At the Tepper School of Business – which caused a sea change by bringing quantitative methods to business – the 2016 full-time MBA graduating class made a splash in their Graduating Class Gift Campaign, presenting Dean Robert Dammon with their final campaign results of 99.5 percent class participation and $21,028 raised during the annual Graduation Open House on May 12.
The funds raised from the 2016 Class Gift will support the creation of a Tepper School-specific webinar and podcast series. The class plans to continue fundraising until they reach the $50,000 endowment minimum. Once the minimum is achieved, the fund will exist in perpetuity and directly support the webinar and podcast series initiative annually. The decision to earmark this money toward a multimedia series for the Tepper community was one that was driven by support from their peers and the university.
The MBA students began their class gift campaign in the fall 2015 Mini. Discussions started early on about how the class wanted to leave their legacy at the Tepper School. Liza Tresser, MBA ’16 and Class Gift Committee Co-Chair said the gift designation ideas were a team effort. “We insisted on having a vote so that we could get as much buy in for the class gift as possible. We wanted people to really feel like they were a part of the decision,” explained Tresser.
Keeping current students involved in the process was crucial, but considering alumni needs was also critical to deciding on a class gift designation. For that perspective, the class gift committee turned to the Tepper School’s Alumni Board, who work to advance the interests of the school’s global alumni community.
“The original idea for the podcast series came from hearing that getting access to new research or feeling like you are keeping up with trends in industries or function is very difficult when you’re working,” Tresser added. “The Alumni Board was therefore very interested in the continuing education nature of our designation idea and they jumped on board quickly to pledge money in the form of a match challenge should we reach 90 percent participation.” The board pledged $7,000 in matching funds to inspire class participation to reach at least the 90 percent level. This was the first coordinated class gift match ever presented by the board.
“The podcast/webinar series will be available to students, alumni, faculty and staff at Tepper and the annual draw from our endowed class fund will be used to purchase the required technology and support the upkeep by providing resources for content development,” Onyi Okeh, MBA ’16 and a participating committee member, said of the program.
When facing the challenge of getting other students to donate, Tuyen Huynh, MBA ’16 and Class Gift Committee Co-Chair said it was all about starting the conversation: “I think having an open conversation, telling students the actual numbers on how much it costs the school to run the program, how much we rely on the endowment funds from alumni donations…we all realized that we benefited from the generosity of our past classes. I think because of that everybody felt compelled to contribute to the class gift.”
The full-time MBA Class of 2016 achieved a 99.5 percent participation rate, matching the Class of 2014’s record setting participation during their class gift campaign. These continuously high participation rates highlight the sense of pride and tradition among members of the Tepper School community. From current students to alumni, Tepper pride remains resilient, and keeping students engaged past graduation is vital to the school’s success. Chuck Bracken, MSIA ’78 and member of the Tepper School Alumni Board who spearheaded the board match challenge this year explained that keeping the class gift excitement going is beneficial to all.
“Not only were we encouraging the graduating class to give to the school to create that lasting connection, but they were also going to donate toward a class gift, which is the webinar and podcast series,” Bracken said. “If you’re reaching out to alumni and allowing them to view webinars, that’s a great way to keep them connected to the school. I saw it was a win-win.”
Okeh added, “Tepper's strong sense of community also helped this effort as students saw it as a way of supporting their classmates who had already given and other students coming after them while helping the school continue its culture of philanthropy.”