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Dr. James M. White Jr. ~ national alumni leader

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021
    Dr. James White ~ class of 1982

    Editor's note: Meet Dr. James M. White, Jr., the newly elected president of the UMES National Alumni Association (NAA) and former university administrator. After graduating with a degree in physical education / sports management in 1982, he went on to earn a master's in human resources and a doctorate in education innovation from Wilmington University.

    How long have you been involved with the NAA?

    I have been a member since retiring from the university in 2017. Because of the nature of my positions while a UMES employee, my involvement with the association spans some two decades. 

    Why did you take on the challenge of serving as the NAA president?

    It is my chance to give back to my alma mater, which I genuinely love. I wanted to use skills developed over 35 years of administrative experience at UMES and nine years as a Princess Anne Town Commissioner as well as professional organizations in which I have held memberships. 

    What does it mean to serve in this role?

    I can remain engaged with a love that has been a major part of my life for nearly four decades. I devoted my life to the mission of UMES; assisting persons who historically have been denied access to higher education to be successful. I see being the NAA presidency as an extension of that commitment. 

    When your election became official, did you hear from your classmates?

    My email and Facebook page were overloaded with messages of congratulations, as well as my home and cellphones. Following the election, several told me they would join the NAA - and they did. 

    Why is being a member of the NAA important in 2021?

    UMES' alumni president is a regular at university recruiting events

    HBCUs continue to confront the greatest impediment to educating students as they did when the first one opened its doors - and that is access! Whatever the NAA and I can do to help ensure access to our students is important. 

    As someone who sat at a number of tables, initially as a student and then in several administrative positions, especially in student affairs, I have a unique perspective now as NAA President. Over the years, I also developed working relationships with several of the past NAA Presidents. 

    What ideas do you have to make the NAA even more relevant in the third decade of the 21st century?

    We have graduated tens of thousands of students since we opened our doors, yet our alumni membership numbers are not has high as I would like. There is strength in numbers, and I want to see membership grow each year during my tenure. 

    Most important is that we attract and activate recent graduates, as well as reclaiming some of our senior alumni. Alumni want to be reached, they want to know what is going on and how they can help. 

    Knowing who we are by branding the NAA and UMES are particularly important. We need a consistent look and message. The NAA and alumni can do a lot to leverage our professional experiences, associations, and our own funds to give back to UMES. 

    The university has to ensure the doors remain open and alumni feel free to return to campus and not just for homecoming. Alumni need to know it is just as important for the university to receive $5 contributions consistently as it is to receive donations of millions from a philanthropist. Think of the impact we would make if 90% of our alumni would give just $5 on the same day! We want more, but we have to give, and no amount is too little. 

    How is the NAA working to attract more recent graduates to join?

    There is strength in numbers. The stronger we are as an active association, the more our voice will be heard and respected. We purchased a new membership data system, revamped our website, made online payment accessible for alumni, expedited the process of forming chapters and utilized popular social media platforms to engage alumni. A new Membership App is on the horizon that will go a long way to reaching and engaging alumni. 

    What was your reaction to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott's gift announced in December 2020?

    It did my heart good to know someone recognizes the important of UMES and what HBCUs do to provide educational opportunities to those have been historically denied access. Ms. Scott's donation is recognition of what UMES is doing and that we make a difference in people's lives. 

    How do you see it fitting into the NAA's toolbox of motivating members to support their alma mater?   

    It becomes a point of pride and a talking point, not only among alumni, but as we encourage others to contribute. Her generosity, I hope, will inspire others to look at UMES and make commensurate gifts large or small. 

    Final thoughts?

    I am thankful to have the opportunity to serve my alma mater in this capacity. I live within the shadow of UMES, where I met my first and late wife and have three daughters who are alumnae. I believe in the power of legacy and in the mission of UMES. As long as I have breath in my body, I will do what I can to make it successful and help students achieve their educational goals.