Engaging Students

Shane Jacobson, vice president for development and alumni relations

Embedding philanthropy as part of the educational experience helps students connect their learning to the careers they want to pursue and the lives they want to lead. It upholds our values and prepares students to be philanthropically effective in a changing world. 

Just as our Office of Development and Alumni Relations engages alumni in the life and work of the College, we have established ambitious goals to more effectively build relationships with current students. Students are helping to fuel the development of programs that encourage peers to demonstrate College affinity while preparing them to stay engaged after graduation. 

From the time they arrive on campus, Grinnell students gain a sense of becoming “alumni in residence.” As they become part of a deeply connected intellectual and professional network, they also find that this connectivity involves sharing their time, talent, treasure, and ties in their home communities, with other members of the Grinnell community, and with the College. They learn firsthand that strengthening commitments among people who represent the future of our alumni programming is healthy for the College and fundamental to what it means to be a Grinnellian.

We fortified this commitment in 2014 by adding to our staff an assistant director of student programs — a position dedicated to both building new programs and strengthening others that visionary alumni previously helped establish. Our professionals are partnering with a group of student leaders who comprise the Student Alumni Council and whose guidance established activities such as I Heart GC Week. These students invest personally and creatively to build philanthropic awareness and skills for future engagement with their peers. 

We are especially proud that this nascent program has already been recognized by our peers in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Last August, leadership from the Student Alumni Council and the Senior Class Gift Committee traveled to the CASE Conference in Washington, D.C. The trip was made possible by a gift from Barry Zigas ’73 and Jodie Levin-Epstein ’72. In addition to receiving an honorable mention award for National Philanthropy Week, the students benchmarked their philanthropy education program against their peers and had the opportunity to network with advancement professionals from across the country.

Our vision of achieving Grinnell’s enduring mission in unpredictable times is enhanced by our ability to connect with alumni at all levels. Whether we are helping to facilitate the effectiveness of future class fund directors or planting the seeds of networking opportunities throughout the global Grinnell network, we anticipate that this new student-focused approach will help guide the student-to-alumni transition.

As giving by Grinnell’s young alumni trends upward, we hope to see more young alumni stepping up in volunteer roles and larger numbers of alumni attending reunions. On campus, we are elevating the importance of giving back and paying forward as an essential component of what it means to be part of the Grinnell family. That is a trend that will benefit all Grinnellians, present and future. 

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