Flowering tree with Bell Tower in background



Student callers look forward to phone calls with alumni and friends

Abigail McCrory

(Senior Abigail McCrory made many connections while working as a Phonathon caller. Photo by Doug Stremel)

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
By Jensen Simons

Nowadays some might cringe at the idea of carrying on a conversation over the phone. But the art of such connections is still an invaluable asset to fostering relationships and sharing information. This is especially the case for Washburn University students working for the Alumni Association and Foundation’s Phonathon and the individuals they build long-standing relationships with through the program.

Making calls throughout the fall and spring semesters, Phonathon garners financial support while nurturing positive relationships with alumni, donors and friends of the University.

“This is a chance for students to grow their skillset; for many this is their first professional job,” said Courtney Artman, as ’13, bhs ’15, development director, annual giving, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. Artman, too, was once a student employee involved with Phonathon. In her current position with the Foundation, she directs Phonathon, mentoring and supporting student callers. Arming them with a loose script to work from, she encourages students to become comfortable going “off-script,” developing critical communication skills for friendly and professional conversations.  

Moreover, Phonathon helps students foster connections by introducing them to donors who were involved with the same discipline, club, network, etc.

Alumni may have been away from campus for a time, so Artman and student callers focus on also connecting them with what’s happening at Washburn.

“Our students are inviting them back on campus to experience new opportunities and see if they’re interested in giving back to the areas they feel strongly about,” Artman said.

While not every call may lead to a “yes,” there are some that result in long-lasting relationships.

The friendship forged between student caller Abigail McCrory, a senior double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship and innovation, and Howard Hildenbrand, bba ’61, may have helped foster a generous gift in his estate plan.

Hildenbrand gave annually to Phonathon, connecting with McCrory for the past few years. When he passed away in October 2020, he left a $1.4 million gift in his estate to the Howard Hildenbrand Business Scholarship Fund and to the Friends of KTWU Program Support Fund.

“Mr. Hildenbrand was a very kind man,” McCrory said. “He was always eager to hear about what was happening on campus and how I personally was doing as a student. It was very clear to me he loved Washburn and Washburn’s legacy. I feel very honored I had the opportunity to get to know him.”

A Phonathon veteran of three years, McCrory extolled the program for the experience it offered her. “The connections I made with the alumni were very meaningful. They made the job worth it. I loved hearing about their Washburn experience, how some went to school after the ’66 tornado whereas others were telling me they used to play on the golf course. My time as a student caller was wonderful, getting to know more of our alumni and connect with them was something that made an impact on my life as well.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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