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The cover of the Spring 2007 SF State Magazine features two penguins, heads bent together as they view their offspring on the ground below.

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Alumni & FriendsStudent Jennifer Smith, wearing a red sweatshirt and telephone headset, smiles broadly as she talks with a potential donor by phone.  Other students, wearing headsets, are in the background. Photo by Rena Buchgraber

SF State Calling

Inside a campus office space
filled with dozens of students making phone calls, the sound of victory suddenly rings out.

"Thank you for your generous donation to San Francisco State," says undergrad Kerry Richards. She hangs up the phone and steps away from her colleagues, 28 students calling SF State alumni on a Tuesday night in March. Their goal is to raise money for the University's Annual Fund, which supports SF State's most urgent needs -- anything from student scholarships to technology upgrades in classrooms. Alumni can also earmark their donations for a particular college or program near and dear to their hearts.

"The best part is talking with alumni from a wide age range," says Richards, a recent transfer student from Los Angeles, who enjoys chatting with alumni who share her enthusiasm for SF State. "It's been great to get their recommendations for professors, classes, things to do," she says.

Making as many as 100 calls per night has also helped Richards hone her communication skills. "If this isn't training to become a confident and persuasive speaker, I don't know what is," she says.

Indeed, striking up a conversation with a faceless stranger can be awkward. But, "What's more difficult than asking for money?" says Jennifer Smith, a broadcast major who has worked in the call center since October, when the phone campaign began. "This job has helped me personality-wise. I've become more outgoing."

Yes, there are occasional hang ups and people certain the calls are some kind of scam. "You can't get discouraged," Smith says. As a liaison between alumni and the University, she passes their concerns and suggestions to her supervisor, who monitors each call to make sure all goes smoothly. Most often, she says, alumni ask what she's studying and offer advice for her future career. "It's nice. When we hang up, they say 'I know you'll succeed.'"


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Last modified June 19, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications