Our William & Mary culture is unique. With every new generation of alumni, there is talk about what life was like when they were here. For my generation, there will surely be conversations at class reunions about Wawa mac and cheese, how nice the Tyler Hall renovation was, and the end of President Reveley's tenure. There will also be talk, for now and evermore, about student philanthropy.
When the Class of 2018 emerged from the Wren Building on our Convocation, there was little if any emphasis on students giving back to the university. Coming from a first generation college family, I was only vaguely aware of the importance of alumni donations - and even less aware of the importance of student engagement. My family had barely gathered the money to fund my first year; how could I be expected to give anymore?
As I prepare for Commencement, I now thoroughly understand the importance of building a culture of engagement and philanthropy at the student level. That understanding has come from my time as both a member and former chair of Students for University Advancement (SUA). SUA has worked tirelessly to educate current students on the importance of giving back to William & Mary. Little did I know as a freshman, private support impacts nearly every area of campus and student life. In fact, it is through the generosity of donors that I was able to continue my studies through scholarships. SUA and other student philanthropy programs like Senior Class Gift teach students to be involved alumni after they graduate. It teaches them how important it is to give back our time, our talents and our treasure to keep William & Mary strong.
The future of our student philanthropy programs looks bright. We're having record numbers of students giving back during events like Impact Week and One Tribe One Day. But we must do even more to ensure that we are truly building a culture of engagement and philanthropy among students. This includes teaching our first year students about philanthropy's importance not just to the university, but generally. We will continue to meet students where they are on their alumni journey. And most of all, we will continue to help students understand that giving back to W&M is one of the best ways they can do what W&M students are inclined to do already: make a difference in the lives of others.
Philanthropy has changed my life. Private support made college affordable for me and my family. My time working with SUA and University Advancement has ignited a passion in me to make development my career. My life is only one of many that giving has touched. And through our continued efforts through our student philanthropy programs, it will impact many more to come.