Q&A with past presidents of the ComArtSci alumni board: Diane Neal

Diane Neal

Retired CEO, Sur La Table, Inc.

Neal is a 1979 retailing graduate and 2015 recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award. She served as president of the ComArtSci alumni board from 2011 to 2013. 

What was it like serving as president of the ComArtSci alumni board? 

Serving as President of the alumni board was such an honor and something I thoroughly enjoyed. I worked closely with Pam [Whitten], who was the dean of CAS at the time to put together agendas for the meetings as well as brainstorm on how the board could add value to her and to the college. It was also so much fun to participate in graduation each year for the college. That not only was a great time to visit classes on campus and also stay connected to the students. At the same time, we would have our awards ceremony where I would have a larger role to announce winners and give away awards. I loved getting to know other award recipients and learning about their journey and the value that MSU served in their careers. 

How has your MSU degree or experience benefited your career? 

My degree from MSU was a way to decide what I wanted to do vs. having it decided for me. I felt an education was essential to a bright future and would open doors to new experiences.   MSU helped connect me to companies upon graduation which helped me start my journey in the retail sector. At the time MSU had one of the best reputations in the industry and graduates were actively sought out by many companies. So, I had an opportunity to meet with many people and ultimately make a decision that would shape my career. Getting a degree wasn't easy for me since I had to pay for my education by working full time and I also received a scholarship from another college which allowed me to transfer to MSU and ultimately get my degree. This is one of the reasons I set up a scholarship fund at MSU to help students who transfer in from other colleges have hopefully an easier time to pay for their education at MSU.    

What role can alumni play in the future of ComArtSci? 

I think the best role alumni can play in the future of students at MSU is through giving and setting up scholarship funds, but also mentoring and finding a way to connect to students and give them information they need and want and will benefit decisions they make. I have had the pleasure of mentoring a few students and when there is a genuine connection and a genuine desire from the student to learn it can be very rewarding.