The Wells College Association of Alumnae and Alumni (WCA) is proud to announce that Kathryn "Katie" Fong '06 is the recipient of the 2020 Young Alumni Award. The award recognizes Katie's extraordinary professional and personal achievements, civic engagement and legacy of service to her alma mater.
Katie's leadership in these areas was already evident during her time as a student, when she served as a class officer and student organization leader, and also made fundraising phone calls on behalf of the Advancement office. Her enthusiasm for Sister Wells has continued in the years since graduation. She served on the board of the Friends and Recent Graduates Organization (FARGO) for young alums, and was always a supportive and friendly advocate for countless alumnae and alumni. She has also long been a constant presence at Wells events in both New York City and Aurora as well as the annual Reunion weekends, and served as a panel facilitator in the College's second annual Women's Leadership Conference back in February.
After earning her bachelor's degree from Wells — majoring in women's studies with a minor in history — Katie spent the first 13 years of her career as an executive search consultant and has worked with senior finance, operations, supply chain and merchandising executives in some of the world's most well-known retail, fashion and consumer brands. In 2016, Katie decided to refocus her career on guiding organizations toward healthier, more equitable culture and practices, and so began pursuing her graduate degree while working full time. Last year, she transitioned fully to a career in organization development consulting.
Katie currently specializes in coaching emerging leaders and advising leaders and teams on how to integrate the values of equity, diversity and inclusion into their strategic priorities. She completed her master's degree in organizational change management from the New School in May of this year. Katie was awarded her program's prize for best graduate thesis for her paper entitled, "Renewing the Interrogatory Imperative: Hope and Persistence from 20 Years of Interrogating Whiteness in Organization Development."
Five years ago, Katie was selected by her peers to serve on the Board of Trustees; her second term as an alumna trustee will end June 30. With her deep perspective on the College's complicated history and her professional expertise in mentorship, change management and diversity and inclusion issues, she has emerged as a leading voice on the board.
This year, she was also a central figure in the Bell Tower Committee, the ad hoc group of concerned trustees, alums, faculty and staff who helped lead the response to the financial challenges the College has been facing, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was chair of the Auxiliary Academic Programs and Student Life Enrichment Subcommittee, and also a member of the Ancillary Revenue Subcommittee. The Bell Tower group collected and analyzed numerous ideas submitted by the greater Wells community, and its report served as a springboard toward a more comprehensive strategic planning prioritization effort that is currently underway. Katie has since served as a member of the Strategic Steering Committee for that process and has dedicated tremendous time and effort to this work throughout the summer and fall of 2020.
Katie writes, "Wells shaped who I am in profound and fundamental ways, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life to give back to the College through service as a trustee. My term on the board has frequently felt like a second Wells education. Much like my time as an undergrad, this experience has broadened my worldview, stretched me intellectually, solidified my values, and introduced me to some of the most remarkable people I could have imagined. More than ever, I appreciate that Wells is about relationships; I owe a debt of gratitude to the Wells friends who have been my touchstones since I was a student, and to my board colleagues — whom I am proud to also call my friends — who have guided, mentored and encouraged me these past five years."
"Perhaps the greatest reward of my time on the Board has been getting to know the students who call Wells home — I am always impressed (though never surprised) at the brilliance, tenacity, and strength of voice and character our students demonstrate," Katie adds. "The persistence of the Wells spirit across generations constantly inspires me and gives me hope for the future of Wells and the world our graduates will shape."
This December brings the start of a new Aurora adventure for Katie. She and her partner Abby purchased an 1850s octagonal house in Poplar Ridge and moved from Brooklyn with their cat Bea. Together they look forward to supporting Wells and the Aurora community as locals, and hope to host alums, Wells students and community members, local residents, friends and family as home renovations and public health conditions allow.
Of being this year's Young Alum award recipient, Katie says: "To receive this award, especially at this moment in time, is a tremendous honor and a humbling responsibility. My profound belief in the value of a Wells education and in living the Wells mission as an alumna — to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely as I cultivate a meaningful life — has guided my work on the board as well as my personal and professional ethos. Amidst the change and challenge facing all of us as 2020 comes to a close, I can't imagine a more relevant moment to recommit to these guiding values and, as our motto says, to have and to share with others all that Wells has given me."
This year's award is being given in memory of Shirley Schou Bacot Shamel '58, who passed away in January. Shirley was, for many years, a generous donor and extremely committed volunteer not just to Wells, but numerous other community, artistic and civic organizations. Upon stepping down from the College's Board of Trustees in 1998, Shirley was named honorary trustee, and received the WCA Award in 2007.
Due to the pandemic and the cancelation of Fall Weekend, we were not able to honor Katie in person this year. We look forward, however, to celebrating her accomplishment sometime in 2021, so please stay tuned for more details.