Philanthropy speaker series emphasizes importance of class gift

A new student-run speaker series aims to raise awareness, increase giving

December 12, 2013

John Ghirardelli, MBA ’14

John Ghirardelli, MBA ’14

The holiday retail season is in full swing, but MIT Sloan’s MBA 2014 Class Gift Committee is already looking forward to another giving season—next semester—when the class gift campaign officially kicks off. To raise awareness of the upcoming campaign, the committee has introduced a new speaker series titled Philanthropy@MIT Sloan.

MBA class gift co-chair John Ghirardelli, MBA ’14, developed the idea for the series, which features faculty and senior staff members speaking to students on the importance of giving back. This semester, the series has featured hour-long talks with Rod Garcia, senior director of admissions and Jason Jay, PhD ’10, lecturer and director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

Ghirardelli said he was taught the importance of giving back as a child. “My parents have always encouraged me to take action versus standing on the sidelines,” he said. “I view the class gift as one of those events which, from an MBA perspective, is the chance to put your money where your mouth is. I’m very proud of where I went, and I’m committed to maintaining and improving the community for future generations.”

The class gift encompasses cash gifts and pledges to the MIT Sloan Annual Fund, an unrestricted pool of money that supports new programs, fellowships, research projects, and many other initiatives. The campaign typically begins in earnest in February, as students prepare for commencement in June. Last year, the MBA, Leaders for Global Operations, MIT Executive MBA, and Master of Science in Management Studies programs raised $420,946 for the School. Ghirardelli and his two co-chairs, Dina Amin and Maja Omanovic, both MBA ’14, would like to top 90 percent participation and set a new record for the MBA program, currently held by the Class of 2011 at 89 percent.

“We are committed to laying the foundation now for building a community based around giving back,” Ghirardelli said.

Ghirardelli said when he first was approached to join the MBA class gift committee, he noticed a “disconnect” between the students and the School administration in terms of giving. “It didn’t seem like there was one team effort involved. The buy-in was not universal across campus,” he said.

As a way to bridge that gap and start a dialogue, Ghirardelli saw value in inviting speakers such as Garcia and Jay to directly connect with the students. Garcia showed a brief video submitted by an MBA applicant to show how fierce the competition for talent is. He also answered questions on various topics such as the role of fellowships and who MIT Sloan’s peer schools are.

Students often don’t realize that their tuition only covers about 60 percent of the cost to attend MIT Sloan, Ghirardelli said. The rest of the money comes from donor and alumni gifts, as well as other sources of funding. He urged his fellow students to participate in the campaign. “MIT Sloan took a bet when they admitted you here … this is confirmation that you are going to hold up your end of the bargain. We’re all a part of the same family, and we need to move forward together,” he said.

Jay highlighted the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative during his talk, emphasizing the importance of philanthropic support in establishing and expanding the effort. Jay, who was active in sustainability efforts while he was a student here, said, “So much of what we do here is based on the generosity of our students, alumni, foundations … and other sources of philanthropic giving.”

Ghirardelli said the class gift committee is not targeting a specific dollar fundraising goal. “We want people to give what they can. If it’s $50, that’s great. If it’s $500, that’s great. If it’s more than that, that’s fantastic,” he said.

In the meantime, Ghirardelli said he is also looking for more students to join the MBA committee, if they are interested. “People can help, just by talking about it.”

More speakers, including Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz, SM ’01, and Bill Aulet, SF ’94, managing director for the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, are scheduled for the spring semester.