With exceptional programs such as Mentor Jackets—which annually pairs students up with alumni based on shared interests—it’s no wonder why Georgia Tech’s Student Alumni Association continues to set new records for engagement and philanthropy. A total of 5,281 students joined SAA during the 2014-15 academic year, up a whopping 26 percent over the previous year, and solidified SAA’s rank as the largest student group on campus.
“Our student leaders were extremely effective at recruiting more members to SAA this year,” says Catie Miller, STC 07, director of student outreach for the Georgia Tech Alumni Association. “And the word of mouth was incredible. The value of the organization—and what you get for just a $10 donation—has gone viral across the student body.”
Miller says that one of the strategies for growth this year was to get other student groups to pledge 100 percent participation in SAA. “Twenty-eight groups, including Student Ambassadors and many fraternities and sororities, went all-in this year,” she says.
SAA’s in-demand programs include Expert Jackets, which gives students the opportunity to meet and hear success stories from some of Tech’s top alumni. This year, members were able to connect with the likes of Alan Warren, Phys/Math 78, vice president of engineering at Google; Paul Brown, Mgt 89, CEO of Arby’s; and Decie
Autin, ChE 80, global operations manager at ExxonMobil, just to name a few.
Students, of course, love a free meal, so the SAA Dinner Jackets program again was completely booked this past year. Alumni stepped up to treat SAA members to 37 dinners this year at their homes and at restaurants, and provided students with a welcome evening away from their studies.
One SAA offering proved extremely popular and successful this year. The “Get Ready for the Real World” speed-networking event gave the roughly 200 students and 200 alumni in attendance a chance to connect one-on-one in relatively rapid-fire fashion. It was named the Best On Campus Event by the Presidents Council Governing Board and will likely see an encore next year.
Other key SAA programs this past year included a Women in Technology Panel, the Ramblin On graduation party and the Gift to Tech (see story below), which expands student Yellow Jackets’ involvement in philanthropic efforts.
SAA and its programs routinely rank among the best of their kind in the nation. SAA was recently named the most outstanding student alumni organization by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Affiliated Student Advancement Programs (CASE ASAP) for regional District 3, while the speed-networking event won the most outstanding internal program. Both SAA and its speed-networking event will vie for national honors this summer.
Gift to Tech Goes to Improve Campus Mental Health Services
When Georgia Tech students voted on how to spend the SAA 2015 Gift to Tech funds, their votes spoke profoundly of what they value on campus: mental health services.
This year’s Gift to Tech amounts to more than $36,050 and will go to the Institute’s Counseling Center, which will use the gift for the continued implementation of recommendations issued by the Mental Health Task Force in 2013. Some of those initiatives include suicide prevention and education programming, expanding the new Burdell’s Buddies peer counseling program, and supporting outreach and recovery programs.
The director of the Counseling Center, Toti Perez, says he and his team were both humbled and surprised to be among this year’s finalists, which included a campus concert series and outdoor solar-powered charging stations.
“It’s so different from any other funding we may get,” Perez says. “It represents the voice of students who over the course of the years have started to regard emotional wellness and healthy lifestyles as a critical part of their success at Tech.”
The Gift to Tech is funded through donations from SAA members. When students join SAA, they make a $10 donation, $5 of which goes to the Gift to Tech fund. This year, a matching gift of $10,000 came from Ken Townsend, ME 64, and his son, Tyler, IE 98.