Interview with Princeton AlumniCorps’ New President Kathy Miller ’77

Kathy graduated from Princeton in 1977 with an independent major in Healthcare Resource Allocation: The Economics and Politics of Healthcare.  After working full time for several years, she returned to graduate school part-time and obtained a Master’s in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the New School for Social Research as a NYC Mayor’s Graduate fellow.  Kathy has worked in healthcare since graduation, becoming a hospital assistant executive director in 1983 and holding successive leadership positions in ambulatory care services and hospital administration and planning since that time.  She has worked with the NYC public hospital system, several voluntary teaching hospitals and most recently served as Vice President for Clinical and Community Health Programs at Public Health Solutions, an independent non-profit public health corporation providing services and research in the areas of women’s health, obesity prevention and nutrition, family services and HIV in New York City.  Kathy is now running her own independent healthcare consulting business. She has participated in AlumniCorps for years as both a partner agency and as a mentor for NYC fellows in the Project 55 Fellowship Program. She joined the Board of Directors in 2007 and was elected President of the Board in December.

 

How/why did you first get involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? What has kept you engaged over the years?

About eight years ago, when I first began working at Public Health Solutions, I was looking for smart, inexpensive help in the office. I went onto the University website, and that’s when I saw a reference to Project 55 fellowships. The next thing I knew, Chet Safian ’55 and Steve Houck ’69 were on my doorstep telling me about PP55 and convincing me it would be a great match. I had already recruited two students at the time, and Chet offered to make them fellows. In addition, he convinced me that I should be a mentor. Part of what really sold me was when, the following year, I went through the whole PP55 process and was amazed at the candidates; they were well screened and well matched with my organization’s needs. Later, I got involved with Jim Gregoire’s initiative to start public health fellowships.

As an alumna, I was personally really excited to find a community service opportunity that related back to Princeton. My own class tends to be more internationally focused when it comes to service work, and I wanted to participate in something that gave back to Princeton. It was a perfect fit for me in that sense. I was later asked to be on the Board, and the rest is history.

 

What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service”?

I have spent my entire career working in nonprofits—especially in healthcare—which was my major. I have always felt that there was a certain need for capable, intelligent people in the sector, and it has given me a lot of personal satisfaction to give back. I spent my first ten years out of school working in public hospitals in New York City in a variety of roles. I then moved into the voluntary hospital sector in NYC, working in large medical centers, primarily doing work with community based ambulatory care and programs that were essentially safety net healthcare programs. When I moved to Public Health Solutions, I continued to work on these programs but also got involved with research and specialized in maternal/child  and reproductive health.

Upon leaving Public Health Solutions I began exploring my opportunities and realized there was a tremendous need for people adept at helping organizations to develop and implement strategies to deal with the changing landscape of healthcare regulations today.  I am now working for two clients in that role.  One is the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, where I’m directing a project to provide their member organizations with tools to survive and thrive as the world changes around them; funding which has traditionally come from grants is now being transformed to Medicaid/state sponsored insurance. The second is a large NYC network of ambulatory care sites where I will be working with the leadership team to improve their quality of service and improve the health of the population they care for by making better use of technology and the patient information it can provide.

 

What is the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

The most important thing I look for, after affirming that I believe in the mission of an organization, is the vision of the leadership. Strong leadership has a vision of where it wants to go as well as the management skill to move the organization forward.

 

What role do you think AlumniCorps plays in the broader Princeton community and in communities around the country?

AlumniCorps plays a key role in bringing alumni together in the common pursuit of public interest opportunities. This is important for several reasons. First, when alumni are brought together through a program, connections are made, and amazing partnerships and bonds are formed which otherwise may not have been. For instance, in Chicago, Paula Morency ’77 and Tom Allison ’66 have recently begun working together on developing the Community Volunteers program, and have together discovered common interests and passions to channel into their community. When alumni meet other alumni in this way, it is really compelling, and “Princeton in the Nation’s Service…” is really brought to life.

The other important aspect of   AlumniCorps’ work is intergenerational as alumni of all ages can connect to one another and to their common heritage as Princetonians. This is exemplified within the Board and also in the structure of AlumniCorps’ programming (recent graduates are paired with mentors of older classes, for example). While the alumni community is strong on its own, AlumniCorps excels at leveraging initial alumni connections into relationships that can contribute meaningfully and effectively to civic engagement, all the while strengthening the bonds of the alumni community in the process.

 “When alumni are brought together through a program, connections are made and amazing partnerships and bonds are formed which otherwise may not have been.”

What do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities you will encounter in your upcoming term as President? And what is your hope for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps?

I think the challenges and opportunities are very similar. We are really striving to increase the engagement of alumni from classes of the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s, ’90’s, and ’00’s to create a strong, alumni-driven organization to include graduates of all ages. The challenge is reaching those alumni who graduated before Princeton AlumniCorps (then Princeton Project 55) became an institution. Another challenge is conveying the mission of the organization and how it is relevant for ’60’s and ’70’s graduates. We have to be strategic in considering all the ways they can participate that might match up with their current passions, interests, and desires.

Our opportunity lies in expanding our outreach, involving more classes, and helping to grow more programs. With the addition of Emerging Leaders and Community Volunteers, AlumniCorps has created many more outlets for alumni to get involved. These two new programs enable us to work not only with individual alumni but also to partner with class service projects that utilize AlumniCorps’ experience and skills. Through these partnerships, we can help officers and class members refine and implement their visions.

My hope is that AlumniCorps would become known in the alumni community as an organization that provides both individual alumni and class leadership with opportunities to be efficiently, effectively, and jointly engaged in civic service.


Is there anything else you would like to share as incoming President?

While we continually seek donations to make our programs possible, and ensure that AlumniCorps has a sound financial base moving forward, our primary goal is to engage alumni in ways that incorporate their time and talent.  There are many ways an alum can give to the organization: with their time, their money, their potential connections with other sources of funding, volunteer opportunities, mentoring opportunities, or opportunities to be trainers for Emerging Leaders, etc. There is a broad array of ways to be involved and contribute to AlumniCorps. While money is always greatly appreciated, it is not the only thing for which we are looking.

 

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