Leading the Charge

For seniors, the fall can be an emotional roller coaster full of bittersweet moments, lots of “lasts,” and excitement about what the future holds in store. For Senior Class Gift coordinators Alix Cohen, SEAS ’15, and Michelle Rygnel, ESIA ’15, that means considering the legacy the Class of 2015 will leave behind when they graduate on the National Mall this spring.

A tradition at GW since the 1980s, the Senior Class Gift Campaign is the first opportunity for seniors to make their mark as new members of the GW Alumni community.

“It’s a chance for the Class of 2015 to look back on their time at GW and reflect on the experiences in and out of the classroom that were the most meaningful to them,” says Alix, a systems engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “We want to inspire our classmates to say ‘thank you’ by giving back to the school, club, or program they care about most.”

The Vermont native got an inside look at the power of philanthropy at GW while working in the university’s student call center, Colonial Connection, as both a caller and student manager. She says the experience gave her an understanding of the meaning behind a gift, as well as the impact it has on life at GW.

Alix Cohen, SEAS '15 (L) and Michelle Rygnel, ESIA '15 (R) are leading this year's Sr. Class Gift Campaign.

Alix Cohen, SEAS ’15 (L) and Michelle Rygnel, ESIA ’15 (R) are leading this year’s Sr. Class Gift Campaign.

Michelle, who is majoring in international affairs and human services at the Elliott School of International Affairs, knows firsthand how powerful a gift to GW can be—she was able to come to GW from Union, New Jersey, thanks to financial aid that included an alumni grant. Over her first three years in Foggy Bottom, she saw how support for the university goes beyond just financial aid.

“While you’re here, you may not realize the impact philanthropy has on the things that made your time special,” says Michelle. “A lot of people may think of just scholarships, but giving really touches on every aspect of student life, from clubs and academic programs to service events and campus speakers.”

Both coordinators have already made their senior class gifts: Alix is supporting the Society for Women Engineers and Power & Promise for SEAS; Michelle, Power & Promise and the Center for Student Engagement. Emphasizing the flexibility of each senior’s gift is an important part of the campaign for Alix and Michelle.

“We want to make sure seniors know that they can give to any area of the university,” Michelle says. “The Senior Class Gift Campaign is really about them, the seniors, and their passions. It’s an opportunity to support something they’re very passionate about, something that shaped their time here at GW, something they want to draw attention to and help grow or improve.”

The duo is looking to build upon the recent successes of the Senior Class Gift Campaign, which has broken participation and fundraising records each of the past four years. In addition to its goals of reaching 60% participation among seniors and leaving the largest senior class gift in GW history, the campaign aims to build a culture of philanthropy among the Class of 2015.

“The idea of service and giving back is planted from day one when you arrive at GW through programs like the Freshman Day of Service,” Alix says. “Our class has a chance build on the excitement surrounding the Making History Campaign and continue to give back to help future GW students have the same opportunities we’ve enjoyed.”


Members of the Class of 2015 can make their gift or pledge online today. Learn more about supporting the programs and student organizations that help form the GW experience at campaign.gwu.edu.

Author: GW Impact

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