STORY BY EMILY VANSCHMUS
When someone describes their job as calling alumni to ask for money, most students turn their noses up.
Despite the fact that it is the highest-paying campus job, there is a negative stereotype surrounding the Phonathon. This position used to be typically held by first-years, known for quitting after one year.
However, the student call center recently underwent a makeover of sorts with the hiring of a new manager and an almost entirely new staff.
In the fall of 2013, Kourtney Kirkpatrick started at Drake as the Phonathon Manager and hired a new staff. In the past year and a half, the calling center has become livelier as students who love their jobs begin to fill the seats.
The calling center, located in the basement of the Kinne Alumni and Development Center, seats 16 of the 30 total callers a night. Kaitlin Brueggen has been calling for two semesters and explained that the atmosphere of Phonathon doesn’t match the negative stereotypes she’s heard.
“It doesn’t deserve the negative stereotypes it has because it’s so much more fun than people think,” she said. “We play fun games at every shift. There are also competitions among callers and great prizes to incentivize everyone to do their best with calls.”
Making the job enjoyable is one of Kirkpatricks’ priorities.
“When I first started as the Phonathon Manager one of my main goals was to increase retention and improve our reputation on campus,” she said.
“I have spent a lot of time coming up with new games and competitions for the callers as well as taking time to get feedback from them. I want Phonathon to be a fun place to work while also a place to gain invaluable work experience.”
Kirkpatrick’s efforts have paid off over the past four semesters. Because the callers’ main job is to call alumni and ask for money it is inevitable that they’ll get a few negative responses. But sophomore Derek Nystrom thinks the negative moments are far outweighed by the enjoyable moments.
“It all depends on what you focus on. If you focus on your bad calls and the bad stories then you’ll have a negative view of it, but if you focus on the good and have fun while you’re doing it then you’ll definitely have a more positive stereotype,” he said. “I think it’s more fun than people think. It really depends on your attitude.”
Working together to raise over $550,000 for the University each year can be challenging, but the atmosphere of the call center makes the job not only fun, but rewarding.
First-year caller Natalie Chin explained that the happy atmosphere is what she loves about her job.
“In the calling room, everyone is really friendly. It’s always nice to have that camaraderie when you talk to someone totally amazing (or someone really not amazing),” she said. “It’s a fun atmosphere with no bull****, which is perfect in my opinion.”
The camaraderie and the relationships the callers make with one another is something Kirkpatrick enjoys seeing and strives for at each shift.
“My favorite part of my job is getting to know the callers on a personal level, that way they feel more relaxed and at ease,” she said. “I want Phonathon to be a fun place to work while also a place to gain invaluable work experience.”