Mills College offers numerous work-study jobs for students, ranging from working in the library to the admissions office. But one job has students doing something different: making connections and bonding with alumnae.
The Telephone Outreach Program (TOP) is a part of the College’s Annual Fund that employs students to call alumnae, parents, and friends to support not only faculty salaries but also student scholarships.
According to the Mills College website, this group of students contacts almost 20,000 members of the Mills community every year. Last year, 95 percent of Mills undergraduates received financial aid directly from the college, which is generated by donations or gifts from alumnae that were called by these students. According to Assistant Vice President of Advancement Services and Annual Giving Mike Pasqua, TOP raised $240,000 last fiscal year which was put towards incoming freshman scholarships
Chavon Rosenthal, telephone outreach and class agent programs manager, said that these students do more than just ask for money.
“It’s not just about fundraising,” Rosenthal said. “But one of the things about sitting in and listening to calls is that we are the connection point for alumnae. It’s really an opportunity to talk with alumnae and find out what they’re doing. So to me it’s a lot of relationship building.”
Employees are given a script to guide them in how to initiate conversation, but they must also connect with their callers on a more personal level. New caller and sophomore Lindsay Quiring said this can be difficult.
“The hardest part for me is actually just talking on the phone; because I hated talking on the phone,” Quiring said. ” I wouldn’t even order pizza. I wanted a job that’s going to challenge me and this was definitely it.”
To help new callers like Quiring, TOP hires past callers as shift leaders. Shift leader and senior Maya Haines who has worked for TOP for three years, uses her experience to help new callers.
“I can relate to all my experiences with alumnae,” Haines said. “I know and I remember what that feels like. I want to use that, and make their experience that much better.
The job does have its bad days, according to shift leader Senior Nikka Tahan, who is in her fourth year at TOP.
“I know it was difficult for me to ask people for money,” Tahan said. “We do call parents and ask for money. We do call recent graduates and ask for money. We call people who have lost their jobs, gotten sick … So then, to have to ask that person for money can be really challenging.”
Tahan said bonding is also a part of the job and that makes it worth it.
“That’s most people’s favorite part of the job [and] was my favorite part of the job,” Tahan said. ” You get to sit and have a wonderful conversation with anybody from two to 40 minutes about their experience at Mills.”
Junior and third-year caller Sophie McArthur reminisces on the connections she has made over the years with some callers, and agrees it is well worth it.
“You talk to people and they just have incredibly motivating stories and it’s all okay,” McArthur said. ” All the hang-ups, all the calling people who are on food stamps, It is all made worth it by that.”