University of Calgary

Student callers

Student callers handle all kinds of requests from alumni

By Kate Davis

Lee Martin manages the call centre. / Photo by Ken Bendiktsen

Lee Martin manages the call centre. / Photo by Ken Bendiktsen

We’ve all received one—that phone call from a student at your alma mater asking for an update and telling you what’s new at your school. Have you ever wondered who’s behind those calls? Meet Lee Martin, operations coordinator of student calling at the University of Calgary.

A commercial pilot by trade, Martin began as a student caller with the university in 2006 when he moved to Calgary to begin a degree in French. He quickly moved up to his current position of managing the call centre, juggling this part-time position with his studies.

A large portion of Martin’s day is spent scheduling the students and deciding which faculties are to be called on which nights. With 13 student callers and one supervisor per night, schedules can change rapidly and it’s Martin’s job to make sure all the seats are filled each night.

The main function of the call centre is to serve as the first point of contact for alumni, updating their records, keeping them informed about what’s been going on at the U of C and telling them how they can support their alma mater.

Every year, the student caller program raises approximately $400,000 for the U of C, as alumni and friends of the university give to projects they care about.

You don’t have to look far to see the difference philanthropy is making on campus. With the construction of buildings such as the Taylor Family Digital Library and International House underway and the growing number of scholarships and bursaries available, students like Martin see the impact of their work every day.

“Students get a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the night,” says Martin. “They’ve raised money for their school, often for something tangible they’ll see, like a new building.”

Over the years, Martin has had many requests and received many donations through the call centre, but there are two conversations that stick out in his mind. One night a new student caller received a pledge over the phone of $25,000 and, on another night, an alumnus wanted to donate not cash, but his body, for medical research.

Martin’s reaction to the offer of a body? He spoke to the right people and had it arranged. “It’s not about how much money they want to leave, or how they support us,” he says. “It’s that they want to stay connected, and this alumnus certainly did.”