Meet Your Chair
Ayanna McConnell has been named the Acting President and CEO of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. McConnell, who has served as the Alumni Association’s vice president for university relations since 2021, has more than 20 years of experience leading student alumni programs at U-M and Eastern Michigan University. She first joined the Association in 2011 to design the student community for the LEAD Scholars program.
In her role as vice president for university relations, McConnell has overseen all aspects of the Association’s university relations, student, and development programs. She has also led the Association’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice strategic initiatives.
Ayanna has presented locally and nationally on alumni/donor engagement, diversity and inclusion, mentoring and networking, and is an active CASE District V volunteer. A lifelong learner, Ayanna concluded her formal academic journey with a graduate degree in Higher Ed/Student Affairs at Eastern Michigan University. She serves communities in Southeastern Michigan through multiple service organizations, and resides with her family in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Amanda Baker (she/her) is the Deputy Director for Young Alumni & Students at Yale University’s Alumni Fund. In this role, she leads her team to cultivate an appreciation among students for alumni philanthropy and build dedicated future donors. She also strengthens the pipeline of recent alumni donors through programming and communications. She works with leadership volunteers and develops solicitation strategies to retain loyal donors, bring in new donors and move donors up the pipeline through leadership level solicitations. Amanda is committed to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging serving on various committees and taskforces that promote DEIB internally and among the alumni population. She has presented on various topics at Ivy+ conferences as well as AGDC.
Prior to joining Yale in 2018, Amanda was involved in management and development in the arts where she spent 20 years with organizations ranging from the United States Coast Guard Band to her own arts non-profit organization. Amanda is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard which she served for 7 years. She is on faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches courses in arts management and is a member of the Imani Winds Foundation Board of Directors. She received her Bachelor’s and Master's in Music from Northwestern University and Yale University, respectively and an MBA from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. Amanda lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut with her partner, daughter and dachshund Waffles. An avid nature-lover, she spends her free-time birding, kayaking and hiking.
Tomitha J. Blake
Tomitha Blake serves as the Assistant Vice Provost for Academic & Student Affairs at the University of Washington leading the advancement efforts for five central units responsible for the access, success and diversity of 60,000 students. For 25+ years, she has championed access to higher education as an antidote to inequities and a pathway to opportunities. She has helped launch, lead and close successful comprehensive campaigns in support of capital projects, research, student learning outcomes, access, DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging), and social impact.
Tomitha is known for building and motivating high performing, inclusive and engaged teams, leading through tough changes with a big heart, and creating innovative philanthropic strategy to drive the value proposition of higher education.
Colin Hennessy brings over 15 years of professional fundraising and management experience with expertise in annual giving, alumni engagement, segmentation strategy, data analysis, and more. He is recognized as an industry leader with a proven track record of developing philanthropic pipelines through thoughtful interventions informed by behavioral economics, data science, stewardship, and engagement.
As Vice President for Alumni and Donor Engagement, Colin leads a team dedicated to supporting the University of Iowa through thoughtful and innovative engagement and programming—overseeing alumni engagement, communication and marketing, events, and stewardship efforts.
Before joining the UI Center for Advancement in 2022, Colin held leadership positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. In addition, he was a senior vice president and practice area leader at the fundraising management consulting firm Grenzebach Glier and Associates. Colin earned his bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from the University of Iowa, a master’s degree in adult and distance education from the University of Phoenix, a master’s in public policy and administration from Iowa State University, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the 2019 Diane Thompson Award Winner for Excellence in Annual Giving from the Northeast Annual Giving Conference Association. In addition, Colin is a CASE Crystal Apple Award-winning speaker and teacher, in addition to the numerous CASE Circle of Excellence Awards presented to teams under his leadership.