Happy New Year and greetings from UCLA. I trust that you have received the news that our Alumni Association CFO, JC Schnabl, has accepted a new position with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. I understand that this news coupled with the recent departure of our COO might raise curiosity or concern from board members.
While Ralph and I are in regular conversation about the state of the Association, I think it is important to share some additional information with the board about the context and environment of these transitions, as well as the solid foundation we enjoy for leading the organization forward.
Both Brian’s and JC’s recent career decisions were informed by similar factors. Brian has young children and wanted to move closer to family on the East Coast. JC also has a young child, as well as a daughter beginning college on the East Coast next fall. For both men, issues of family, cost-of-living and quality-of-living led them away from Southern California - and consequently, UCLA.
As the governing board for the Association, we should remember the context and environment in which Brian and JC made their decisions. Recent state budget woes have affected all university staff, most recently causing work furloughs and pay freezes. I consider it incumbent upon us to continue a dialogue with Ralph (as our executive director and CEO) to ensure we are addressing these concerns and working closely with External Affairs and UCLA Human Resources as necessary. Selection and retention of top Association staff is a joint effort with External Affairs. Our duty as a board is to the Alumni Association, and we must make financial and policy decisions (implemented by Ralph) that support our strategy and mission. The departure of these two staff members does not seem to indicate a shift in how staff members view the Association, or the opportunities associated with our organization. However, I do want us always to examine clearly senior staff transitions and ask ourselves what we might do to help the organization.
Both Brian and JC have had long tenures at UCLA - JC for five years and Brian for 10. In addition, JC recently completed work on his doctorate, making this an ideal time for him to look for his next professional challenge. Each had advanced his professional self and his earning power as far as he could within the context of the UCLA Alumni Association. Therefore, further career development required each to look beyond the UCLA Alumni Association in order to advance his career.
Most important, (as Brian and JC themselves are quick to point out) they are not so much leaving UCLA as they are heading toward new and exciting professional challenges. Each is advancing in his career, taking the reigns as executive director of alumni relations for leading universities. Indeed, the fact that these two men were such highly qualified, attractive and sought-after candidates is a clear example of the UCLA Alumni Association’s position as an industry leader.
All organizations undergo change, and the UCLA Alumni Association is well positioned to manage these latest transitions. We have a solid foundation in our remaining executive staff members: Susan Lewis, Mark Davis, Jay Dillon and Marci Weisblatt. Together, they boast more than 60 years of professional service to UCLA Alumni Relations (in addition to time spent inside UCLA classrooms or as student workers). We are fortunate to have them strategically leading the organization into the future.
In addition, the executive staff has the support of a solid senior management team that has its own impressive tenure of stability and experience at UCLA. Equally as important, changes at the executive level bring new opportunities for these senior managers and their staff members, opportunities that are essential to making the Association an exciting and attractive environment for the most talented and engaged employees.
Finally, the timing of these transitions may prove to be advantageous, coming as they do during the quiet phase of UCLA’s Centennial Campaign. We will have a solid and fresh executive team in place to lead us through the years of the campaign.
Make no mistake, we will miss Brian and JC deeply, but we are excited with them for the opportunities ahead for them and for us. And I take great satisfaction in knowing that the professional skills and experiences that Brian and JC acquired at UCLA will serve them well and further increase UCLA’s good reputation across the nation.
I hope we have addressed any concerns you may have regarding these staff transitions, but please feel free to forward any additional questions to me or to Ralph.
I look forward to mapping out the next steps for the UCLA Alumni Association at the Board Retreat and Meeting, Feb. 17-19. Until then, Go Bruins!
UCLA Alumni Association, James West Alumni Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1397