Tell Me More: 7 Questions About Giving Back as a Young Alumna
Tell Me More is a series that provides easy-to-digest information about NC State philanthropy topics. Each story in this series is designed in a Q&A format.
A recent NC State graduate explains how and why she gives back as a volunteer and donor. Following her graduation from NC State, Ashle Page earned a master’s degree from Duke and a juris doctor from UNC-Chapel Hill.
1. Can you tell us about your time as a student at NC State?
I graduated from NC State in 2017. I double majored, receiving a degree in chemical engineering from the College of Engineering as well as a degree in polymer and color chemistry from the Wilson College of Textiles. I minored in English. I was very fortunate that I was able to finish both degrees in four years, and it ended up being a perfect marriage between the two colleges. I was involved in a number of student activities like the University Honors Program and the Women In Science and Engineering, as well as research initiatives on campus with both colleges. I participated in Service Raleigh (an annual citywide day of service started in 1998 by NC State’s Student Government and Park Scholars) each year and served as co-chair of the event one year. That was a huge undertaking as far as logistics, but I appreciate that NC State provided those real-world opportunities. My junior and senior years, I served as a Chancellor’s Aide.
2. How did the financial support you received shape your college experience?
The scholarship programs were about much more than just paying tuition. They were opportunities to connect with other students in a community, and to connect with faculty and staff, as well as alumni. I was a part of the Goodnight Scholars and the Centennial Scholars. Through both of those programs, I was able to grow as a person, receive professional development and learn about various careers. From day one, alumni were there to share their stories and to provide support to us as students. The scholarship support I received also allowed me to worry less about finances, and to use that time for internships and work opportunities, including a summer internship with NASA. I look back and I know that, without those programs, my college experience would have been drastically different. I would not have been able to be as involved. I’m incredibly grateful to the donors that were able to provide funding for those programs.
3. When did you first start to understand the impact alumni and supporters have on the university and its students?
I was a prospective student visiting NC State with my parents. I had the opportunity to interview for several merit scholarships on campus and got to really see what a future at NC State could look like, and to see how many opportunities students have. I could see giving at work in these scholarship programs funded by private donors. I saw alumni giving back, and so many of the alumni were there on the scholarship interview weekends to talk about their experiences at NC State. And so, even from that early stage, I saw how involved NC State alumni were in really producing the next generation of students and alumni. Once I became a student at NC State, I had the opportunity to interact with alumni at every single stage. There were opportunities to talk with alumni about their own professional development, or what their career has meant to them, or to hear them talk to the scholarship programs that I ended up being involved in. It was a connection and it’s something that made a huge difference in my four years in college, and then encouraged me to become an involved alum as well.
4. Where does your desire to give back come from?
My parents are big believers that education should be more than just learning. It should really be something you’re doing that can have a purpose and an impact on your life and on other people’s lives. I think, too, going back to my earliest experiences on campus, it was clear everyone was going to rally around us as students and really support that think-and-do mentality for students. It almost instills those ideas as a lifelong mantra. At NC State, you’re not just taking knowledge for yourself, you’re using that knowledge to make a difference and do something with it. All of those various things that students are able to get involved in at the university are really tied to that philosophy, but also it’s something that you carry with you after you graduate. We can still be involved in using what we learned at the university to make an impact — whether that’s getting involved in volunteering our time as an alum, or through donations, or whatever it may be. There’s so many different ways that we can carry on that mantra as an alum.
5. How have you stayed involved with NC State since graduating?
Because I’d had so many opportunities to interact with alumni while I was a student, I knew I wanted to be that person who comes back to campus and tells the story of how NC State shaped my life. When I graduated, I jumped in right away and served on a number of different scholarship selection committees on campus. I was part of the application review and interviewing process over the next few years. It’s been a lot of fun to do that, because you’re seeing the next generation of leaders. I’ve served as a mentor in different programs on campus and served as a judge for NC State’s eGames (founded in 2009, the eGames is NC State’s annual startup competition, awarding over $100,000 to NC State entrepreneurs). That’s something I was involved in as a student, so it’s been fun coming full circle.
In 2019, I joined the College of Engineering Young Alumni Advisory Board, and I now serve as chair of the board’s development committee. We are young alumni in the College of Engineering who are involved in supporting other young alumni as well as current students. With current students, we can share our experiences as alumni and hear their stories as well. We also encourage young alumni to give back to the university in any way they can. We let them know, whether it’s with their time or money, that any way they can give back – big or small – helps the university.
6. What would you want other young alumni to know about supporting NC State?
Young alumni can have an impact on our university. There are so many different ways that alumni can give back, whether it’s with time — perhaps serving on a committee or as a mentor — financial support, or in some other way. I know people have invested in me every step of the way. Maybe it was just giving me five minutes to look at my resume, or maybe it was those that funded scholarship programs. Every single person made a difference. I hope to invest in future generations to make that difference as well, and I know so many other young alumni feel the same way. We have been given so much and there’s so many opportunities to give back.
When it comes to financial support, every single dollar makes a difference. It’s a misconception that you have to give a huge gift in order to make a difference. Young alumni are just starting out so, understandably, we may not be able to make the million-dollar gift, but we can make a $10 gift. Young alumni can think back to areas that made an impact in their own lives when they think about giving back. We can give to, say, an enhancement fund in an area that made a difference in our lives. If you were a chemical engineering student like me, you can give to the chemical and biomolecular engineering enhancement fund. There are so many different options as far as where your money can go and be used. In many cases, those funds are used directly to help other students. As young alumni, we can think back about what NC State has done for us in our lives. So many people invested in us, and this is an opportunity for us to invest in other people. Whatever it is that we feel led to give, we can give back.
7. What is your favorite thing about NC State?
It’s the diverse experiences you can have, from being involved with world-changing research to being involved in the arts. The Gregg Museum was somewhere I visited as a student and after I graduated. There are just so many experiences outside of academic pursuits and those that give you a break from academic pursuits such as the Crafts Center. Then there’s great experiences like eating Howling Cow ice cream. It’s a favorite of every NC State student and alum, I think, but it’s also a way to connect with people. You can start a conversation by asking someone their favorite flavor. It’s about having those connections with people, whether that’s over food or something serious, like the incredible research we do at the university … being a student at NC State, and carrying those experiences into being a member of the Wolfpack alumni, making connections, and continuing those connections for a lifetime.