Leader Among Students Inspires Support

October 15, 2012

Graduate student Courtney Saunders ’12 is back at Mary Baldwin University, and not just to get her master’s degree in education. She’s supervising the Spencer Society student callers for the college Phonathon, a job that entails raising money for the annual fundraising effort, called the Baldwin Fund. Each evening she and a group of other students gather in the Student Activities Center to contact prospective donors under the leadership of Phonathon Coordinator Stephanie Morehead ’12.

Saunders is in charge of directing the other callers on who to contact each shift as well as coordinating team-building and motivational activities. “This job is challenging, so we want to keep everyone motivated and having fun,” she said. Each caller makes anywhere from 70 to 170 calls during her shift, depending on how long each conversation lasts.

Though she has worked for the Phonathon for three years, this is her first year as supervisor. The most challenging part of making fundraising calls, according to Saunders, is building a rapport with people who have never given to Mary Baldwin. “I recently spoke to a teacher who didn’t feel a connection to the college, and I helped her reconnect. We help develop relationships, and we learn a lot in the process,” she said.

Recalling a conversation with an older alumna, Saunders said she discovered that King Residence Hall used to serve as a gymnasium and that Mary Baldwin was once considered a finishing school many years ago. “That just shows our growth even more,” she said.  “To see that we’ve come from being a finishing school to offering graduate — and soon doctoral — programs is just amazing. Mary Baldwin really empowers women to be leaders, and that’s why we have come so far.” It’s not only the callers who reap the rewards: Those on the other end of the phone learn about the latest developments at the college, straight from the students experiencing them.

Saunders earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, and served as chairwoman of the Residence Hall Association, one of the top 10 leadership positions on campus. In addition to her work with the Phonathon, she is a psychiatric nursing aid at Western State Hospital and plans to earn her PhD in psychology. Her passion and enthusiasm are unmistakable when Saunders talks about Mary Baldwin. “I love Mary Baldwin — I do. I am proud to say I went to a women’s college that challenged me to be a leader.”

Why should you answer the phone when the Spencer Society calls? For Saunders the answer is clear: “You have an opportunity to give back to the school that helped you reach your goals and grow as a person. I can offer proof of our growth as a college and of the women here — you can help us progress — you can be a part of positive change.”