Grassroots Effort: Undergrads Create '1870 Society' to Improve & Beautify Stevens Through Student Donations

5/16/2012

A group of Stevens undergraduates has begun a new tradition — an initiative that invites students to invest in the University’s future while they are here. And it's all based around the key number in Stevens history: 1870.

The 1870 Society, named after Stevens’ founding year, asks currently enrolled students to contribute just $18.70 each for the University to then invest in initiatives and institutional upgrades such as beautification efforts. In particular, the fund is meant to improve aspects of Stevens especially important to undergraduates. It is officially sanctioned by the Stevens Office of Development, and has already rolled out a web site, logo and Facebook page.

"The Society was formed as a 'grassroots' effort to give back to Stevens and make changes where students see them most," said Larry Giannechini, a senior majoring in Civil Engineering who helped form the Society. "The fund was created entirely by the students and is wholly for students. We saw the need to inspire undergraduates to give back to their alma mater and thank alumni and previous generations' generosity in giving the scholarships we have received. The number $18.70 was chosen partly as a nod to the founding year of Stevens, of course, but also as a small enough gift for a single undergraduate student to make."

“The purpose was to bring students together to effect immediate changes on campus,” added senior Allyson Mackavage, a Chemical Engineering major and another founding member. "I have gained so much from being a part of the Stevens community and I want to give back to make this place better both for my peers and for future students."

"We're always excited when the Stevens community becomes involved in planning for the University's future," said Lauren Sampson, director of annual giving. "Normally such contributions come from our talented alumni, so in this case it was a special surprise to learn that a group of current students – who are already watching their budgets closely, by necessity – dreamed this up themselves and have begun contributing to it. It speaks volumes about how close-knit a campus this is."

Full partners in the improvement of campus

The 1870 Society is unique in that all donors immediately become full partners in creating the future for Stevens – and not only through donations. By allowing all donors full membership, the Society provides a medium for undergraduates to give input on changes or upgrades they wish to see on campus, and to have a voice in choosing which initiatives will be funded with their donations. All money raised goes directly into funding campus improvement initiatives chosen by these student members, Sampson said.

“The projects will ultimately be decided by the students. Membership affords all donors a say in what actions the Society takes,” said junior Owen Jappen, a Chemical Engineering major active in the group's formation. Feedback on funded projects will also be solicited from non-members, he added, to ensure appropriate use of the funds.

Among the ideas being discussed for initial projects are a set of “study kits” — markers, white boards and other materials — available for student use in the S.C. Williams Library. The Society's founding members hopes these kits can be funded, purchased and placed immediately.

Long-term, other potential funding projects — all of which must receive University approval first — could include the installation of extension cords in the library to increase the availability of laptop outlets; higher quality desks in some classrooms; fresh paint jobs for classrooms identified as being in need of updates; and other improvements in classroom and campus aesthetics and usability.

“The success of these initiatives will depend on how much the fund raises,” Mackavage pointed out. “Then, based on member input, these goals may be updated over time.”

Stevens administrators have pledged to complete any initiatives the Society fully funds as quickly as is practical.

"We're very pleased about the formation of the 1870 Society, as it is a truly student-driven initiative," said Ken Nilsen, dean for student life. "This Society will help develop current students into stewards of their own University. We have agreed to make any campus improvements the Society suggests and provides funds for, so long as those changes are in line with existing Stevens policies and physical capabilities."

Non-students may also become members of the Society: Stevens President Nariman Farvardin has also made a contribution, for instance.

“This Society aims to ensure that everything you value at Stevens is not only preserved, but magnified for future students,” concluded Jappen. “Donating is a proactive way to help Stevens go beyond what it is already and make the undergraduate experience even better.” 

Learn more about the 1870 Society at its web site or Facebook page. If you would like to join the 1870 Society and make a contribution, please visit stevens.edu/makeagift.