Giving back to Vassar: Alumnae/i, seniors express thanks

Pictured here are Chair of the Senior Gift Jasmine Martinez ’18, Senior Class President Ellie Winter ’18 and 2017–2018 VSA President Anish Kanoria ’18 at the Senior Reception.

What completes the ultimate Vassar experience? Jokingly, Matt Stein ’18 [Full disclosure: Stein is Outgoing Assistant Arts Editor for The Miscellany News] replied, “Owning a jean jacket.” Pietro Geraci ’18 answered in all seriousness, “Promoting free speech on campus with the Jacobson lecture, which led to President Bradley asserting the right of students to freedom of expression.”

For current and past Vassar students, an essential lesson learned is the spirit to appreciate and contribute to the betterment of the College.

Senior Week, the post-final days leading up to Commencement, is filled with entertaining activities from hiking to wine-tasting that aim to create the most memorable experiences for the graduating class. These events are planned thanks to the devotion of students in the Senior Class Council, who arranged ticket sales, booked venues and scheduled transportation.

Member of the Senior Class Council Hallie Ayres ’18 shared some of the fun in store for the seniors and their guests: “A lot of the events are things that happen every year, like formal and things like the bowling trip. This year we added a lot of on-campus events, like the TH cookout and the field day, and we also added the volunteering trips, the shuttles to Beacon and the night at Club Escape.”

Ayres enjoyed participating in the events; notably, the formal left a great impression her. She commented, “It was very cool to see nearly the entire class together, especially since that doesn’t really happen except for at graduation.”

Ayres went on to congratulate her fellow students on completing their studies while encouraging the rest to make good use of their time at Vassar. She remarked, “I would tell the non-seniors to make sure they figure out how to work the systems here. It’s possible to create opportunities to do really rewarding projects here, and there are a lot of ways to get money out of this institution.”

Vassar aims not only to equip its students with the necessary skills to pursue their goals but also to provide financial support for their endeavors. Post-Baccalaureate Fellow at the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs & Development Joseph Szymanski ’17 managed this year’s Senior Gift Campaign, the Class of 2018 Scholarship Fund, which calls for endowments from students and alumnae/i. The Vassar Fund dates back to the founding of the College. Last year, it helped to provide students with over $15.5 million in financial aid.

Szymanski introduced the Fund and the mission of the Senior Gift Campaign: “In any institution’s annual fund, every dollar raised during each fiscal year gets spent on whatever area of the college that the donor decides they would like their gift to benefit. There are tons of different designations that a donor can choose to make their gift toward, but the most popular ones are Scholarships, Library Resources, Residential Life, Faculty Salaries & Research, Campus Preservation, Sustainability and Vassar’s Greatest Needs.”

He continued, “Because financial accessibility is so important to us, members of the Class of 2017 and the Class of 2018 made the commitment to establish scholarship funds for each of our respective Senior Gifts. These funds will continue to exist in perpetuity, ensuring that members of our classes know that we can always pay it forward and assist a future Vassar student in pursuing their education.”

The Class of 2018 Scholarship Fund launched on Nov. 7 in the Aula, where students performed music and poetry and joined forces in keeping a Vassar education affordable and accessible for every student. On April 3, the Fund organized a “Lend-A-Hand Day” event in the College Center, inviting the Vassar community to learn about how Vassar alumnae/i help to support student scholarships in the company of puppies and cookies.

Szymanski stated that he decided to work for the Fund because he had benefited immensely from it in the past: “My approach to working as a Post-Bacc on the whole this year has been to do whatever I can to help improve the lives of current and future Vassar students. My five years of experiences at Vassar as a first-generation/low-income queer student and alum have informed my every decision and through even the stormiest of seas have helped me remain resolute in my efforts to help students realize that you truly do have the power to impact Vassar’s future, as well as your own.”

He added, “My main responsibility within The Vassar Fund has been managing The Class of 2018 Scholarship Fund, this year’s Senior Gift Campaign. It’s work that hits really close to home for me as a Transitions alum who would never have been able to attend Vassar if not for the generosity of alumni, families, friends and even administrators who contribute to students’ financial aid packages. The most rewarding part of being a Post-Bacc has been getting to transition from working as a student to working for students, because Vassar is my home and my fellow Vassar students will always have a special place in my heart.”

The Vassar Fund is able to consistently provide financial support for all students in need due to the continuous effort and contributions of alumnae/i. Szymanski proudly concludes, “With more than double the number of seniors giving this year compared to last year, it’s safe to say that this year’s Senior Gift Campaign has been an outstanding success! This is due to all of the incredible work that the Class of 2018 has put into raising awareness [of] financial access at Vassar. Please keep your ears tuned to Jasmine Martinez ’18’s speech during Commencement this Sunday, as she’ll be announcing the final totals as Chair of the Senior Gift!”

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