When people come together, great things can happen. When Smith alumni come together, the impact can be extraordinary. Most people think that they have to engage in recruiting or give thousands of dollars to be considered active in the alumni community, but former Smith student leaders and young alumni are showing that it’s possible to come together and do more to make a social impact.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and New York, the devastation was beyond belief for most Americans watching on TV. Living in New York’s Lower East Side, Mitch Levine ‘09 watched the East River flood the streets, strong winds rip up shop awnings, and short-circuiting transformers brighten the night sky.
In the days after the storm, it became clear that the clean-up effort was just too large for ordinary responders. As co-president of the New York Terps, he knew there were a lot of fellow alumni in the area who were impacted both directly and emotionally. So, Levine, a former student leader with Smith’s AMA club, and his NY Terps team organized a cohort of 70 alumni to visit Staten Island. The team ended up serving 10 hours, cleaning up 13 homes, and one business.
“At Smith we learned a lot about business and how real world events can impact the market. We also learned that community is a shared responsibility that we all have to make the world a better place,” says Levine. “It was a great bonding opportunity, but many MD Terps just wanted a way to help.”
And it’s not just doing community service. Joel Liebman ‘09 has rounded up Levine and over 75 former Smith alumni to supporting former Smith Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA) President Jesse Chen ’08. Chen’s social enterprise American Civix Technologies is fundraising to build a free technology that can change the way everyday people interact with leaders in their communities to strengthen civic engagement in our democracy.
“Jesse’s team is trying to build a free technology that could help regular people put pressure on their government to get things done,” says Liebman, the May 2009 commencement speaker and an active member of the PwC recruiting team. “Making a small donation to his project and a couple hours of my time is a great way to feel like I’m making a difference and staying connected with the alumni network.”
When Liebman asked another former commencement speaker to join in, Vanessa Bliss ’07 said it was a no-brainer. “We shouldn’t just hire and mentor students; the network should help fellow alums do great things that help real people.” she said. “I know a lot of fellow Terps who want to make a difference, and the Smith community is no exception.”
Chen has raised over $17,000 of his $50,000 goal with most of his support from fellow Smith alumni including 7 generations of former SUSA leaders. “I asked friends to help build a stronger democracy. Suddenly I realized most of our supporters were former student leaders coming out of the woodwork,” a grateful Chen remarked. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
Smith continues to produce community leaders on-campus and beyond it. Chen and Levine agree that, whether it’s volunteering or rallying around a social enterprise, Terps are clearly committed to their communities. Readers can learn more about alumni.umd.edu/newyork. They can learn more about Project Engage and join the movement at www.indiegogo.com/projectengage
Smith School Supporters of Project Engage At-a-Glance
- Gerald Suarez, former Dean of External Strategy
- Pat Cleveland, former Dean of Undergraduate Studies
- Marla Weintraub, SUSA President 2008 – Maryland Terps Chapter Co-President
- Abby Widom, SUSA President 2009
- Chris Corragio, SUSA President 2010
- Pratik Dixit, SUSA President 2012
- Khalil Pettus, Incoming SUSA President 2013
- Mitch Levine, ’09 – Maryland NYC Chapter Co-President
- Allie Armitage, ’08 – Maryland NYC Chapter Co-President
- Candace Tomkiel, 09 – Maryland Philadelphia Chapter Co-President
- Amanda Bailey, ’08 – Smith Young Alumni Committee
- Alison Taylor, ’09 – Smith Young Alumni Committee
Jesse Chen '08, American Civix Technologies