The Chautauqua Women’s Club this season is perhaps like a petri dish for “High Tech, High Touch,” one of the 10 trends that author John Naisbitt identified in his prescient book, Megatrends.
Though published in 1980, the book is eerily relevant. In the chapter “High Tech, High Touch,” Naisbitt sets up the dichotomy suggesting that as technology becomes a larger part of life, people will seek traditional, face-to-face experiences.
The strength of the CWC is “high touch” built on relationships formed throughout years of shared goals. The question is how will a definitely high-touch organization founded 133 years ago — and whose members in a recent survey chose fellowship as the most important reason for joining — remain vigorous despite the changing profile of women at Chautauqua in the digital age.
Enter new CWC President Courtney L. Curatolo. Her mandate is to create a synthesis which recognizes the changing reality of women’s lives but also embraces their high-touch preferences. She would rather be called Cour, and that informality combined with her youth — she is 35 — is exactly what makes her a good choice to lead the CWC.
It will be Curatolo’s task to translate CWC Board President Paula Mason’s comments at the season’s beginning into program and events that will attract younger women and men. CWC has a co-ed membership.
“If we are going to be relevant, we have to have meaningful values,” Mason said.
“Fellowship, support of the Chautauqua Institution and the advance of knowledge will continue to be core values.”
“High tech” is not ignored.
“We will have a Facebook page and become more involved with social media. We will begin a branding effort to help the community understand what the CWC is and what we do for the community,” she said.
Neither is “high touch” ignored.
“Another focus is fellowship. We want to have events which do not include a presentation, that will bring together people young and old,” Curatolo said. “Our commitment to scholarship and programming continues. Though the Flea Market will end, the Flea Boutique will re-open its doors next summer. And … the Strawberry Festival will return.”
Curatolo is a third generation Chautauquan and seems to know everyone. During a conversation on Logan porch, she was greeted frequently by Chautauquans coming to the The Chautauquan Daily office. That long relationship with the Institution is a valuable dimension she brings to the CWC president’s role.
“I grew up here, and I worked at Children’s School and the YAC, and have many friends whom I will try to bring into the CWC,” she said.
In early July, she took on the CWC presidency and is observing and learning. At next summer’s end Curatolo hopes to see the results of that observation, learning and planning she is doing this season.
The goals of the organization, fellowship, programming and support for Chautauqua can be defined as “high touch.” And that may be what will energize it far into the future.
“Right now, the organization is going through a transition. We need to be relevant, sustainable and financially viable,” she said.
How will an organization, which has depended on women who were here all summer, attract women who are managing professions and families and may only visit the ground for one or two weeks to help continue its goals? CWC’s answer to that will be important. Curatolo’s tenure will be the first chapter in that experiment.
Curatolo expects to complete her doctorate in adult and community educational leadership at Florida Atlantic University in December 2013. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from American University and a master’s degree in public administration from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Her professional positions include director of special projects and public relations for Lykes Land Investments Inc.; executive director of Collier County Bar Association; and public affairs manager of the Naples Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, she was recognized as one of Gulfshore Business’ “Movers and Shakers” and “40 Under 40.”