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Brandeis National Women’s Committee changes mission

Published: September 12, 2008
Section: Front Page


At the start of its sixtieth year, the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee has changed its mission statement, fundraising priorities, leadership, and its name.

The BUNWC will now be called the Brandeis National Committee, a decision, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan explained in an e-mail to The Hoot, that has been “discussed over the past ten years.”

Whelan wrote that the new title represents a connection to the organization’s past, indicates that the organization has male members, and comes at a time when the BNC is making various changes.

Founded in 1948, the same year as Brandeis, the BUNWC began as a group of eight women who were tasked by the university’s president, Abram Sachar, to raise funds for a library. Since then, the BUNWC has raised over $113 million for the university, has 76 chapters nationwide, and has welcomed men as members.

According to the BNC’s Executive Summary, in 2006, then BNC president Dorothy Pierce approached Marty Krauss, Provost for Academic Affairs, with objectives the BNC would like to reach. One of the goals was to establish “a model of shared governance” with the university. Shortly afterwards, a strategic planning steering committee was formed, co-chaired by Pierce and Whelan.

Whelan wrote, “This strategic planning process was unique in that the university, the national staff and the volunteer leaders all participated in mapping out future directions for the organization.”

A national executive committee composed of 20 BNC representatives and seven university representatives now governs the organization. In an effort to strengthen ties between the BNC and the university, the BNC also reports to the Provost Office.

Another change initiated July 1 of this year is a revision of the BNC’s mission statement to focus on the themes of philanthropy, learning, and community.

Over the years, the BNC has offered its members learning programs including study guides to be discussed in peer groups, faculty lectures, and applied learning courses. Recently, the BNC partnered with the alumni association in order to put together joint programs. Nancy Winship, Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement, said that one such program is Alumni College. The program takes place during Reunion Weekend and is a day-long event where Brandeis faculty will teach classes to participating Brandeis alumni, family, friends, and BNC members.

Janice Fineman, newly appointed Executive Director of the BNC, wrote in an e-mail that these learning programs will attempt to “strengthen our members’ connections to the University.”

In addition, the BNC has put a renewed emphasis on the philanthropic goals of the organization. The BNC will attempt to raise funds for the university as a whole instead of just the library. The BNC has already contributed $2.4 million for the Science for Life Campaign, which will finance the construction of a lab in the new Carl J. Shapiro Science Center.

Winship stated that the BNC will also help the Campaign for Brandeis raise $154 million in funds for student scholarships, one of the university’s “highest priorities.” The BNC will fundraise for the Students for Science Campaign, providing scholarships for science majors.

However, the BNC has encountered obstacles in attempting to focus on the philanthropic goals of the institution. In the June 2008 BNC meeting minutes it was noted, “It is difficult for the older chapters to accept the idea that BUNWC is a philanthropic organization, and there is a reluctance to increase their program fees.” Annual member dues have increased to $60 this year in order to cover operating costs.

Whelan commented on the tension between the learning community aspect of the BNC and the philanthropic aspect, “Often the balance among these is difficult to maintain, and there is a renewed sense that BNC’s philanthropy is vital to support the University.”

In regards to future difficulties that the BNC might face, Fineman wrote that “change is the biggest challenge.” The meeting minutes noted, “Change is hard to accept; other previous plans were studied and adopted but never implemented. Regulatory changes will be made, and BUNWC must be aware, compliant, and sufficiently flexible to adapt. Everything the organization does impacts the University.”