“I'll donate a dollar to the Rutgers School of Engineering for every like this gets!”
A Facebook post that simply began, “Fellow Rutgers Alumni, today I read an alarming statistic,” was the opening sentence in what would progress to a challenge and culminate in a donation to the School of Engineering by Sagar Patel ENG’14. After noting that of 400,000 Rutgers alumni, only 8% of them have donated back to the school—a statistic he found “appalling”—Patel based his first-ever donation to Rutgers on the number of likes his Facebook post received.
By the end of the day, Patel’s post received 100 likes resulting in a $100 gift to the School of Engineering.
“I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I am at this position in my life because of what I gained from attending Rutgers,” said Patel in his status. “I am who I am because of my college years. Albeit, they might have made me a quirky individual, but nonetheless I am proud of who/what I have become LOL,” he continued.
What he has become, since graduating with a mechanical engineering degree in 2014, is an engineer with Lockheed Martin based in Houston working on NASA’s Orion crew module. Orion is an exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to Mars.
Patel credits his early career success with the opportunities that were made available to him as a Rutgers student. During his freshman year, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Chair Alberto Cuitino offered him a lab assistant position, which he believes helped land him an internship at Boeing the following summer.
“At the age of 19, I was working on the CH-47 US Army helicopter,” he said. “Talk about being in awe. The year after, I spent the summer in Seattle working on the P-8 Anti-Submarine Navy plane for Boeing.”
Giving back to the School of Engineering was never a question for Patel. What he also hoped to do was find a way to engage other alumni in his decision to give and possibly inspire others to donate along with him.
“The education that we were offered was greatly supported by fellow alumni,” he said. “Therefore, I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to carry on that tradition and give back in any way you can.”
As a young alumnus, Patel recognizes that many may not yet be in a position to donate. Student loan repayments, getting established in careers, managing a relocation, or pursuing graduate studies are just some of the initial financial challenges newly minted graduates can face. However, he encourages alumni to consider other ways of giving back.
“Get involved with your department’s alumni group, get involved with student organizations looking for industry mentors, get involved with New Jersey politics and write to your representatives to increase state funding for Rutgers, make University Career Services aware of internships and full time positions at your company…the list goes on,” he said.
Patel was also interested in finding out why alumni weren’t giving. His Facebook post asked those who do not give or who had had a bad experience at Rutgers and therefore not inclined to stay connected, to leave a comment. Interestingly, none of the comments he received recounted negative experiences instead his friends congratulated and encouraged him on his efforts.
Despite the positive feedback he received, Patel knows there are those alumni who have made a decision not to give. But he believes the act of giving is an opportunity to make a difference and make improvements.
“If you have had a negative experience with SOE, well now is your chance to be able to change that,” he said. Paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi, he continued, “Be the change you want to see!”
See Patel’s full Facebook status below:
Today I read an alarming statistic regarding our University's endowment. Of the 400,000 some Rutgers alumni, only 8% of them have donated back to the school. That is appalling! Now of course, I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I am at this position in my life because of what I gained from attending Rutgers. I am who I am because of my college years. Albeit, they might have made me a quirky individual, but nonetheless I am proud of who/what I have become LOL.
Therefore, I'd like to start my first ever donation to RU with a twist. For every like this status receives, I will donate a dollar to Rutgers. This money will go to the School of Engineering as I believe that investing in the future of students can pay great dividends (No offense RU athletics, I'll still be an avid fan, but for now my money goes to SOE). I encourage the rest of my 2014 class to at least think back on their years at RU and ask yourself, "What has RU done for me?" If the answer to that is negative, so be it, RU could definitely have screwed you LOL. If the answer to that is positive, then try to help in any way you can! (Reach out to your former departments for Alumni relations, become a mentor to students that are pursuing degrees in your industry, and overall engage in discussion that will improve the quality of education at RU!).
To all the people who have had bad experiences, please leave a comment below and let me know why!