[gung ho]
Giving Back
Alumni board member Shannon Smith is on a mission to increase participation

If you’re an alum who doesn’t care about USD, stop reading. But let’s say that you do care, and that your idea of caring means investing yourself on a personal level. Here are a few things you can do to lend a hand. Hungry? How about taking a Torero to lunch? This event — held every February — brings alumni and students together to refine networking skills. There’s a faint resemblance to speed dating, with students rotating among tables to quiz alumni about careers.

Another way to connect to students is to speak on campus. Learning how to survive in the real world is the message of Courtney Smith ’04, who works for San Diego City Councilman Brian Maienschein. As a guest speaker, she gives undergrads a heads-up about what to expect when transitioning from school to work. “As I started working, I thought, ’Is this what I’m going to be doing for the next 40 years?’” says Smith. “It’s nice to have somebody say that those feelings are normal.”

Sam Morgan, president of the Student Alumni Association, wants to see more alums like Smith on campus. The association seeks alumni to speak at or participate in events like Finals Feeding Frenzy. “Alums can quell our fears,” says Morgan. “It’s reassuring to hear how well they’ve done with a wide range of degrees.”

Still, many students are overwhelmed about landing that precious first job. Fortunately, alumni are around to offer a leg up. According to Linda Scales, director of career services, a significant number of jobs and internships posted on ToreroLink come from alumni.

Megan Turner ’03 mentors grads through the Alumni Online Community. As royalties supervisor for BMG Publishing, she’s done informational interviews for students looking to break into the industry. “I recommend they come to L.A. for a summer and see if they like it,” says Turner. “If they haven’t been on a film set, they don’t know what it’s like to work 16 hours and then go home and do laundry.”

What could be a more tangible way to shape the future than by helping to recruit the brightest students? Members of the Volunteer Alumni Network represent USD at recruiting events nationwide. According to undergraduate admissions director Steve Pultz, competition is fierce. “Alumni are critical to attracting a more diverse and more highly qualified student body,” says Pultz. “They’re giving back to the school in a way that’s very important.”

Last year, the admissions office began a pilot program in which alumni interviewed student applicants in the Chicago area. Maureen Partynski ’82, a retired bank CEO, was on hand, along with Paul Purcell ’97, partner at a hedge fund. “These kids were serious about going to USD, but they might not have been able to afford the trip for a personal interview,” says Partynski. And what do alumni get from this experience? Institutional pride, says Purcell: “USD was a very special place for me. I do this because I believe in USD and I want USD to succeed.”