Meet Craig J. McKinney ’91, the Incoming President of the Southwestern University Alumni Association
Name: Craig J. McKinney
Class Year: 1991
SU Degree: Bachelor of Arts in English and Sociology
Profession: Coordinator for Professional Learning, Plano Independent School District
Number of Years on the Alumni Council: 6
What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as president of the Southwestern University Alumni Association?
I want to focus on connections, a word I’ve always used when talking about Southwestern. I’d love to find more ways to connect alumni with the University, with one another, and with current students–and to reconnect alumni who have not felt connected. Finding meaningful ways to foster connections will enhance everyone’s Southwestern experience. We have an impressive Alumni Council with dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers, each of whom brings a unique perspective and skillset to the council. I hope to capitalize on the strengths of this group to generate ideas that lead to actions that benefit the University and the alumni community.
How do you see the role of the Alumni Association evolving in the life of the University?
One of the actions in Southwestern’s Tactical Plan involves working with Alumni Council and local chapters to better integrate alumni into the University community. Alumni Council member Dorothy G. Caldwell ’92, has been working with the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations to revamp the leadership structure of our local chapters to include student recruitment and career development officers at the local level. This enhancement brings our local chapters closer to the work of recruiting and retaining outstanding students and creating a network of support for students and alumni of any age to foster career growth. This new restructuring is just one example of the kind of work the Alumni Association can do to extend the reach of Southwestern beyond Georgetown and involve our worldwide community of alumni in more meaningful ways.
Why have you remained an active alumni volunteer for as long as you have?
Volunteering for Southwestern never seems like work because Southwestern people–alumni, staff, faculty, trustees, and (of course) students–are some of the most phenomenal humans in the world. The people I have met as a Southwestern alumnus, many of whose SU student experiences didn’t chronologically overlap with my own, have become more than friends. Southwestern attracts the kind of people who use their many gifts to make a positive impact on others and on the world around them. Being around Southwestern people inspires me. It’s easy to support an institution that has given so much to me and to so many others. Also, they let me be a Sing! judge a few years ago, which was the best gig ever.
Why should other alumni Pirates (re)engage with Southwestern now?
Exciting things are happening on campus. One of the many things I love about Southwestern is that it never stops improving. If it’s been a while since you’ve visited, you’ve got to come check out the changes on campus. And I’m not just talking about new construction. Southwestern has maintained its core values while adapting to the times, and the Southwestern of today is a much more diverse, inclusive, vibrant campus community than in the past. President Trombley’s arrival on campus (even with a pesky pandemic to contend with) brought a new wave of excitement and inertia. I’m on campus multiple times a year and consider myself fairly “in the loop,” but every time I visit there is something new and worthwhile to make me proud to be a Pirate.
When you visit campus, what Georgetown restaurants and shops do you frequently visit?
When I visit Georgetown, I spend most of my time on campus, so I am not sure I am the best ambassador for the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce. For those of you who are reading this who graduated in the last few decades, you need to understand that Georgetown circa 1987 was not the hub of culinary and commercial activity that it is today. There were only two restaurants on the square where we made our parents take us to dinner when they visited, and we took a trip to Sonic if we needed a break from the Commons. Otherwise, we had to leave the city limits to dine out. While I miss some of 20th century Georgetown’s country charm, I enjoy trying some of the new restaurants when I visit. Inevitably, I end up at Monument Cafe for something involving pie. While I wait for a table, I like to explore the adjacent Lark and Owl Bookstore because A). it’s delightful and B.) independent booksellers deserve our patronage.
As an English and sociology double major, what led you to a career in education?
That’s a great question with a long answer. The shortest version is that my mother was a teacher. I tried to avoid following in her footsteps, but I couldn’t help it. The longer answer involves a gap year in London, a job I landed while on a trans-Atlantic flight, a bunch of twenty-something British Methodists, Christmas caroling at pubs, mind-numbing days selling computer network testing equipment over the phone, and a decision to follow my heart instead of my wallet. Best decision ever.
Who influenced you the most when you were a Southwestern student?
Asking me to pick favorites isn’t fair, but Dr. Ed Kain in the Sociology department was definitely the most influential. He was responsible for our Freshmen Symposium (a predecessor to the First-Year Colloquium and the current First-Year Seminar), taught the intro course that caused me to become a sociology major, introduced me to my first kumquat and caviar at one of his awesome end-of-semester parties, taught my classes in the London Semester Abroad, and has become a life-long supporter and friend. Ed was also the first person who knew that I had proposed to my fiancé, Brandon, on a day trip to Stonehenge while we were staying with him in London the week before the world shut down in 2020.