When Fairbanks, Alaska, native Janine Avner ’80 arrived at Dartmouth as a first-year student she had never been east of Seattle. Moving from the Arctic wilderness to the New Hampshire countryside required a bit of an adjustment, she says, particularly when it came to the fauna.
Attorney and alumni leader Janine Avner ’80 signs the Bonfire at Homecoming 2009. (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)
“During my freshman trip I was walking along clapping my hands and making a lot of racket,” says Avner. “One of the students asked me why I was so darned loud. Well, in Alaska you’re always watching for bear on a trail. I told her I was just being careful to alert the grizzlies of our location. Needless to say, my new friends found that very amusing. I was a long way from home but the students just took me in and we bonded immediately.”
Those bonds have only strengthened over time. This year Avner, now an attorney in Los Angeles, became the 81st president of the Alumni Council, one of Dartmouth’s most important volunteer roles. She spoke with Dartmouth Life in October while on campus for Homecoming.
“The council’s mission is to inform, represent, and engage the alumni in an exchange of information and sentiment with the College. This council wants to maintain and enhance the strong communication that we’ve built among alumni councilors and their constituents. We’ve gained great momentum, and we would like to keep that going. We’re also focused on involving more alumni in those conversations. We want to bring everyone to the table to discuss the issues that are important to them. And we want to help the College and the students in any way we can as we weather some very tough economic times.”
“Alumni Council and alumni can support students in a variety of ways. One of the most important is to offer career advice and job search assistance as part of the Dartmouth Career Network. This is a very tough job market, particularly if you’re just starting out. And the TASTE (Take a Student to Eat) program is a way to mentor and advise an undergraduate when you’re in Hanover.”
“We’ve discovered that the strongest Greek letter organizations are the ones that have mature alumni advising and involvement. The Alumni Council’s Ad Hoc Committee to Support Greek Letter Organizations has explored ways to assist them. The Student Affairs Committee of the council also meets with student panels about various aspects of campus life, such as the international student experience or the issue of social space.”
“At Homecoming I was surprised to see President Kim running around the bonfire with the Class of 2013! He is an amazing, incredible person who is going to make a great leader for the College. He is inspiring, he speaks on all levels, and he connects with the students and with the alumni. The council is excited to be informed by him this year and to give him our feedback.”
“When I was at Dartmouth from 1976 to 1980 the demographics were very different. There were many more men than women and not as many minorities as there are today. It was a great experience, but it was sometimes difficult to be different back then.”
“Today’s College has a more balanced and global student body. When I recently spoke to the Class of 2012, looking at those students was so impressive: young men and women from all walks of life. It was a wonderful experience to be part of that.”
“Dartmouth has given me a great deal, and serving on the Alumni Council is a way for me to make sure that other students can receive the same experience that I had, even better than what I had, and go out and do great things in the world. President Kim has said, ‘If you want to change the world, invest in Dartmouth,’ and that’s why I volunteer. That’s the bottom line.”
BY DIANA LAWRENCE
Last Updated: 1/12/10