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New initiative encourages young alumni participation in giving

Attendees at Connect for Life reception

Civil and environmental engineering undergraduate Mitch Heffernan and mechanical engineering alum Kristofer Dressler chat during an alumni-student networking event. The event was part of the Connect for Life initiative, which seeks to illustrate how private giving makes a difference in many ways in engineering students' academic experience.

The College of Engineering announced on Nov. 16 a new program that will provide a 2-to-1 match of any gift made by a student or recent graduate of the college.
 
During a Union South reception attended by more than 120 students, alumni and faculty, engineering Dean Paul S. Peercy announced that the college’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) has given more than $30,000 to support the gift-matching program. The IAB is a 16-member board of prominent engineering alumni who advise the college on strategic directions.

The Nov. 16 reception officially kicked off “Connect for Life,” a program devoted to illustrating how alumni and friends directly contribute to student success inside and outside the classroom. Connect for Life is coordinated by Avery Wine, a junior in industrial and systems engineering and vice president for external relations for the UW-Madison student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

The ultimate goal of Connect for Life is to raise awareness of how graduates can become lifelong contributors to the success of the college, through volunteering, mentoring and philanthropy. 

“It is important for students to know how much giving truly impacts their college experience,” Wine says. “With tuition only providing about 15 percent of College of Engineering revenue, gifts from alumni and friends are helping support more resources that students rely on every day.”

Connect for Life grew out of multiple years of discussions with the college IAB. The board recognized that the college’s future success requires significantly growing the base of alumni who give annually—from the current 10 percent to approximately 20 percent. IAB members made financial pledges to Connect for Life at both the spring and fall 2011 meetings.

“Our message to current students is that every gift matters, no matter the size,” says John Berndt, chair of the IAB. “Developing and maintaining that habit of giving will help ensure the college remains vibrant in the 21st century.”

At the Nov. 16 reception, alumnus Matt Younkle also announced winners of an essay contest that encouraged students to tell personal stories about how gifts benefited their college experience.  The contest received 63 entries. Aaron Wells, a senior in engineering mechanics and astronautics, won first place and an Apple iPad2 for his story about how a study-abroad scholarship to Germany helped him reconnect with a best friend he met during an earlier tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force.

The five winning essays are posted online here. You can follow Connect for Life on Facebook here.

Brian Mattmiller
11/17/2011