Renewing the Alumni/ae Council with New Leaders
As with most graduate schools, Hartford Seminary alumni/ae are a vital part of our institutional well-being. Now two new leaders are working to strengthen our Alumni/ae Council and engage alums more fully. We interviewed Imam Dr. Salahuddin Muhammad, Council President, and The Rev. Dr. Karen Bailey-Francois, Vice President. In these roles, Salahuddin and Karen will represent Hartford Seminary alumni/ae on the Board of Trustees and serve on the Seminary’s Executive Committee and Governance Committee, respectively.
What kind of experience did you have at Hartford Seminary? How has it enriched your vocation and/or life?
SM: I received a Doctor of Ministry degree on November 14, 2010 and had a wonderful experience at Hartford. I met so many beautiful people from various faiths. My life has been enriched tremendously by the knowledge obtained, as well as the connections that I have made as a result of being a student at the Seminary for nearly six years. The Seminary has made me a better Imam, Chaplain, father, husband, and well, better as a human being!
KBF: I chose Hartford Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program because of its emphasis on learning in the context of one’s ministry setting. As a United Church of Christ minister serving a church in the City of Hartford, the location was certainly convenient. That was not the deciding factor for me, however. Having worked in integrated planning in a corporate setting, I was impressed by the comprehensive approach to understanding both “place” and “process” that is inherent to the Congregational Studies model. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to look at my congregation’s experience in conversation with colleagues about their settings and our shared learning. Beyond the excellent education I received from Hartford Seminary, I came away with a continuing sense of connection to a network of skilled, insightful and caring professors, staff and ministry colleagues.
Can you briefly explain the recent history of the council and why you volunteered to revive it and to head it up?
SM: For many years the Alumni/ae Council was active, but through a variety of factors it went into a kind of “hibernation”. I am hopeful that we will be able to reawaken it because it is a vital part of Hartford Seminary. It is the fruit of the labor, as it were, the finished product. In my saying that, I don’t mean that we have grown and there is no more growing to do. I mean that we are graduates of the various degree programs and we have gotten back into the sea of our work – as new persons – persons with deepened faith and commitment. We are ambassadors of the word, so to speak! We who have benefited so greatly need to always be there to give support to our fine Seminary. This giving back is not necessarily just financial. It is also giving back by representing the Seminary as one of its graduates.
KBF: I agreed to help recreate an Alumni/ae Council at Hartford Seminary for two completely intertwined reasons. First, the Seminary needs it. Second, so do I. Hartford Seminary is a hands on kind of place. Its programs are rooted in one’s ministry setting. Its classes revolve around mutual learning and creating networks of support. My hope is that the Council can help be a bridge back to the energy, diversity, inspiration and intellectual challenge of Hartford Seminary for those of us who have completed our coursework and want to continue our connection to a community that has so much to offer for the work God calls us to do.
What are your goals for the Alumni/ae Council?
SM: Our goals are still being worked on. We certainly want to reach out to all alumni/ae and let them know that we represent a very prestigious group. We want them to know that the Seminary is there for them. They can continue to take courses at a greatly reduced rate. We want them to know about all that is being offered at the Seminary, and want to keep them informed of the Seminary’s growth. And we also certainly want our alumni/ae to support the Seminary financially.
KBF: I would very much like to help make Hartford Seminary feel more accessible and inviting to those who have finished “having a reason” to be on campus. Even more, I would like to be part of a whole lot of conversations about what alums – and others– want and need that the Seminary might provide that would help them revive their connection. I am looking forward to being “back” and would like to extend the opportunity to any who might miss it, too.
If you are an alumnus/a and would like to be involved in the Council’s work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 860.509.9556.