Alumni providing gifts that extend their interests, support students
By Josh Schonwald
Earlier this year, Greg Wendt (A.B.,’83) and his wife Lisa designated a $100,000 University gift to support the creation of the College’s first student-managed investment fund. The registered student organization the Blue Chips will manage the investment portfolio in consultation with the University’s Investment Office.
For Wendt, who is a mutual fund manager for Capital Research Company, the gift was an extension of a longstanding wish. “I wish a fund like this had existed when I was on campus,” said Wendt. “I have been in the investments profession for almost two decades, and some of the most talented professionals were first exposed to the industry through student investment funds.”
Wendt is not alone in supporting programs aimed at career development in the College. Over the past several years, a number of alumni have helped support programs that not only reflect their broader philanthropic interests, but also greatly assist students in preparing for life beyond the College.
“In large and small ways our alumni provide terrific support to our students,” said Bill Michel, Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Associate Dean of the College. “Our students are a part of a 150,000-member community that includes students, staff, faculty and alumni, all of whom contribute to their success.”
- The Dr. Aizik Wolf Internship
Miami neurosurgeon Aizik Wolf (A.B.,’77) has a longstanding commitment to Latin America and has frequently donated his services and medical equipment to Latin American countries. Five years ago, he contributed $100,000 to the College to start the Aizik Wolf Internship, a summer internship program that allows a Chicago student to work in a Latin American public health facility. Recent recipients of the Wolf internship have interned at the Nursing School of the Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito.
Wolf, who was born in Colombia and raised in Miami, traveled extensively as a youth, and he recognizes that many Chicago undergraduates have not had a similar opportunity. “This is just an easy way of giving students a chance to explore and learn about other environments beyond the University.”
Wolf, who preferred that the internship be based in Latin America, works in a city where as much as 60 percent of his patients speak Spanish. Wolf wants to encourage bilingualism in the health-care profession. “When my patients, many of whom can’t speak English, hear that I can speak Spanish, they’ll say, ‘thank god.’”
- Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship—new entrepreneurship course
Through a gift from William Miller (M.B.A.,’67) and his wife Alicia, curriculum is being developed for undergraduate students who are interested in learning how to start a business, commercialize an idea or a technology, build their own brand, build a team, and other issues unique to entrepreneurship. The first class will be held in the 2005-2006 academic year as part of the program offerings in the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Business. Waverly Deutsch, a faculty member in the GSB specializing in entrepreneurship, is developing the course.
- The English-History Pilot Project
Kathy Seidel (A.B.,’72), an English concentrator in the College, and her husband Larry (A.B.,’71, M.B.A.,’72), have given a gift to stimulate better and earlier career preparation among humanities concentrators. Survey results conducted by the College show that humanities concentrators are less likely to have defined career plans upon graduation. The three-year program funded by the Seidels aims to improve the outcomes for students in two of the largest concentrations: English and History. Launched earlier this year, the English-History Pilot Project (http://whatnow.uchicago.edu) delivers workshops and provides one-on-one counseling to help students describe the skills they have acquired in their academic work and see how these skills might apply in a broad range of fields.
So far, the feedback is positive, said Christina von Nolcken, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, and the faculty advisor for the English portion of the project. “Many of our students are very uncertain about options,” she said, “and this program reassures and helps them. All the students I have talked to about it have expressed their enthusiasm.”
All of these gifts add to a tradition of Chicago alumni offering to serve students with career-building resources. Nearly 8,000 alumni from 31 countries volunteer to provide informational interviews to students and alumni via the online Alumni Careers Network, which serves students and alumni from all parts of the University. By June, there will be 14,000 such alumni.
Additionally, 35 alumni offer job-shadowing opportunities to College students over spring break as part of the Alumni Board of Governors Career Externship Program. By 2008, this number will grow to 100. In addition, the University’s Metcalf Fellows Program has offered College Students over 700 internships around the world since 1997.
John Boyer, Dean of the College, is pleased to see how some Chicago alumni are contributing to enhance the quality of student life in the College.
“It’s wonderful to see how the specific passions or interests of alumni can benefit current students in the College. And it’s especially heartening to see how they are motivated to help the College offer the types of support and programs they might have enjoyed when they attended the University.
“This is a wonderful way of strengthening our support for our students in the College,” said Boyer. “We welcome the generous support that our former students are offering to our current students.”