Volunteer Spotlight: Kaylyn Fraser (BA’09) & Joseph Macdonald (MBA’91)
A sense of accomplishment
By Sarah Sawler
Feature Image: The 2018 Dalhousie Alumni Association Board. Kaylyn Fraser far left; Joseph Macdonald far right.
When Kaylyn Fraser (BA’09) and Joseph Macdonald (MBA’91) joined the Dalhousie Alumni Association Board in 2015, they were both in very different places, literally and figuratively. Fraser was working as a consultant in the emerging markets practice of an economic consultancy in London, England, and was looking for a way to reconnect with the Dalhousie community from the U.K. Macdonald had already spent a few years building his Calgary-based business, Home on the Range Adventure Tours, and he was drawn to the opportunity to get involved with Dalhousie University from an operational standpoint. For him, it was an chance to invest in Dal’s future.
Six years later, a lot has changed. Fraser is an investment manager at AgDevCo, a social impact investor focused on developing the commercial agriculture sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Macdonald has added independent training and development specialist to his resume. As both of their DAA terms are coming to an end in June, this is what they said about the experience:
What were your goals when you joined the DAA?
Kaylyn Fraser: I had a really strong connection with Dal as a student. I was part of the Dalhousie Student Union, I was on the
Senate, I was president of the water polo team and I was in the choir. As a result, it was almost a shock to leave Dal. I decided to join the DAA when my friend Courtney Larkin (BMGT’10) was president; she said if I was looking for a way back into the Dal community from afar, the DAA would be a good way to do it.
What did you get out of the experience?
Joseph Macdonald: I enjoyed being actively engaged in the strategic process of alumni initiatives. I also enjoyed that my contributions were part and parcel of everyone else’s contributions. There was no sense that one person was driving the bus and everyone else was just going along. Everybody contributed, so we would ultimately make decisions that we all felt good about. It was really collective.
Kaylyn Fraser: It’s been a really good way to stay informed about what’s happening at the university, and to keep in close contact with senior members of the administration and the Advancement office. It’s also great way to network with a diverse group of people. I’m an economist, so all my friends work in economics or finance. But now I have strong relationships with dentists, doctors, physiotherapists and podiatrists—all these people I wouldn’t normally interact with—and that’s been nice.
What was your favourite learning opportunity with the DAA?
Kaylyn Fraser: When I started, we were more of a governance-style board but we made a strong strategic shift towards helping the university deliver its mandate early on. The DAA and the Advancement office brought in some external facilitators for a strategy weekend to help us think through how to evolve as a board. That was a good learning opportunity. It was also useful to be in an environment where I was providing advice on something different from my day-to-day job, and learning to build consensus within a group of very different people.
When I looked around the table at the other DAA members, there was an awful lot to be learned from those brains. My greatest learning was when I spent three years on the Dal Senate’s Honourary Degree Committee. Seeing how that process evolved was really fascinating—I really enjoyed it.
What would you say to alumni considering volunteering at Dal?
Kaylyn Fraser: It’s a good opportunity to give back to Dalhousie and get involved in the Dal community—but the university also gives a lot back to you. It’s a good professional learning and networking opportunity. I’m really impressed with our incoming board; we have people living all over the world, in China and San Francisco. There are people who are at all different points in their careers, and it’s a more racially diverse board, too, which is really fantastic.
Joseph Macdonald: There’s a real sense of accomplishment in contributing to university alumni and Advancement outcomes. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, participation and engagement.