It takes many different kinds of people working together to make a university function. Administrators, faculty, staff, students — everyone has a role to play. But one group that often gets overlooked are the people who freely give their time and energy to support the institution without any expectation of personal reward.
“We have several thousand volunteers every year,” says Michael Perini, Chapman’s volunteer engagement manager. “Thanks to their commitment of time and passion, we are able to do so much more for our students and for the university as a whole.”
Volunteers fill many roles at Chapman, from committee and advisory positions, to student mentoring, to organizing on- and off-campus events, to providing essential support to programs and initiatives. They are alumni, parents and members of the community who value Chapman’s mission and want to contribute in a positive way. They might give a few hours a week or a few hours a year, but every contribution is valuable, and provides an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals.
The one thing they all have in common is the desire to help Chapman succeed.
In recognition of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, here are just a few of Chapman’s outstanding volunteers.
Greg Goodrich (JD ’99)
Greg Goodrich (JD ’99) was already a successful legacy planning professional when he joined the inaugural class of Chapman University Law School to pursue a Juris Doctorate degree. Because of his prior professional experience and connections, Goodrich began helping the Office of Legacy Planning on a casual basis as needed. In 2010, he recommended the formation of the Estates and Trusts Advisory Committee, a group of estate planning professionals who meet monthly to advise on pending estate gifts, marketing, staff development and ongoing stewardship for the Office of Legacy Planning. Since the committee’s formation, the Office of Legacy Planning has booked more than $180MM in future dollars from over 170 generous supporters of Chapman.
For Goodrich, the real value of the time he gives to Chapman is the interactions with the students, staff and faculty who are also passionate about the university. “I feel seen at Chapman. People know me here and care about me, and it’s genuine. An intimacy that you don’t often find on a larger campus.”
“Everyone is so committed to doing what’s best for Chapman. It’s just kind of contagious,” he says.
Connie Benson ’93
After graduating in 1993 with a degree in Legal Studies, Connie Benson went to San Diego to pursue a law degree. After several years spent there establishing her career, she returned to Orange. “I just felt rudderless and Chapman was where I went to find my people again. I started going to events,” she says.
Though she always enjoyed volunteering at the university, after a while she felt she wanted to have some voice in what was going on with the school. That was when she joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors, where she recently completed a two-year term as President, and held an ex officio seat on the Board of Trustees. She also helps out at events such as Homecoming, Convocation and Commencement, and regularly speaks on panels welcoming admitted students and parents. Recently, she was given the opportunity to host a President’s Roundtable, a virtual presentation about the Hilbert Museum.
But most of Benson’s favorite memories as a volunteer involve opportunities to interact with students. “Every year, handing out stoles to incoming first year class at convocation. They’re so wide-eyed and they’re so excited. And I get teary-eyed pretty much every time because I’m so excited for them,” she says.
Bharat P. Patel
Bharat P. Patel never attended Chapman himself, but when his daughter, Rashika Patel ’13, transferred to Chapman as a junior, he felt it was important to become involved as a parent. As a member of the Executive Parents Ambassador Council (XPAC), he helped welcome prospective and current parents to Chapman, and worked to keep lines of communication open between parents and the university.
After his daughter graduated, Patel joined Town & Gown, which funds scholarships and helps keep the community informed about what is happening at Chapman.
Patel values the relationships he’s made while volunteering for Chapman. “It’s a family. It’s a small enough university that you can get to know everyone. People really, truly care about the students, and they’re involved because of the students.”
Isabella Zelinger ’17
When Isabella Zelinger was craving stronger alumni connectivity, she dedicated to take matters into her own hands. She and Tara Bokosky ’14 (MBA ’17, MA ’18), have built a grassroots alumni networking group that presents panels, webinars and networking happy hours where Panthers can connect with each other and with industry leaders from across the region.
“We don’t take a class on networking in college,” says Zelinger. “But it’s one of the fundamental skill sets you need to succeed in business and to succeed in life.”
The positive responses she’s received has helped fuel the passion project, and the network has grown to encompass more than 500 people. “There are a lot of people who love the school, and love the opportunity to inspire the next wave of business professionals.”
While Zelinger and Bokosky don’t have an official partnership with Chapman, she is thankful for the help she’s received from the Alumni Engagement team. “They see how committed I am to giving back to the school, and they’re like, ‘Let’s do this, how can we help?’”
To find out more about how you can share your passion at Chapman, please visit the Volunteer Engagement portal.