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Some alumni spend several years building their careers before donating to Rutgers. These recent grads want to give, and give what they can, right now.

You’re a young Rutgers graduate beginning an entirely new phase of life—polishing a résumé, finding a place to live, mastering
the politics of the workplace or graduate school. The demands on your time, energy, and wallet are enormous.

Even with all the pressures, however, many recent alumni feel another personal imperative: finding ways to give back to the university that helped shape them.

Some are former scholarship recipients whose donors inspired them. Others are motivated by a particular facet of Rutgers, such as its commitment to diversity or its reputation for world-class research.

Alex Mahgoub RC’06 captures the sentiment in words at once simple and profound: “I’m in a position now to make sure other people can have the opportunities I had.”

These donors understand that with Rutgers engaged in a $1 billion fundraising effort, the largest in its history, the need for their peers to contribute is more urgent than ever. “It’s important that alumni know their duty is not done when they graduate. It’s not called ‘alma mater’—Latin for ‘nourishing mother’—for nothing,” says Katty Rivera LC’04, GSE’09.

Learn why four of the university’s most proactive young advocates place supporting Rutgers high on their agenda.

The value of education: A grad school course in counseling psychology launched Rivera on the journey that led to her job as a residential program manager at a Mercer County mental health facility. She inherited her love for learning from her Peruvian-born parents, who immigrated to the United States to provide wider opportunities for their then-toddler daughter. “They are huge advocates of education and taught me to appreciate the learning process as a lifelong journey,” Rivera says. “It’s one of the most important investments you make for yourself.”

Cultural connection: Rivera, a leader of Rutgers’ Latino Alumni Association, directed her $100 donation to the Center for Latino Arts and Culture. “The reason I’m passionate about the center is that since its founding 24 years ago, it’s been a resource for Latino students to learn about one another. I admire the educational programming at the center and the way it endorses active involvement by the students.”

An impetus to act: A member of the Rutgers University Alumni Association Board of Directors, Rivera says she always felt inclined to donate to Rutgers, but a recent campaign to involve all members of Rutgers’ various governing boards provided the final push.

Twice the fun: In college, Mahgoub pursued a double major in English and theater arts. Now he is following a double career path: Manhattan real estate agent and part-time actor. Recently, he had a great time playing Dolan, a tough guy and “a bit of a jerk,” he says, in the Israel Horovitz off-Broadway hit Line.

Best Rutgers experience: “All of it!” If pressed, Mahgoub will single out his onstage experiences: nine theatrical productions at the Cabaret Theatre and several comedy gigs with the College Avenue Players. He also served as a leader of the Cap and Skull Society, a highly selective campus organization that recognizes excellence in academics, athletics, and the arts.

It takes a latte, not a lot: As chair of his class’s fifth Reunion campaign, Mahgoub has made two $50 gifts: one to the Class of 2006 Fund, possibly for a scholarship, and the other to Cap and Skull. The Piscataway native acknowledges that economic times are tough for fellow 20- and 30-somethings, but “I tell them there are sacrifices they can make. Maybe one day they don’t have Starbucks, they don’t go out to eat, and they give that money to Rutgers. I tell them any amount is helpful; if each of the 5,000 members of the class gave $1, we could make a significant impact!”

It’s personal: If all goes as planned, Swartley-McArdle will receive a master of science in biology from Rutgers–Camden this October. His focus is immunology, a passion that grew out of witnessing his mother’s life-threatening battle with Lyme disease when he was 12.

School ties: Having immediately found a strong sense of community at Rutgers–Camden, Swartley-McArdle immersed himself in campus life. He is a member of the men’s crew team, a student representative to the Rutgers University Board of Governors, founder and president of the Rutgers Bioethics Society, and a contributor to the Gleaner, the Rutgers–Camden student newspaper. He’s also
creating a campus chapter of Tri-Beta, the National Biological Honor Society.

An easy choice: His undergraduate involvement with the Camden Honors College, a program that contributed greatly to his academic success, drove Swartley-McArdle to donate $1,000 to the Camden Honors College Gift Fund, on top of $250 to the Department of Biology. When his grandfather died and left Swartley-McArdle an inheritance, there was no question where some of the money would go. “My mom raised me in a very philanthropic culture,” he says. “She gave back to her university, Kutztown, and I want to follow her example by giving back to mine.”


A civil action: Sherno’s law education at Rutgers–Newark was supported by a scholarship established by Paul (NLAW’62) and Carol Miller—a generous donation the Millers meant to convey appreciation for the financial aid that had allowed Paul to attend law school. That education served Sherno well; she landed a job as a litigator with a Manhattan law firm. “The courses and professors at
Rutgers really helped prepare me for what was to come,” she says.

Attitude of gratitude: The Millers’ generosity has in itself been inspiring for Sherno. “They take their donations to the law school seriously, by continuing to host dinners for students, for example, and by encouraging recipients to give back and pursue their dreams in the law,” Sherno says. “Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to take on that kind of role myself.” She is already on her way: at her law school graduation, she pledged $100 a year over the next five years. When that $500 is fully paid, she says she’ll readily sign on for more.

Motion to appeal: “People think that if they can’t give a certain amount, they shouldn’t give anything,” Sherno says. “They don’t realize they don’t have to donate a lot to make a difference.”

Originally published in Rutgers alumni magazine. Photography by Mo Daoud.

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