Making Connections Students Meet Alumni Through Annual Phonathon

Nearly every afternoon and evening, students filled the basement of the Havstad Alumni Center last quarter, hoping to connect with Walla Walla College (WWC) alumni.

Those 25 students were part of the annual Phonathon, a yearly effort to stay in touch with alumni while raising money for student scholarships and grants.

Approximately 87 percent of WWC students benefit from the money raised during Phonathon. The callers benefit in even more ways: by gaining a better understanding of WWC, improving their communication skills, making new friends among the calling team, and getting to know WWC alumni and friends.

“There is an obvious positive energy created when they work,” says Darius Fleck, a member of the Office of College Advancement at WWC and coordinator of this year’s Phonathon. “The alumni we call help create this energy too. They often share entertaining stories of their experience here at WWC, and many give an encouraging word to the student callers.”

“My favorite calls are the ones to people who went to medical school with my dad or grandpa. It’s fun to hear their stories and to make a connection,” says Kristine Jones, a junior nursing major.

The students, who range from freshmen to seniors and represent majors across campus, agree that the best calls are ones to alumni who are interested in having a conversation or who want to pray with the students—regardless of whether or not they pledge a gift.

By the middle of November, alumni had made more than 1,100 pledges, resulting in $115,852. That’s slightly above the callers’ self-set goal of $115,000.

Fleck is excited, but not surprised, at how quickly the students surpassed their goal. “They’re a really hard-working group. They have experienced great success and have really done a good job at motivating themselves and each other.”

After several hours, however, the calls can begin to blend together, especially when faced with yet another answering machine. That’s when the students find ways to entertain themselves—though often unintentionally. “One night I was leaving a message and I introduced myself, saying that I was from ‘Walla Walla Walla College,’” says Ken Anderson, a freshman speech communication major.

Freshman nursing major Kirstin Schmidt says one of the biggest challenges is dealing with people who are “grumpy or just mean. It’s hard to keep sounding cheerful when you just had somebody hang up on you.”

“But even that challenge becomes a neat experience when we start supporting each other through the tough nights,” adds Saida Mejia, a junior business major.

Overall, the students think the Phonathon was a great success and look forward to reconnecting with each other, and WWC alumni, during next year’s Phonathon.

Featured in: January 2007