Beginning last week, members of the Young Alumni Leadership Program (YALP) began tabling in Smith Union on behalf of the Senior Pledge Initiative (SPI), a program which aims to spread awareness among the senior class regarding how they can give back to the College in the years following graduation.

YALP was founded in 1998 to educate seniors about the College's aspirations and to prepare them for active engagement as Bowdoin alums, whether it be through participation in the Alumni Fund or interviewing prospective students. The SPI directly encourages the former.

"[Bowdoin] is unique among [peer schools] in that we don't have a senior gift," said Director of Annual Giving Brannon Fisher. "[With] a lot of colleges, seniors are asked to actually make a financial contribution."

Seniors are instead asked to pledge a certain amount to the College annually in the several years following their respective graduation.

"While these pledges are non-binding, it's a way to know that you've committed," said YALP co-leader Mary Connolly '11. "It is a way to show your commitment to the community and what Bowdoin has given you."

Fisher called the pledges "a commitment in spirit."

"The amount really doesn't matter," said Fisher. "What that they build this habit of contributing... All of these gifts added together do add something substantial and significant to student programs."

Six percent of the College's annual expenditure comes from gifts, according to Fisher.

"Over a third of what we spend on each student is thanks to Polar Bears that have come before them," he said.

"Bowdoin cannot be what it is without this continual loop," he added. "You are here and having this experience thanks to those that came before you."

YALP hopes to see 60 percent of seniors make a pledge this year. This majority percentage is equivalent to what the College aspires to for its higher alumni fund, and is also the average alumni participation rate at peer schools such as Middlebury, Williams and Amherst.

"We are about 51 percent [alumni participation] according to US News, which is still quite good nationally," said Fisher, "but if we consider ourselves the equals of those schools there, [60 percent] is an important measure for us to reach." Fisher noted that in 2007, at the height of the recent Bowdoin Campaign, alumni participation reached 59 percent.

After a week of tabling, YALP had received 80 pledges out of a class of 456 students. Connolly said she was "hoping that number will go up."

"One thing that scared students off is...[the thought that] 'I don't know what I'm doing next year; I don't know what to give,'" she said.

"What we want to stress is not the amount you give, but the fact that you're participating," Connolly added. "Also, by participating you increase the overall alumni participation rate, which is a really important metric [for the College] that other people look at."

One hundred and fifty donations amounts to an increase of 1 percent in the participation rate, Connolly noted, "So [the Class of 2011] has the ability to make a really large impact." The current senior class will be the largest to ever graduate from Bowdoin.

"We're hoping that through this awareness campaign, we're going to have a noticeable bump in the [overall alumni] participation," she said. Connolly also explained that YALP will hold a few more tabling events.

Both Fisher and Connolly expressed the desire to make YALP more of a visible insitution at the College. YALP is currently an open-invitation group and all seniors are eligible to apply. YALP co-leader Mariel Beaudoin '11 is also looking to organize a time capsule for a future reunion of the Class of 2011.

This semester, YALP's core group of 20 to 30 members organized a speaker series of administrators—including Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Scott Meiklejohn and President Barry Mills—to discuss Bowdoin from the administrative point of view. YALP has also worked to coordinate a series of events to prepare seniors for life after college, among them the "Life 101" series.

"YALP offers interested seniors a 'peek behind the curtain' of how Bowdoin is run, and acts as a way for students to transition their relationship to Bowdoin from one as a student to one as an alumni," said Connolly of YALP's present form.

Fisher, who assumed his current position as director of annual giving last October, hopes also to build upon YALP's mission.

Fisher hopes for a future version of YALP "that's more robust, more dynamic, [and] something that reaches further into the student life than second-semester senior year." He added that he wants the program to be something which students come to "expect, and are excited about participating in."