As the annual UCT Phonathon reached its sixteenth day of calling on Thursday evening, project co-ordinator Cindy de Oliveira eagerly allocated caller lists to the online system ahead of the students’ arrival at the call room. She explains that a highlight of her evening is hearing about the valuable conversations that students share about their engagement with alumni. While cold-calling can sometimes be quite daunting, students have warmed up to the idea that each call presents an opportunity to strengthen relationships and grow support for the university.
Augustine Musyoka, currently pursuing a PhD in Haematology, has been encouraged by the positive feedback he received from alumni who speak about their confidence in the workplace largely due to the excellent quality of training they received at UCT. He was especially moved by the generosity of a newly graduated alumna who donated from the first pay cheque she received in July.
Some conversations have been challenging to navigate, as experienced by Laura Hove who is an Honours student in Organisational Psychology: “It is difficult to respond to alumni who are angry about the student protests and damage done to university property. I don’t have the answers to all their questions but try to explain how the Distinguishing UCT Campaign aims to build a promising future.”
One of the experiences that all students look forward to in the call room is chatting with alumni who inspire the career paths they have chosen. Occupational Therapy (OT) student, Phomelelo Mothapo, shared the heartening conversation he had with an alumnus who bravely straddled a neurological disorder with significant support from an Occupational Therapist. After completing his undergraduate degree, he went on to pursue postgraduate studies and now works as a researcher and lecturer. Phomelelo explains that OT students do not often get to appreciate the recovery of patients whom they only see for short periods of time at hospitals: “It was really encouraging to know how I will someday get to make a difference and help give patients a new chance on life through my career.”
With six days to go before students make their last calls and prepare to go back to lectures for the new semester, the annual UCT Phonathon has made valued connections with alumni. Not only has it secured pledges of financial support for the university, it has also helped build invaluable relationships across generations of our extensive UCT community.