It has been an honor to serve as president of Cap and Gown for the past year and a privilege to serve in the year that we celebrated 110 years. That is such a significant milestone and I was so delighted to hear about Cap and Gown women from all generations meeting together across the country and around the world to celebrate. That experience of connection and support between women leaders is at the essence of what makes Cap and Gown such a phenomenal organization that I am so grateful to be a part of today more than ever.
I have spent much of this past year thinking about what makes Cap and Gown unique, how we can best uphold our traditions, and what the future of the organization might look like. At first this was instigated by reflection on what it means to be an organization that lasts for over a century. Then changes in the enforcement of university policies for student and alumni groups prompted a thorough examination that has led to some significant changes in how we operate as an organization while also enabling us to reinforce our core principles.
Last year, the Alumnae Board became aware of the policy of the Stanford Alumni Association to provide open membership to all Stanford alumni for all alumni groups. As a selective honor society, we have been out of compliance with this policy. Over the summer, the new Actives Board became aware of a similar policy for student organizations under the ASSU. The administrative organization for the ASSU known as Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) asked us to halt our application process and reconsider how we create community as an organization. I was a bit surprised when I first heard of these policies and uncertain about how we might be able to address them as they seemed at odds with our traditions and practices. How can an organization honor those who have gone above and beyond as leaders in their communities inside and outside the classroom and invite anyone to join? But after much reflection and countless conversations, I am confident that we have come up with a solution that does just that.
As of August 1, 2016, any undergraduate student is welcome to join Cap and Gown as a student member. Yes, that means men too. Though people can join regardless of gender, all members are expected to demonstrate and/or celebrate women’s leadership. Our mission remains to cultivate and empower women leaders by bringing together members of the Stanford community who demonstrate and celebrate women’s leadership. We also continue to value academic excellence, leadership, and service to the university. To that end, we have simultaneously created the Cap and Gown Leader Award. Any student member who demonstrates their commitment to our organization and our values can receive this award in their senior year. I encourage you to read more about this award on our website. A similar change is necessary at the alumni level, giving all alumni the opportunity to join the Cap and Gown alumni group regardless of membership in Cap and Gown as undergraduates. We are still in the process of working through the details of it with the Stanford Alumni Association, but I am hopeful that we will finalize an update to our constitution and bylaws in the coming months. It is important to us to preserve the honor that all of you have experienced as undergraduate members of Cap and Gown while also opening up membership. I will update you on our progress over the coming months.
I know that this is a lot of change, but it is also an opportunity to rethink some of our practices and envision a stronger organization committed more than ever to our ideals. I recently read through the Centennial history booklet and was struck by how Cap and Gown has changed over the years to support the needs of the university. Cap and Gown women were among those who identified the need for a place on campus for women to meet and fundraised for a women’s clubhouse. When Stanford started charging tuition, Cap and Gown women recognized the need for scholarships and established and funded them. Today we have seven scholarships managed by the university that enable current Stanford students to continue their studies. Our activities and processes have also changed over time. We used to make and sell calendars to pay for scholarships and the traditional tapping experience became an application process. We know how to anticipate and identify needs and adapt to them. This is one of the reasons why we have been thriving for over 110 years and why I am confident that we will continue to thrive.
That doesn’t change the fact that this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. It has been encouraging and humbling to see the team rise to the challenge. Carol Benz, Kathy Chou, Michelle Galloway, and Ellen Petrill have been instrumental in shaping this process and updating our constitution and bylaws for alumni, and our 2015-2016 Actives Board did a phenomenal job redrafting the constitution for students. We have a phenomenal team in place for this coming year thanks to our Nominations Committee, which did a terrific job assembling a team of people to help us reimagine our tapping process and continue producing stellar events that welcome students and alumni to campus. We also have expanded our Actives Board with six exceptional women who are leading our transformation on campus. I’m excited for you to meet them. I would like to invite all you to get involved as well by reaching out to other members of Cap and Gown, attending our events or hosting one in your region, and sharing your story on our blog. Your involvement and support is crucial to our success. I would also appreciate your continued support in contributing to our scholarships and paying dues that help us put on events that connect students with alumni and create a space for women to share their experiences as women leaders. Your dues are more important than ever as we create new events to recruit new members to set us up for success for manygenerations to come.
This is a remarkable organization and I am so grateful to be a part of it. Here’s to the next 110 years!
Kathryn Kilner, ‘08
Cap and Gown Alumnae Board President