This past Friday night, 150 seniors at Claremont McKenna College gathered together and celebrated their first “wine tasting” session. As one of the seniors who attended the event, I spent a memorable three hours in conversation with my fellow Class of 2016 and went home with a very satisfied stomach.
At CMC, wine tasting has traditionally been one of the events seniors attend during their last semester in college. The Alumni Association at CMC plans events, including this senior wine tasting, not only to strengthen the class bond but also to introduce the idea of “Senior Gift.” At CMC, a senior gift means a donation, of any amount, that is made by a current senior to the college. By any means, achieving a high “senior gift” participation rate is important for private colleges like CMC, which rely heavily on alumni donations to operate. A senior gift not only represents the first donation a college receives but also influences an alumni’s future and long-term donation patterns via establishing a habit of donating to CMC early on. Even if a graduate feels uncertain about their financial situation or uncomfortable with the idea of donating right after graduating, it is common to see seniors start contributing small donations to CMC during the first couple of years of post-graduation before moving on to larger amounts once they are more advanced in their careers and more financially established.
I personally made an exciting choice to make a one-time gift to CMC. A portion of my donation has gone to support my friend who is running a marathon this February in Los Angeles, and I am still figuring out which specific institute or cause I want to support with the remainder of the donation. One of the great things about making a donation is that you can designate where you want your money to go. Like me, perhaps you have had awesome experiences working for a professor at CMC; if you like, you could make your senior gift donation toward that department, so that in the future someone else (another young, bright CMCer) could have a similar opportunity to accumulate research experience and grow intellectually.
As seniors, we have spent over a thousand days of our lives at this place called Claremont. No matter how you would describe your overall college experience, there have probably been times you thought were brilliant and days that you did not like so well. Rather than make a solely emotional decision about whether or not to donate to our alma mater, which tends to be most affected by our “blue” moments, we should make a decision by reflecting upon what we got out of this place.
When I look back at my time here, I am always amazed by how much I have grown toward a better self in the past three and a half years. I was one of the clumsiest people ever, yet my ballroom teacher made me confident with social dance through his great sense of humor and fun teaching; I knew very little about life, philosophy, and literature when I started college, yet the GEs trained me to be philosophical, eloquent, and intellectual; I was musically illiterate, yet I slowly understood the brilliance of music with the influence of my guitar teacher. I could go on forever.
The Claremont Colleges provide such wonderful opportunities to all students – regardless of their backgrounds and skill levels – to help them develop. These amazing resources – faculty, institutes, funded internships etc. – won’t exist without donations. Seniors! Look back at what you have achieved in the past three years. We have made ourselves proud and now it is time to give back.
Caroline Lu is a senior Economics major at Claremont McKenna College. She lived in China for many many years and London briefly for one year while she was studying abroad at the London School of Economics.