ANSWERING THE CALL Phonathon connects a new generation of students and alumni BY ROMEL HERNANDEZ
You’ve just put away the dinner dishes and are getting ready to unwind with a glass of wine, maybe catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones, when the phone rings. “Hello!” says a chipper voice on the line. “I’m a student at Reed calling on behalf of the Annual Fund . . .” The possibilities are myriad—swapping stories about the steam tunnels and owl fights in the Quad, what classes they’re taking, your first job after Reed, Occam’s razor, the Pareto principle. Who knows? That serendipitous conversation may wind up being the best part of your day. And if the connection is genuine, you might even donate to the Annual Fund. The gift you make winds up going into everything that makes Reed, well, Reed. The Annual Fund’s impact is pervasive and profound, supporting an array of worthy endeavors—financial aid for needy students, faculty research, library books, computers, lab equipment . . . there is not a single student or professor who doesn’t benefit directly. Located in the basement of Eliot Hall, the phonathon is staffed by 32 Reed students who have been put through a rigorous hiring and training process. On the wall is a poster with the four values the students chose as attributes of a phonathon caller: Professional. Personable. Persuasive. Persistent. The operation is overseen by Alex Cherin ’12, assistant director of the Annual Fund and himself a phonathon caller in his student days. After working in advertising after graduating, he jumped at the chance to work with and mentor current students and play a role in “shaping a positive part of their experience at Reed.” Phonathon students are encouraged to see the job as more than a work-study gig. A certain degree of salesmanship is essential, to be sure, but the work is ultimately
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Lara Simonetti ’20 and Joel Staudinger ’19 keep the Phonathon environment fun and the conversations engaging.
driven by Reed’s mission. “At first the job can seem stressful and scary,” says Joel Staudinger ’19, who started out as a caller and worked up to shift manager. “Over time I was able to see that this work was about something bigger, that it was about this grand idea about what Reed is and what it can be. That’s what makes it fulfilling.” On a recent afternoon, the phonathon was buzzing with a diverse range of voices— first-years and seniors, humanities and science majors, extroverts and introverts. The lights are dimmed but the room is illuminated by the sparkle of Christmas-tree lights.
Alex kicked off the shift with a silent meditation, followed by a quick group check-in and a whimsical question to loosen everyone up (a recent example: “Beyoncé or Rihanna?”) Then he wrote the day’s goal on a whiteboard: $16,857. “Who thinks we’ll make that tonight?” Across the room hands shoot up. “Yeah!” The most enthusiastic voice belongs to Lara Simonetti ’20. Last year she inspired more than 200 donors to give back to Reed— an astonishing number. What’s her secret? “I just enjoy the conversations,” she says.