August 28, 2013

Tell us about your position of Assistant Director of Annual Giving

I am primarily responsible for the WPI student calling center, which has a goal of increasing the value of a WPI education. We raise funds to improve lab equipment, academic programs, and facilities, and to create scholarships for students. In the process we retain the most up-to-date information on our alumni and parents as well as update them on upcoming WPI events in their area, recent accolades WPI has received, and any further accomplishments we are proud of.

How do you manage to keep student callers motivated and energized?

The students here at WPI are not typical college students in many ways. They are so academically challenged, relentlessly busy, and spread extremely thin—all while trying to save the world in seven weeks. Then they do it again.  I try to make coming to the Call Center less of a job and more of a break from the daily projects, homework, and exams with the opportunity to make a tangible difference and possibly even network with some well-connected alumni. We play many games to look forward to at the end of the shift, with prizes for the best callers. We also do friendly competitions with a larger prize at the end to keep them motivated, all the while having fun. Any person who has met college students knows the quickest way to their hearts is through their stomachs, so food is a great motivator as well as a prize.

To be honest, the students who work for me are an amazing group from diverse parts of the world. We are more of a family than strangers working together for a few hours a week. They all come together to create this unique group of student callers who work hard but have fun while doing it. The second they come in for their shift the room is filled with such comraderies, laughter, and positive energy that staying motivated and energized comes naturally.

Has there been a particularly memorable donation in the past?

The conversations that stick out to me are those in which callers create a friendship.  Alumni have told callers, “Save my email address, send my your resume, I would love to pass it on to connections I have in your major.” Most recently, one alumnus said, “Lets figure out the best time for you to come in and shadow my shift at the hospital one day.” The student caller was literally jumping with excitement. Through speaking with a local alumnus, one student even found her MQP, which she just completed this past May. Our number one goal is to raise money for WPI, which we have successfully done and will continue to do to the best of our ability; but if students can make a professional connections in the process that furthers them in their studies and eventual career, I am more than ecstatic about it.

Do you have anything exciting going on this summer? How about in the fall?

This summer we surpassed our goal of $312,000 in gifts and pledges, finishing with just over $336,000. The fall will kick off our fiscal 2014 calling year, which will be the start of my third year here. I will begin the recruiting, hiring, and training process as soon as the students arrive.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the WPI community?

WPI truly is a one-of-a-kind school with unique students. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work here and be part of the community. I encourage everyone to come by the Call Center and meet with these remarkable students who raise thousands of dollars in support of student scholarships among other areas of WPI and speak with them about their department’s workings, news, and accolades.

Christine Melhorn