perspective and important knowledge that I used to help guide my actions, choices, and goals throughout my student experience at Colby—with many still resonating with me today.

How did you become familiar with the Alumni Council and the work they do?

This past year as one of the co-presidents of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) I became in touch with Rick Angeli ’88, P’22 and Joanne Cantara ’88, both members of the C Club Committee on the Alumni Council. They wanted to learn about SAAC and the student-athlete experience from the students’ perspective at Colby in the midst of the pandemic. We ended up formulating a great partnership, and in February, Rick, as C Club chair, offered me an opportunity to join the C Club’s Executive Board upon graduating with an aligning role on the Alumni Council. This was an exciting opportunity for me to keep close ties with my alma mater. From there, I began becoming more familiar with the Alumni Council, its function, and how their work serves the rest of the Colby community.

How do you hope to contribute to the College as a member of the Alumni Council?

I want to be active in checking in on the student experience and life on campus through connections with members of the current senior, junior, and sophomore classes. I feel it will be crucial as a graduate not too far removed to keep communicating with current students about their experience and develop the agency to express these sentiments with the Alumni Council. With their platform and a less obscure understanding of the current student experience, hopefully the Alumni Council will be active in initiating work that would continue to enrich the experience for all students and support a healthy, inclusive environment on campus.

Justin Masella ’21 Asks Jen Robbins ’97

As a Colby alumna, in what ways have you seen the College evolve the most since your time as a student?

I can’t believe I’ll be celebrating my 25th Reunion next year! The College and its student body has changed in so many ways since I first arrived on Mayflower Hill. First, and most obviously, the look of the College has changed. There have been many new buildings added, which include new dorms, academic buildings, and the newly opened Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. Grossman dorm has been transformed to house DavisConnects, which works to provide students with research, study abroad, and post-graduate opportunities. The student body, faculty, and staff have become increasingly diverse, along with the range of study areas that Colby offers, including the newly minted Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence. What hasn’t changed, however, is the strength and power of Colby’s alumni network—a cornerstone of the Colby experience. It’s really an exciting time to be at Colby today!

How do you balance your work on the Alumni Council with your own personal and professional schedule? How much time do you devote to your role on the Alumni Council, and when do you choose to prioritize it?  

As a full-time working mom of a high schooler and middle schooler, time is a precious commodity. As a result, I only take on those things that are important to me and that I’m passionate about. Volunteering for Colby fits both of those criteria. When I joined the Alumni Council and then agreed to take on the role as chair, I knew I’d need to set aside a certain amount of time for meetings, events, planning, etc. We meet as a full council on campus twice a year. I also participate in meetings with the Board of Trustees in January, as well as run a meeting for our Executive Council in the summer. I’ve found the time commitment to be very manageable, and our staff liaisons provide such great support. I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the College’s work and engage with alumni and current students. It makes me feel very connected to a place I love.

What has been your proudest moment so far on the Alumni Council? Has there been any work in particular that you’ve accomplished individually or as a collective that sticks with you?

One of the most rewarding experiences during my time on the Alumni Council has been the opportunity to meet and get to know many of Colby’s current students. I’ve met students from across the globe who have already made very real and important contributions to our world through their internships, research, and academic studies. Every time I’ve met with students, I also hear how much they value their chance to meet with alumninot only for job prospects but also for advice on career paths, to hear about life after Colby, and to learn how to utilize our tremendous alumni network. 

As chair, I’ve made it a priority for the Alumni Council to find ways to interact directly with students, which allows us to learn from each other. I’m very proud of the work we did during the pandemic to assist DavisConnects in helping secure job prospects for graduating seniors. The event we host with students on campus (which usually includes one or more food trucks!) each March is among my most favorite events to plan and attend. I’m excited to get back to campus this fall and catch up with the students post-pandemic.