Connect for Life

Posted on 09. Dec, 2011 by in Alumni, Features, Gift Report, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Issues, People, Students

Connect for Life
A new program is helping spark a conversation with students about how private giving is transforming the UW-Madison College of Engineering.

Connect for Life,” launched in fall 2011 by Engineering External Relations, is providing a variety of ways to illustrate how alumni and friends directly contribute to student success inside and outside the classroom. Connect for Life is coordinated by Avery Wine, a junior in industrial and systems engineering and vice president of external relations for the Society of Women Engineers.

The ultimate goal of Connect for Life is to raise awareness of how graduates can become lifelong contributors to the success of the college, through volunteering, mentoring and philanthropy. It also intends to show how all gifts, big or small, have a measurable impact on the college. “It is important for students to know how much giving truly impacts their college experience,” Wine says. “Engineering revenue and gifts from alumni and friends are helping support more resources that students rely on every day.”

Examples include a supplemental instruction program that provides free drop-in tutoring for engineering majors, Wine says. Paid for by private gifts, the program is used by more than 1,200 students per year and is making an impact on engineering graduation rates.

Virtually all of the 58 engineering student organizations rely on some kind of private support for their programs, says Wine. Donors provide assistance for everything from textbooks to international travel.
Connect for Life grew out of multiple years of discussions with the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), a group of 16 influential alumni who advise the college on strategic directions. The board recognized that in order to maintain quality, the college must increase the overall percentage of alumni who give annually—from the current 10 percent to at least 20 percent. After a number of fruitful planning sessions with the IAB development committee, Connect for Life was born.

This fall, Connect for Life sponsored an essay contest encouraging students to tell personal stories about how gifts helped them. The program received a remarkable 63 entries. Winners were announced at a November 16 student-alumni reception that drew more than 120 people to Union South.

Also announced on November 16 was one of the centerpieces of Connect for Life—a new gift-matching opportunity created by the IAB. Through generous contributions from IAB members, Connect for Life will match, two-to-one, any gift given by an engineering alumnus who graduated in the past three years. The IAB made a three-year commitment to the match, which is designed to be an exciting way for young alumni to join the family of donors.

An engineering degree from UW-Madison greatly enhances a graduate’s job prospects, increases lifetime earning potential and provides ways to create a better world. Nine of the nation’s top-10-
highest starting salaries for college graduates are in engineering, and the vast majority of graduates today will have starting salaries above $55,000 per year. “When students graduate,” Wine says, “they will realize the impact of giving on their learning experience and hopefully return the gift to future students.”

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