[pay it forward]
That Attitude of Gratitude
Finding the connection between alumni and students reaps benefits for both
by Carol Cujec
Jim Frazier

We all know it’s better to give than to receive, but did you know that giving can also increase your own sense of happiness and well-being? That’s the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Science. That data is definitely worth taking into account when it comes to helping out the university. Writing a check is one way to give back; other ways include mentoring students on careers, their study abroad or just helping them survive another round of finals.

As a member of the USD National Alumni Board for the past eight years, Rich Yousko ’87 has been trying to get more alumni involved. “Ninety percent of the students that go through USD had a phenomenal time. They got the best education ever and walked away with great friends for a lifetime, but when it comes to actually making a donation, there’s a disconnect,” he says. “We need to challenge our alums to make that conscious decision to give back.”

Toward that end, the board has created scholarships endowed specifically by alumni, like the Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship. Kyle — the son of two alums, Mike ‘87 and Julie ‘88 (Belfiore) O’Connell — lost his battle with brain cancer in 2005. Yousko, who was Mike’s friend, helped create this scholarship for students pursuing studies in science, nursing and counseling. “Scholarships are a tangible way for alumni to give back to the university and know that it’s going toward something very near and dear to them — the education of future students,” says Yousko. How does it feel to donate? Fantastic, he says. “When we direct money to Kyle’s scholarship at USD, we know it’s something that will give back over a long time. Who knows, maybe someone who receives Kyle’s scholarship will make a huge difference in the world.”

Each time Ashley Farrell ’97 returns to campus, she recalls hours spent chatting with friends over coconut smoothies in the deli. “Some days, it feels like I never left,” she laughs. As a member of the alumni board’s Outreach Committee, Farrell enjoys attending many student/alumni events on campus, such as Take a Torero to Lunch, in which alumni answer student questions about careers and transitioning into the workforce. Like an A-list celebrity, Farrell recently found herself with a line of students waiting to talk to her about her experiences working in marketing for UPS. “I know I helped steer them in the right direction,” recalls Farrell. “It made me feel really good to give back.” She encourages others to come to campus and simply feel the energy. “I always say, ‘Just try one thing, and it’s addictive. You’ll make time because it’s so rewarding.’”

Arika Wells ’02, a new alumni volunteer, recently reconnected with USD after working out of state for four years. She served up some tasty grub to anxious undergrads at the most recent Finals Feeding Frenzy. “I could see the stress on their faces, and I was thinking, ‘Oh to be young again and just have the stress of finals.’” As a black student, Wells remembers being one of the few minorities at an event or in a class. One of her goals is to show other minority students that they’re not alone. She describes her alumni involvement as a blessing. “If nothing else, it’s a blessing to me, and I hope it’s a blessing to somebody else too.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, call (619) 260-4819 or send an e-mail to