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Linda Secord, director of Alumni Education and University Lectures, is preparing for the annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.
Posted 05.01.06

Coordinator Oversees Seminars, Lectures, Alumni Education

Q: Linda, for how years have you worked at Wesleyan, and specifically as director of alumni education and university lectures?

A: I started working in the alumni office in 1987. I took a brief side track to be director of Alumni Relations at Connecticut College from 1996 to 2000, but returned to Wesleyan as director of Alumni Programs in 2000. In 2002, my responsibilities became primarily focused on management of educational programs for alumni and parents, and my title was changed to Director of Alumni Education.

Q: Please explain “alumni education” and your role with this.

A: As Director of Alumni Education, I oversee coordination of WESeminars, WESeminars on the Road, travel programs, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, and any other special programs that provide non-credit educational opportunities for alumni and parents. Our goal is to provide life-long learning for all our constituents, and to that end we look for ways to engage alumni and parents in Wesleyan’s learning environment. Many of our programs feature alumni, parents, faculty and students as presenters, and our programs are offered to the entire Wesleyan family.

Q: What are some ways alumni can get involved with the university?

A: Alumni can get involved by being presenters for WESeminars or the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, organizing WESeminars on the Road, organizing other on-campus and regional educational seminars, serving on educational programming committees, attending WESeminars, WESeminars on the Road, the Shasha Seminar, and other educational programs, and participating in Wesleyan educational travel programs. In addition to involvement with educational programs, they can organize other local Wesleyan events, help plan reunions, support the Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence and promote Wesleyan in their communities and among their friends and colleagues.

Q: Please summarize your responsibilities as director of university lectures.

A: I administer the work of the University Lectures Committee, which includes faculty, administrators, and students. Each year the committee accepts proposals from faculty and students for funding of special lectures on campus and allocates funds from the Edward W. Snowdon Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Lectures in Ethics, Politics, and Social Issues, and the Raymond E. Baldwin Lecture Fund. I advise faculty and students on their proposals and work with the committee to allocate funds appropriately to various proposals. My assistant, Laurie Zolty, and I work with fund recipients to coordinate and promote their lectures.

In addition, I oversee the coordination of the annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression and the Raymond E. Baldwin Lecture. Both are endowed lectures that bring speakers of national and international renown to campus each year. My office works with speakers, arranges logistics and promotes these lectures.

I also manage other special lectures as needed, including working with speakers, developing programming, arranging logistics, and promoting the lectures as well as coordinating any class visits or other activities associated with a speaker’s visit to campus.

Q: The fifth annual Shasha Seminar is coming up. Why is it important alumni take part in the workshop-based seminars?

A: The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James Shasha ’50, is an annual forum for alumni parents, students and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of human concern in a small seminar environment. Mr. Shasha’s desire is to promote lifelong learning and to offer in-depth consideration of a topic of human concern. The Shasha Seminar is a three-day seminar beginning with a keynote speaker on Thursday evening and ending with luncheon on Saturday. The 2006 Shasha Seminar, October 26-28, will discuss the topic of sports, and our keynote speaker will by Frank Deford, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a correspondent for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, and a commentator for National Public Radio.

I believe it’s important for alumni and others to participate in seminars like the Shasha Seminar because they can expand their knowledge, gain new perspectives, and explore ideas with others who are curious, engaged, and engaging. It is another way to experience the academic excellence that is a hallmark of Wesleyan.

Q: Several lectures each year are supported by the Edward W. Snowdon fund. Explain this fund and its purpose.

A: The primary purpose of the Edward W. Snowdon Fund is to expand, enrich and enliven intellectual exchange among the various members of the Wesleyan community by bringing internationally renowned and public leaders to campus. Funds are made available by gifts from Edward W. Snowdon ’33 and the Snowdon family. Proposals are made by faculty members and students biannually to the University Lectures Committee, which allocates funds based on the strength of the proposal. Funds are administered by the University Lectures staff.

Q: What got you into this type of field?

A: I am curious about many things and eager to learn. I always wanted to be involved in providing education in some way. I know that many people share the curious gene and that continued learning makes their lives whole. After spending some time as a fundraiser in my community, I found my way to Wesleyan with the intent of fundraising here. But I discovered I loved developing programming, and began creating educational programs in the late 1980s. That blossomed into the current focus on alumni education, and I’m lucky to have found my niche.

Q: What did you major in?

A: I went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where I received a bachelor’s in music education. I pursued music teaching for awhile, and worked as a church organist and choir director in a small church.

Q: In your years here, who have been some of the most memorable speakers?

A: I enjoy different speakers for different reasons. For example, Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health and a medical anthropologist, is a wonderful speaker and has a moving, compelling message that touches your heart and your mind. Margaret Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, is a bright and intellectual jurist, but also a warm person who engages her audience. Vandana Shiva, an environment activist, while not a succinct speaker, conveys a passion that endears her audience to her. I’ve enjoyed many others because their messages resonate with me or they are particularly dynamic, whether they are writers, academics, journalists, scientists or any other specialty. And of course I could name numerous members of our faculty who are terrific speakers, great ambassadors for Wesleyan, and wonderful to work with, but the list would be much too long.

Q: What are some other events you manage?

A: In addition to the work I do for University Lectures and Alumni Education, I manage several special events and activities during Reunion and Commencement, and Homecoming/Family Weekend, participate in strategic planning and policy development for the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations, work with the Alumni Association Executive Committee, write reports on behalf of the Alumni Association, administer the alumni-elected trustee process, and serve on university committees, including Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Committee.

Q: Who are some of the people in the Horgan House that you work with?

A: I work very closely with Gail Briggs, associate director of alumni education; Laurie Zolty, assistant to the director of University Lectures; and Kathy Macko, my administrative assistant who is adept at helping technologically challenged colleagues, namely me. I also work very closely with everyone in Alumni and Parent Relations and many colleagues in University Relations. My work brings me in contact with many faculty members and staff members from a variety of departments. I find people at Wesleyan very collegial and eager to serve the university.

Q: What keeps your job challenging or interesting?

A: The variety, quality, and quantity of my work keep my job challenging and interesting. There is never a dull day. I’m constantly connecting with alumni, parents, faculty, students, potential speakers, speakers, agents, and others. I write, edit, and proof-read reports, memos, brochures, and letters. I also spend a lot of time advising and collaborating with colleagues.

Q: What are your hobbies or interests aside from work?

A: I play the piano, and have started taken lessons again this year after not taking lessons since the eighth grade.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I love spending time with my husband, children, and granddaughter, and I’m look forward to another little granddaughter who will arrive soon. My son and his wife are both getting their Ph.Ds at Notre Dame/ My daughter and her husband live in Vermont, where they both work in libraries. My husband of nearly 35 years has been an English teacher, philosophy teacher, and curriculum director as well as a library media specialist. He’s now a consultant on educational projects. My family makes my life whole and continually reminds of what matters in the world.
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor