Diana Rodriguez-Agiss earned three bachelor degrees, was heavily active in Associated Students, service and cultural organizations, and held leadership roles throughout her four years as a University of San Diego undergraduate student. Eight months later and now a first-year law student, Rodriguez-Agiss remains busy with schoolwork, but she’s still serving in a leadership capacity as a USD alumna.
She’s part of a Culture of Giving Committee for the new Give and Invest for Toreros (GIFT) program. This is a collaborative effort with current students, alumni and USD’s Student Affairs, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving offices to make current students aware of the significance of giving back to their university to fund scholarships and student organizations and instill the value of student philanthropy.
Students help students. Toreros help Toreros.
“With nearly 70 percent of USD students receiving some form of financial aid while attending USD, making a small contribution as a student is a great way to pay it forward,” said Annual Giving Assistant Director Alicia Massei. “Many of our Toreros are incredibly grateful for the scholarships they’ve received and want to give other deserving students the same opportunities that they were given.”
Donor participation is important at every university. When donor participation numbers rise, good things follow. School rankings can go up, grants are more likely to be given by outside foundations and organizations when they see that students and alumni support the university and its programs, too. As a result, the value of a USD degree also increases.
“When you’re a student, you might not think about it, but I have a really different perspective now as an alumna,” Rodriguez-Agiss said. “Students need to be aware of the importance of giving back to USD and to future Toreros.”
Trevor Olson, a senior accountancy major, understands. He’s on the committee, as well as USD’s Senior Class Legacy, which was started by the Class of 1989. He’s part of a group of seniors currently encouraging fellow Class of 2013 members to donate to a fund that will provide scholarships for next year’s freshman.
Olson, a past Phi Kappa Theta president, knows what his fellow students might be thinking. Asking them to donate to the university when they’re already paying their normal college costs can be difficult.
“USD has an image that all students just write a check,” he said. “When I talk about [giving back] they’ll initially give me a funny look, but when I tell them that 70 percent of undergraduate students are on some type of financial aid, it makes them think. I tell them to think about their 10 best friends here. Without financial aid and scholarship support, seven of those ten friends wouldn’t be here.”
The GIFT program expands on the Senior Class Legacy concept, promoting a culture of giving by all students. The committee has developed ways for students to contribute. Those who shop for books or merchandise at the Torero Store have the option of donating $2, $5 or $10 toward their Class Legacy Scholarship fund. Students who donate receive a sticker for their Torero identification card. The sticker entitles students to specific campus benefits: a front-of-the-line pass to Alumni Relations’ Finals Feeding Frenzy in May; access to an area with food at two basketball games and the Torero Program Board’s Ole Music Festival concert, and admission to Diego’s Day at the Bay event on May 3.
Rodriguez-Agiss and Olson understand that not all students are in a position to give, but every bit helps for the good of fellow Toreros.
“The goal for us is participation, not so much the amount of the donation,” Olson said. “Four years from now, if every student gives $25 a year, that’s $100 more of an impact by each person.”
Olson said he is currently focused on getting USD Greek Life members on board. He gave a presentation to the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic leadership organizations this week. He wants to encourage this student community — about 25 percent of the total USD undergraduate students on campus are in Greek Life — to embrace GIFT. Olson said he would like to have this Spring’s Greek Week include a contest to see which Greek organization can achieve the highest participation rate.
“We hope students will contribute and feel good knowing they’re a part of something that gives back to the university and helps other students,” Rodriguez-Agiss said.
— Ryan T. Blystone