By Melyssa Allen
Jo Allen, ’80, completed her first year as president of Meredith College on June 30, 2012. Campus Connections asked Allen to look back at her accomplishments and special memories since she returned to her alma mater.
The first year has been “a whirlwind of meeting, greeting, connecting and learning” for Allen, who has spent much of this year getting to know Meredith alumnae, students, employees, donors and other Meredith supporters.
First Year Priorities
“One of my priorities during this year has been to get to know people in order to understand their hopes, fears and priorities. I want to learn how to motivate and inspire them in the ways they have motivated and inspired me.”
As the first alumna to serve as Meredith’s president, Allen has had a unique challenge managing her transition from Meredith student and alumna to president.
“The perspective [on Meredith] that I had as a student has been reinforced. I knew Meredith was well respected, but I’m not sure I realized how beloved it is,” Allen said. “People light up when you say Meredith.”
Allen brings not only her viewpoint as an alumna but her experience at other higher education institutions. “This year, I’ve worked to find out how much of that broader perspective I need to narrow to Meredith, and how much of the Meredith perspective I might need to broaden. Getting that right is tricky.”
A major priority for Allen was bringing the Meredith community together to begin a strategic planning process that is open and inclusive.
“I’m proud that we launched that effort – and launched it well – with a Vision Conference,” Allen said.
More than 170 people with an interest in Meredith’s future participated in the conference on January 27. The event brought together faculty, staff, student leaders, alumnae and community leaders to focus on what Meredith is doing well, what it could do more of, and what new opportunities the College should explore.
Beginning to build key relationships with Meredith supporters, including those who attended the Vision Conference, is another accomplishment in which Allen takes pride, as is her work to build planning into the Meredith culture.
“It is one of those things like brushing your teeth – it is imperative for good health for the College,” Allen said. “We have to make it part of our culture and tend to it because it is for our future.”
Allen said she has been impressed by “the eagerness of the Meredith community to get it right” when making changes. “If changes are made, the Meredith community wants to make them for the right reasons and in the right way.”
Allen also hopes to inspire a sense of fun along with the important business of higher education.
“What we do at Meredith is noble — it is a true privilege to work with students the way we do,” Allen said. “But we need to also find ways to have fun. Learning and laughter are two terrific tonics for the soul and contributors to a lifetime of happiness.”
Allen said she looks forward to a final draft of the strategic plan and enthusiastic implementation during her second year.
“I want people to feel ownership, and feel ready to go. I also want to continue to sustain the goodwill and collegiality I’ve felt this year. That’s important to me,” Allen said. “Feeling the goodwill of the community behind you is really important.”
Have you presented research or attended a professional meeting recently? Has your department earned an award? Share news of these accomplishments and more with the Meredith community. Faculty and staff are invited to email items to Melyssa Allen, “Campus Connections” editor, at email@example.com.