December 4, 2007

Abigail Seibel works the phones for Tele-Pony.

When junior Abigail Seibel worked last year as a caller for Tele-Pony, SMU’s telemarketing outreach to alumni, she enjoyed making connections with alumni nationwide representing every graduating class.

"When I called to ask for their support, they wanted to know how campus has changed and to hear about Homecoming and the Boulevard," she says. "They also wanted to tell me what it was like ‘back when’. One alum from the class of 1936 described how there used to be only one road." This year, Seibel is managing 25 Tele-Pony student callers.

SMU’s goal is to encourage all alumni to support the University by making a gift to the area that most interests them.

"Every alum’s decision to show support is what matters most – more than the amount," says Seibel, who is majoring in international studies and Spanish. Her parents, Mark (’75) and Kelly (’76), also are alumni.

The percentage of alumni who give financially to their alma maters is used as a factor by national publications such as U.S. News & World Report in determining university rankings. "Alumni giving also plays a significant role in encouraging large donors, corporations and foundations to support SMU," adds Mark Petersen, associate vice president for development and alumni affairs. "It is a vote of confidence and sign of commitment."

Although alumni may pledge to programs of their choice, students call on behalf of specific schools and the SMU Fund, which provides unrestricted support to fi­nance SMU’s academic mission and meet its operating budget needs. In spring 2008, students will call parents for gifts to the SMU Parent Fund, which also supports campus operations.

Last year’s gifts helped provide scholarships and financial aid to students; funds for faculty and student research; services at the Hegi Family Career Development Center, including on-campus job interviews and résumé assistance; library materials and subscriptions to journals; and new technology in residence halls, classrooms and labs.  

"Every gift makes a difference," says Seibel, noting that during last year’s phona­thon, pledges of $35 and under totaled more than $37,000. "Alumni and parents are helping every student – and the entire University – with their support."

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By The Numbers

  • Students made more than 494,000 calls during last year’s phonathon.
  • Students call 271 different area codes and all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico, Quebec and the Virgin Islands.
  • Each SMU student calls an average of 12 hours a week Sundays through Thursdays.