We’re in the business of saying “Please” and “Thank you.” Last year, the office of university advancement delivered the university’s gratitude to donors over 6,000 times. That’s how many gifts came in to support UMass Boston.
If you are wondering, the thank you part of the job is a lot easier — and often more rewarding — than the asking part. Especially in a tough economy. But we can’t thank without asking.
We do the best job of acknowledging people when we position the beneficiary to do the thanking. So we get a faculty member to say how research funds are advancing a critical area of knowledge or a director of a center or institute to tell a donor what they’ve achieved with added resources. More commonly, because so many gifts that we receive support scholarships, we try to get the student recipients to say thanks.
Recently I had the privilege to meet two scholarship recipients to gain a sense of how the J. Keith Motley Scholarship is enriching their college experience, so we could pass along the information to the donors. This scholarship was established in honor of the Chancellor’s inauguration and supports students who are graduates of the university’s pre-collegiate programs. We are working to make it an endowed scholarship which will require significantly more gifts.
After a bunch of emails and phone calls Jenny and Kim visited me individually. Jenny Jiang ’15 is a graduate of the Urban Scholars Program. Her dream is to create medicines that will cure people.
Before enrolling in the UMass Boston Urban Scholars Program, she says she barely spoke or asked questions in class. The program, which offers year-round, academic, and cultural enrichment program for students in Boston Public Schools, changed that for her. She was able to experience college, take advanced classes, and build confidence.
When I asked her what the scholarship meant to her she said she wouldn’t be here without it. In addition to her studies, she also has the responsibility at home to encourage her four younger siblings to succeed in school. These demands leave little time for a part-time job that she would need were it not for the scholarship.
Kim Pham ’13 is a graduate of the Admissions Guaranteed Program which guarantees admission to UMass Boston for students at Burke, Dorchester, and South Boston high schools who take college prep classes and pass with at least a 2.75 grade point average. She wants to work in international business and become a translator. Five years ago, when she arrived from Vietnam, Kim’s world changed — for the worse. She says she went from being a capable adult, to feeling like a baby who had to depend on other people for everything. The Admissions Guaranteed Program reversed her fortune. She received help from tutors and discovered people who believed in her.
Kim’s scholarship is making her education possible. When I asked her why it matters to her, she told me a powerful anecdote. When she was studying Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience in English her professor took her on a field trip to Walden Pond in Concord so that she could really understand the author. I asked if the whole class went. “No, just the two of us.” Faculty members like her are why Kim is savoring her education and deeply grateful for her Motley Scholarship.
The young women are two vibrant examples of our appreciative scholarship recipients. It was an honor on two recent autumn afternoons to tap into their wellsprings of gratitude.
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here’s why your investment to public higher education “reaches higher.”
Nan Cormier is director of advancement communications