Occidental hosted “Oxy in New York” Oct. 22 and “Oxy in Boston” Oct. 28 as introductory events to a nationwide initiative for the Oxy Campaign for Good, according to Michelle McMichael, director of campaign communications in the Office of Marketing and Communications. McMichael said 180 attended the New York event and 60 attended in Boston. “Oxy in New York” also served as the annual celebration of the Oxy at the United Nations (U.N.) program. These two events were part of a series of three coast-to-coast events this October, aimed to introduce the Oxy Campaign for Good to alumni in different regions across the U.S. The first event was the Homecoming & Family Weekend from Oct. 18 to 19.
The Oxy Campaign for Good is a comprehensive fundraising campaign aiming to raise $225 million for Occidental, with an emphasis on securing endowments that can increase student scholarships, according to the campaign’s web page. Occidental launched the initiative May 18 with a Campaign Leadership Summit on campus. According to Charlie Cardillo, vice president of institutional advancement, this is the first comprehensive campaign the college has had in 20 years. Cardillo said the reason for the absence of campaigns before was due to constant shifts in executive level positions at the college.
“My understanding of it was 12, 13 years ago, there was significant turnover at the presidential level. I think there might have been three or four presidents within a five-year period,” Cardillo said. “When you don’t have that stability, the opportunity to think together about a vision is a little harder to do.”
According to Cardillo, fundraising campaigns are a very common practice among nonprofit organizations such as colleges. Cardillo said campaigns are typically seven years long, with the first two to three years as the “silent phase” and the other four to five years as the “public phase.”
“The first two to three years is a period of assessing the fundraising potential,” Cardillo said. “Also in that period, you hope to secure some early gifts that would demonstrate that we could actually reach a certain goal. When we had that launch in May, it was essentially kicking off the public phase of the campaign.”
Cardillo said Occidental is currently in year one of a four-year public phase. During this period, the Office of Institutional Advancement will reach out to alumni and friends of the college through social media, newsletters, the Occidental magazine and in-person meetings. The goal is to persuade them to make a contribution, according to Cardillo.
“We aspire for the institution to have the resources that its mission deserves. This is a really worthy mission, it’s a really worthy place,” Cardillo said.
“Oxy in New York” and “Oxy in Boston” are examples of the outreach effort to introduce the campaign to more people, according to McMichael. These cities were chosen to host the event because of their large share of alumni. Both events included guest speakers who shared their unique Occidental story and how the college contributed to their success. In New York, the keynote speakers included Bill Kahane ’70, one of the namesake sponsors of the Oxy at the U.N. program, and Steve Coll ’80, the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.
The speakers at the Boston event were Barry Posen ’74, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Steven Miller ’74, director of the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, according to McMichael. McMichael said that Posen and Miller both discussed how Occidental prepared them for careers as experts of national security. The speakers attributed their interest and success in national security to Larry Caldwell, former professor emeritus of political science at Occidental.
“Both of them say their time at Oxy and their time with professor Caldwell was really formative for them. And really the reason why they are in the field they are in today,” McMichael said.
According to McMichael, the college will have another alumni-gathering event in Boston next year to introduce the new college president to the 500-person alumni base in the city.
McMichael said she was pleased by the turnout in New York and Boston and that it was great to bring alumni, current students and parents together. According to McMichael, it had been at least six years since the last alumni gathering in Boston.
“I think it’s a really strong community of people, of alumni and parents, who really love Oxy. Despite the fact [of] being really far away, 3000 miles away, they still feel strongly connected,” McMichael said.
Snigdha Suvarna (senior) and Kerida McDonald, her supervisor at The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), spoke at the New York event. Suvarna is an economics major interning for UNICEF’s Communication for Development initiative. According to Suvarna, her speech focused on expressing gratitude toward McDonald, her professors and people who made it possible for her to intern at the U.N. Suvarna said there is a celebratory event for Occidental students at the U.N. every year, but this time the event included more speakers.
Evita Chavez ’15 was the student speaker in Boston. Chavez is an Urban & Environmental Policy graduate and is currently pursuing a masters degree in Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Chavez said she spoke about the excellent support she received from professors, which encouraged her to pursue a career in urban planning. Chavez said she learned about the great work other graduates are doing and that the event made her reminisce on good memories from her college days.
McMichael said that after the events in New York and Boston, there will be more outreach events that take place in alumni-concentrated areas such as San Francisco, Seattle and possibly Washington D.C.