Alumni volunteers forge new connections

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Sean Sullivan

Vashdev Varandani ’77 says volunteering is a chance to educate others about the university.

When Graydon Pleasants of Winston-Salem, N.C., was researching colleges, he wanted to talk to someone who could give him an insider’s perspective on RIT.

So he emailed Mike Pail ’98 (engineering) and Sue Pail ’98 (engineering), who are leaders of the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., alumni chapter. They met for lunch and Pleasants gained some insight into RIT and life in Rochester.

“It definitely helped me get a more personal feel for the school,” says Pleasants, who will start his fourth year as a new media interactive development major this fall.

The Pails are two of more than 500 alumni who volunteer for their alma mater at college fairs, campus events or by talking with prospective students individually. Volunteers range from recent graduates to those who attended RIT in the 1960s, says Sheila Chabot ’05, assistant director of Alumni Admission Programs. Last fall, volunteers helped at college fairs in 18 states.

For Sue Pail, owner of the Closet Factory in Raleigh, volunteering is an opportunity to build relationships and bridge new graduates with older alumni. For Vashdev Varandani ’77 (electrical engineering) and David Metzger ’85 (business administration), it means making sure future RIT students feel welcome.

Varandani volunteers at seven programs a year and hasn’t missed one since he began in 2007. In the spring, he greeted accepted students and their parents at an Accepted Student Open House. He retired in 2004 after working as an electrical engineer for many companies, including Hughes Network Systems Inc. where he helped develop DirecTV. Now Varandani enjoys volunteering, especially at this program where he can help make a good impression.

Metzger says he loved his experience at RIT and volunteering is a chance to educate others about the university. “RIT does terrific things and offers opportunities kids won’t get elsewhere,” says the Greece Athena Middle School counselor, whose son, Ben, will be a freshman this fall in mechanical engineering.

Chabot says along with volunteering at events, alumni can sponsor one undergraduate application waiver a year, which waives the fee for a prospective student. More than 400 alumni did that last year. They also can write letters of recommendation for future applicants, which is what Mike Pail did for Pleasants.

Mike Pail, a design engineer, says he wanted to make sure Pleasants understood both the benefits of RIT and the challenges of living in Rochester, such as the weather. He hopes more alumni get involved in recruiting.

“He reassured me my choice was a good one to go to RIT,” Pleasants says. “I recommend it to anyone on the fence about RIT to talk to someone who went there.”

Did you know?

  • Most volunteer events for admissions occur in October and April.
  • RIT volunteers attended 47 college fairs last fall.
  • Tuesday is the most common day for volunteers to donate their time.
  • Volunteers donated 152 hours at college fairs from September to December 2012.

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