The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 1, 2000
May 1, 2000
VOL. 29, NO. 34


Second Decade Society Goes, and Gives, Back to School

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

When Deborah Jeffrey is not in a Washington, D.C., court litigating a white-collar crime, you might find her lecturing in an undergraduate seminar, trying to raise money for undergraduate programs or advising a student on possible career choices. Jeffrey, who graduated from Hopkins in 1982, feels as if she is once again part of the university, and the beauty is, Jeffrey says, she never had to quit her day job.

Jeffrey is happily tapped into undergraduate student life these days as an executive member of the Second Decade Society, the leadership development organization for the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

On April 28 the organization celebrated its 10th anniversary and now fittingly prepares to enter its own second decade of service.

The organization's membership is composed of 136 undergraduate alumni of the School of Arts and Sciences, who are elected 10 to 20 years after graduation. SDS members are leaders in their professions and communities, and contribute their considerable talents to serve the Arts and Sciences undergraduate community and the overall university.

Among their endeavors, members serve as guest lecturers at intersession courses, work closely with the Office of Admissions on recruiting efforts, provide internship opportunities for undergraduates and help fund a host of Arts and Sciences projects and programs. Specifically, this past year SDS members contributed more than $157,000 for the new Student Arts Center, conducted phone-a-thons to recruit top high school prospects, sponsored and participated in an undergraduate field trip to the New York Stock Exchange and awarded 16 internship grants for students on financial aid, each totaling $5,000 for tuition reimbursement, travel and expenses.

Jeffrey said she views her role as an SDS member as someone who "can strengthen the Hopkins undergraduate experience."

"It is a way to stay involved," Jeffrey said. "We're not just giving financially; we are personally committed to specific objectives and directly interact with the current group of undergraduates."

Jeffrey likens part of the SDS experience to doing research before one invests in a particular stock.

"And Hopkins, I have found," Jeffrey said, "has a very impressive inventory."

Jill Paulson, SDS director since 1992, said the organization was founded on the need to get younger alumni involved in the university and to develop future leadership for the School of Arts and Sciences.

Paulson said the key to the success of the Second Decade Society lies in its members, an impressive list that includes the president and CEO of a film studio, a senior vice president at a major pharmaceutical company, a United Nations ambassador and various top researchers in the field of medicine. Members commonly lend their expertise during intersession courses, in which they serve as guest lecturers and share their knowledge of what the professional world has to offer.

Paulson said these courses allow the opportunity for undergraduates to spend time "picking the brains" of professional people the students are diligently studying to become.

"When we seek to nominate new members, we look at who can be useful to our students now, based upon what they have been doing with their lives since graduation," Paulson said. "In terms of our work with Admissions, our membership also allows us to say, 'You come to Hopkins, look what you can be.' "

Former and current members of SDS serve on the university's board of trustees, the Trustees Advisory Council and the Alumni Council.

Funds raised by the organization help support the SDS career development professorship, a position for a young faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to undergraduate education and scholarly promise, and the Dean's Teaching Fellows, 15 senior graduate students who conduct seminar courses on their current research.

In 1999, the organization established the Florence "Meg" Long Walsh SDS Leadership Award to honor Meg Walsh, a Second Decade Society member and treasurer and vice president of Lucent Technologies until her death in 1998.

The fellowship provides a graduating senior from the School of Arts and Sciences with a stipend of $20,000 for a postgraduate year of travel and independent study abroad. The award is meant to afford the opportunity for a promising Hopkins graduate to focus on an independent project that explores his or her interests and abilities, develops leadership skills and tests his or her knowledge and assumptions in a broader international context.

The inaugural winner of the award is Thach-Giao Truong, a senior majoring in anthropology and biology. [Learn more about the Walsh SDS Leadership Award.] Truong will receive her honor at the university commencement ceremony on May 25.

Paulson said that even SDS members who live abroad are able to participate directly in the organization's mission by helping nominate leadership award and internship grant winners, offering internships, advising students via telephone and assisting Admissions with outreach efforts in their home countries.

"A lot of what I spend my time thinking about is how we can engage our people who are not here in and around Baltimore," Paulson said. "We are trying to teach all our members how to be good alumni, give back to the university and help improve the undergraduate academic experience."

Jeffrey, an SDS member since 1996, said that as she reflects about the Second Decade Society's first 10 years, she sees an organization that has "clearly directly enhanced the life of Hopkins students."

"I think Hopkins is a much more dynamic place now than when I was an undergraduate," Jeffrey said. "I know we as an organization can't take credit for that, but I feel we have played a very important role in supporting the school's growth. What we do is impact giving that I feel is making a difference for the long chain of Arts and Sciences undergraduates that are to come."