By Janice Read
Emily Baker Tobin, BA’87, MBA’92, the new chair of the Owen Alumni Board, first reconnected with the school about 10 years ago. In the decade since, she’s invested in the school with her time and gifts, but the benefits have flowed both ways. In addition to Owen’s strong alumni network, Tobin has also gained from seminars on managing millenials and discussions on cybersecurity and social media in the workplace.
“Being an active alum is not simply about you giving back to the school, but the school giving to you as well,” she says. “I want to spread the word about this through our alumni base and encourage people to ‘come home’.”
The longtime portfolio manager retired as managing director of Epoch Investment Partners when the firm was bought out in 2012 and is taking a breather from her two decades in portfolio management while her two sons are in school.
Tobin believes her Vanderbilt education has been essential to her success. “I would have never had this career without my Vanderbilt MBA,” Tobin says. “The intimate culture allowed me to build confidence, and the worldclass education gave me the skill set to succeed.”
True to her business nature, she’s led the board in developing strategies to improve the alumni experience and increase their engagement with Owen. The board, made up of 43 Owen graduates representing all degree programs, is able to use the case-study approach to learn how to be their best, and their diverse backgrounds and experiences play in Owen’s favor.
“We really hash out ideas,” Tobin says. “We’re very deliberative. We case-study issues and negotiate our way to consensus. We all believe that ideas get stronger when you go through all the steps.”
In a conversation with Vanderbilt Business, Tobin outlined her five goals for the Alumni Board.
1. Expand Owen’s alumni reach to increase engagement with the school.
Owen punches well above its weight with alumni success stories and alumni participation. We’ve historically had strong support from many dedicated alums— recruiting our students for internships and full-time jobs, mentoring, classroom support, attending networking and community events, and, of course, annual fund and scholarship pledges.
Personally, I had drifted away from the school, but about 10 years after graduation, a classmate reached out and asked me to share my ideas. Owen’s administration and faculty listened with open ears. They are still listening and love to hear from all of us.
2. Enhance the “coming home” experience.
Owen has made huge improvements to all our community events and touchpoints, with the branding and expansion of the Closing Bell gatherings, dean’s dinners and increased communications including the Inside Owen monthly newsletter and the Vanderbilt Business alumni magazine. Jill Dunham, our new director of alumni affairs, is in the process of revamping Reunion weekend, as well as other events, and significantly raised the bar this past October. We are intent on making each and every alumni gathering an impactful experience that you won’t want to miss.
3. Provide support and guidance for Owen’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2019.
Owen is about to have a big birthday and the Alumni Board is working hard to develop a fabulous celebration both in Nashville and across many cities. In 1969, we landed on the moon, the first ATM was installed, and the first Gap store opened. It was the era of Woodstock and the Vietnam War. We want to capture a sense of that time and recognize Owen’s 50 years of success in corporate leadership, strategy and faculty research, but also look forward to the next 50 years.
4. Provide support and guidance for the expansion/ renovation of the Owen building.
Renovations have been ongoing in the building as part of a strategy to improve the physical environment, and it’s no secret that we are in tremendous need of new and improved space with enhanced technology. The Alumni Board continues to be an important part of those discussions. I must add that if you haven’t seen the new Walker Management Library and H. Laird Smith Courtyard since their $4 million gut renovations, schedule a visit soon!
5. Broaden the composition of the Alumni Board to improve our diversity.
In line with the diversity and inclusion goals of the chancellor and Dean Johnson, we want to continue adding diversity to our board by adding more women, international alumni, minorities and veterans. The board’s composition should reflect the world we experience in our work organizations. That includes adding board members from all the various Owen degrees and making sure we have strong representation across all industries and metropolitan areas. Our alumni community benefits from a broader set of ideas, expertise and leadership. Our board has always been very deliberate with our strategic guidance, embracing our differences in thought to develop thorough, well-honed recommendations to the dean.
To get involved in Owen’s alumni network, go to business.vanderbilt.edu/alumni and click on “Get Involved.”