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Answer the call

Telephone campaigns are part of WSU Foundation's 50-year history

WSU Foundation Annual Fund student callers in 1986
WSU Foundation telephone campaign students in 1986...

For 40 years — this month — Wichita State has been conducting telephone campaigns to raise unrestricted dollars from alumni to support students and faculty, purchase equipment and fulfill research and technology needs. It has an interesting history.

The telefund began with students, alumni and faculty volunteering as callers. Local companies donated refreshments and there were contests among the student organizations as a way to encourage involvement — for many years the prize was a keg of beer. Even a free pair of airline tickets was given to the faculty raising the most money. Calls were made in the basement of the University Club, where the Marcus Welcome Center now stands, and from under Cessna Stadium.

In 1999, the short-term campaigns became the Annual Fund for Excellence and a full-time director was hired to oversee a more formalized process to support WSU.

WSU Foundation Annual Fund callers in 2015
... and student callers in 2015.

Today, the call center is located in the Woodman Alumni Center basement. About 25 students are employed for the school year to call more than 50,000 alumni across the United States. Students call alumni within their same college, giving them an opportunity to communicate relevant news and visit about commonalities of student life then and now. Students and alumni make connections when students share current experiences and alumni reflect on their favorite memories and even impart some beneficial career advice.

“I got to learn so much from alumni when making calls, from the history of the university to advice on how to succeed in the job force with my degree,” said Grace Sirois, 2015 WSU junior, majoring in pre-nursing. Sirois has been an annual fund caller for two years.

The annual fund also is a great way for students to immerse themselves in the college experience.

“The annual fund was the starting point for my involvement here at Wichita State,” said Sirois. “I got to make connections with so many different people, which helped me become a Transition Mentor for our Office of Transitions and Orientation and a member of the Future Healthcare Professionals through the College of Health Professions. In addition it also just helped me be more involved in campus life.”

Each college and University Libraries are impacted by the gifts in many ways, from being able to provide free tutoring for students to sending faculty to national conferences.

“Annual funds have been used to support student travel to the Kansas Teacher of the Year banquet and to other professional conferences,” said Shirley Lefever-DavisShirley Lefever-Davis, dean of the College of Education. “These events are essential to building student enthusiasm and engagement with their chosen profession. They are able to hear and learn from a multitude of experts on a wide variety of topics — they learn from the best.”

The reach of these gifts is significant and many areas affected may not be covered fully or at all by individual departments’ budgets.

“Having annual funds available helps to stretch the general use budget,” said Lefever-Davis, “so departments can provide more resources to students than they would be able to without the funds.”

The next time your phone rings, please answer the call. There is a WSU student waiting to connect with you.

 

A Golden Anniversary

 

This year, the WSU Foundation marks the 50th anniversary of its founding. We will share highlights of our journey in each issue of Horizon this year. If you have a memory, story or observation involving the WSU Foundation, please share it by contacting Belinda Venters, WSU Foundation director of communications, at 319-978-5624 or belinda.venters@wichita.edu.