New Demographics of the Alumnae Population


By 1970, the demographics of the alumnae population were changing. The first class that totaled more than 100 graduates was the class of 1960. The class of 1973 boasted the first class that was over 200 graduates. At this point in college history, the largest percentage of the total alumnae body was comprised of women who were less than forty years of age. The largest percentage of the alumnae body still lived in the metro Atlanta area. Yet the national Alumnae Association leadership was older. There was a need for a dramatic shift in the face of the association to reflect the new demographics of the alumnae population.

The pressure to plan programs that would appeal to the diverse alumnae population led to an experiment by the Atlanta Club - the YASA (Young Atlanta Spelman Alumnae). Members were limited to alumnae up to their tenth anniversary. After ten years the members were to join the Atlanta Club, which was a more mature group. The YASA experiment was disbanded due to intergenerational misunderstandings and conflicts. The YASA members failed to "graduate" to the Atlanta Club. Against regulations, they chose to continue membership in the YASA. Intergenerational conflicts were a source of tension between members. The relationship was akin to "the over-protective parent and the rebellious, independent teenager" scenario that was being replayed daily across the country. However, the increased communication between generations led to opportunities for growth of the individual members and the Alumnae Association as well. Seeds sown that produced strong roots yielded beautiful foliage. There were many lessons learned from the YASA experiment.

The greatest benefit was that the future leaders for the Atlanta Club had been the same YASA alumnae who had matured and had been properly trained as a result of their participation in YASA. The YASA members later moved on to fully participate in Clubs all over the country. Younger alumnae who had honed their skills in YASA under the tutelage of the Atlanta Club had practiced their leadership craft by starting local chapters such as those in Decatur, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina. YASA members later became presidents of the Atlanta chapters in the eighties. And in this case, as was experienced by other women's organizations, the Alumnae Association drew on its collective faith by exhibiting "guts" in trying something new in order to foster growth for the good of the overall organization.

As painful as it may have been as the script was unfolding, the "punch line" was worth the struggle. In its continued campaign to foster a paradigm shift in the organization, the Alumnae Association initiated a plan that would structure an inclusive Spelman College Board of Trustees that represented students, faculty and alumnae who could provide input by utilizing the various constituents in the formation of Spelman's policies. The Board of Trustees initiative included two positions - an alumna trustee as well as an alumnae representative to the Board. Faculty and students would also have trustee and representative positions. The plan called for the Alumnae Association to be represented by the alumnae trustee position.

However, though the overall constituency-based representation idea was adopted by the Board of Trustees, the plan was amended so that the president of the Alumnae Association became the representative to the Board, lacking voting privileges. Disappointed, members of the Alumnae Association lobbied for the President of the Alumnae Association to be the alumna trustee. This strategy worked for the first alumna trustee. But there was no precedent or official indication that this would be the case for subsequent alumnae trustees.