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Meeting the sponsor

As it stands, over 60 percent of the University’s undergraduates receive financial aid and the University's no-loan program has been an incredible success over the years. Our $17 billion endowment can attest to that. But the monetary gifts that make such a substantial endowment possible start with the help of the alumni who feel the need to give back. And soon, we will be leading the way for Tigers after us to benefit from the fruits of our labor.

Each year, the Office of Stewardship sends an email to financial aid recipients in order to encourage them to send thank you letters to their sponsors. But in order to bridge the gap between old and new Princetonians, I suggest having a personal meet and greet with individual sponsors and leaders of certain funds rather than merely sending a letter.

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The rationale for sending a letter is very simple: it is not time-consuming. Students can quickly draft a letter thanking their sponsors and send it off in a matter of minutes. But a meet and greet would be more beneficial because alumni would be able to actually see whose education their donations are funding. Alumni who attend would be able to link their money to a particular student whose academic aspirations and goals probably would not have been possible had it not been for their generosity.

Getting students to meet with their benefactors could be quite a daunting task to accomplish due to scheduling conflicts among the countless alumni and hundreds of students who receive financial aid. This event would have to span at least a day, perhaps as an extension of Alumni Day. Alumni Day is already the closest analogue to this potential event. Students have the opportunity to reconnect with alumni through a series of lectures, dinners, symposiums, networking and other events. But during these events, the alumni are meeting countless students in very short spans of time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the alumni are unable to establish any personal connection with current students. Establishing a meet and greet as part of Alumni Day celebrations, maybe in Prospect House or Dillon Gymnasium, would allow alumni to meet the students with whom they share a small part of Princetonian history — the cycle of annual giving.

We as Princeton students should think more about the factors that allow us to be here. Often we look at the results of our own actions without thinking about who or what has helped us achieve all that we have in the first place. We spend so much time connecting with alumni for networking and fun during Reunions but not much time simply sharing their company in order to reflect on their charity.

Personal interactions with those who have either directly or indirectly helped you gain success in life should be encouraged more. They give you an intimate story to tell to other Princetonians so that they in turn will be inspired to contribute. These bonds of shared experiences and charity are what strengthen any family, and we should be doing all that we can to make sure that no “relative” gets neglected. Actually meeting the people who help to make our education possible would be a nice place to start.

Morgan Jerkins is a comparative literature major from Williamstown, N.J. She can be reached atmjerkins@princeton.edu.

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