When Ivy Knight sat down at last fall's UNT Alumni Scholarship Recipient Dinner, she wasn't expecting an alumnus to teach her how to set up a LinkedIn profile -- but that's just the sort of thing that happens when you are part of the UNT Alumni Scholarship Program.
The program's primary purpose is to award scholarship money to deserving students, but the people behind it also are on a mission to provide additional resources that help students develop valuable skills.
"We're working hard to grow this program and are not satisfied with traditional, transactional scholarships," says Emily Klement ('92, '94 M.Ed., '12 Ed.D.), immediate past chair of the UNT Alumni Association Board of Directors. "We want to make our recipients feel like they have won the jackpot as we set them up for success."
The youngest of five children, Knight is grateful to the donors who helped make her UNT education -- something this daughter of alumna Barbara Cowart Knight ('84) started dreaming about in middle school -- a possibility. Beyond that, she appreciates the program's emphasis on guiding recipients through the college experience.
"I've been given so many chances to grow and learn," Knight says. "And now I have a whole network of UNT alumni who are willing to mentor me and will be eager to help me find career opportunities once I graduate."
Recipients of the program's eight -- soon to be 11 -- scholarships attend networking events and make connections with alumni who share their interests. And as long as students remain eligible, they can continue receiving the scholarship year after year until they graduate.
Recipients discovering the importance of philanthropy is a nice bonus.
"We want our scholarship students to understand that there's a lot more to giving than just dollars," says David Wolf ('04 Ph.D.), vice president for University Advancement. "And we hope donors see that, in this program, a little goes a long way in helping our students find lifelong success."
The Collin County Alumni Chapter has taken that concept to heart. Two years ago, the group set a goal to fund an endowed scholarship through the UNT Alumni Association Scholarship Program -- $20 at a time.
The Collin County 200 campaign, spearheaded by chapter president Dave Gorman ('93), aims to have 1% of the 20,000 UNT alumni living in Collin County commit to giving $20 per month to grow the endowment over time. Just two years into the campaign, the chapter has already raised enough money to award its first scholarship and is actively fundraising for the future.
The initiative is a perfect fit for the business-centric alumni chapter, but it's not all about math for Gorman. It's not even all about scholarship money.
"It may be easier to go out and get a few big checks and then your fundraising is done," Gorman says. "But then you miss a lot of opportunities to make connections. One of our goals is to bring alumni back to the scene who may not have stayed involved. That's how we grow and improve."
Sharon McGowan ('85) can relate.
The alumna has always been grateful for her time at UNT, but admits that she used to avoid telephone calls from 940 area codes -- just in case someone from the university was asking for donations.
Now part of the team providing the inaugural funding for the new Dallas County Alumni Association Chapter Endowed Scholarship, McGowan sees things differently.
"I hope young alumni won't be like I was. Great things are happening every day at UNT, and we should be part of that continued success," McGowan says. "I give partially because of the past -- what the university has done for me and helped me become. But I primarily give for the future."
These days, McGowan aims to help students in her county by eliminating some of the expenses that might impede access to a great education.
"I believe that every person, regardless of their ethnic, cultural or social background, should have the chance to be their best self," she says.
It's a sentiment shared by many, including Angela Jones ('91), vice president of UNT's Black Alumni Network and a mentor to a number of student leaders at UNT.
"I think about all of the people whose shoulders we stood on to get where we are today, and know that we need to do the same thing for the generation coming up," Jones says.
The new Black Alumni Network (BAN) Endowed Scholarship is a way to do just that.
A believer in the power of collaboration, Jones pulled together a small committee and worked with former BAN president Casey Thomas ('94) and current president Gilbert Gerst ('85) to create the endowment through the UNT Alumni Association Scholarship Program.
"I know that if we all come together and use the power of the alumni who've been here, we will do some great things and make some really significant strides for our students and the university," Jones says.
The UNT Alumni Association Scholarship Program is steadily expanding thanks to endowments from chapters, individuals and partners like Jostens -- a company that has worked with UNT for more than 40 years to engage students in campus traditions, encourage alumni engagement and support the educational journey of the Jostens scholarship recipients.
As the scholarship program continues to grow, donors will be able to choose more targeted areas to support, connect with recipients and see firsthand the difference they're making.
"Receiving this scholarship has given me a deeper sense of pride and belonging at UNT, because I see how much former students have been impacted by the school -- how much they love it and how they're still involved," scholarship recipient Knight says. "It makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger."
An investment in UNT students is an investment in the future of the UNT Alumni Association. Visit untalumni.com/scholarships to give today.