Advance Work

As Easy as Pi
CMU Qatar gives Pi Day a new spin

Since its creation by physicist Larry Shaw in 1988, Pi Day has been an opportunity for math nerds to cut loose: Throw pies at professors. Compete in a "digits of pi" recitation contest. Engage in a heated argument about tau's superiority. One institution is using the quirky March 14 holiday to celebrate the mathematical constant π (often presented as the circumference of a circle at 3.14) and recruit new students.

The annual Pi Day Mathematics Competition at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar attracts students from local independent high schools. Participation has doubled from 200 to 400 attendees since math professors Hasan Demirkoparan and Zelealem Yilma started the event in 2016. "The students are interested and excited. They start their own study groups before coming to the competition," Demirkoparan says. "We thought we should provide an opportunity to show off their skills and let them learn math for themselves."

Students compete for two rounds in teams of four. In the first round, they must answer 40 written questions, with English and Arabic translations, in 90 minutes. In the second round, teams have one minute to solve equations and answer them in English. Absolutely no calculators are allowed.

CMU Qatar has partnered with local sponsors to provide tablets and university swag as prizes for the winners. The competition has been a great way to get students interested in the university and in studying math at a university level. Several former contestants, including a finalist, now attend CMU Qatar. "We have been able to recruit some good students to CMU from the competition," says Yilma, who hands out informational brochures with Demirkoparan during the event. "As we keep doing the competition, it'll get better and better."

Emily Lombardo

High schoolers gather on Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s campus to compete in the annual Pi Day math challenge.
High schoolers gather on Carnegie Mellon Qatar's campus to compete in the annual Pi Day math challenge for tablets and CMU-Q swag.


Dinner for 12 Lobos
University brings alumni, students, and faculty together one dinner at a time 

Would you like to celebrate your birthday with 12 strangers? The University of New Mexico wouldn't have it any other way.

For the past 16 years, the institution's alumni association has hosted "Dinner for 12 Lobos," a program in which student, faculty, and alumni volunteers host and attend dinner parties over the weekend closest to the February 28 anniversary of the university's founding.

To recruit the lobos—wolves in Spanish and the nickname for UNM students and their athletic teams—the association issues a call for hosts in its alumni newsletters in early December. The search for undergraduate and graduate student attendees starts the first week of spring term, says Susan MacEachen, associate director of alumni relations. One year, 100 students volunteered in just three days. Faculty are the most difficult to recruit, and students planning to attend dinners help by inviting their professors.

The first year, MacEachen started with eight dinners, each with 12 guests. This year, up to 17 dinners will take place in the Albuquerque area and near the institution's other campuses throughout New Mexico. Hosts plan the meal, and the university provides flowers, name tags, plates, napkins, and cakes decorated with the institution's logo.

Amy Boule, a former alumni association board member, has been hosting dinners since 2011. "I love to cook and entertain," she says, "so I volunteered to host, not knowing what to expect. Everybody ended up staying longer than they thought they would." She tries to cook a different dish each time, but beef burgundy is a guest favorite. Guests should bring nothing, Boule says, but they should "expect a lot of laughter."

"It's a nice way to meet all different kinds of people and connect the University of New Mexico community on a small level," she adds. "It really gives me hope for the future." EL

The University of New Mexico celebrates its founding every February with multiple parties held at the homes of various alumni. UNM orders cakes from local bakeries; guests create the camaraderie.

One Party Is Not Enough: The University of New Mexico celebrates its founding every February with multiple parties held at the homes of various alumni. UNM orders cakes from local bakeries; guests create the camaraderie.


3 Tips for Maximizing a Matching Gift

How do you turn $5,000 into $125,000? Michael Westfall, vice president for university advancement at Oakland University, explains how he grew a modest annual fund gift into a six-figure commitment through gift matching while working at the Eastern Washington University Foundation.

"I learned that a donor who routinely gave to the annual fund not only worked for an organization that matched donations 2:1, he was also a board director at a different company that matched 2:1," Westfall says. "As a result, I was able to secure a five-year pledge of $25,000 that turned into $125,000 through both companies' gift-matching policies. I call matching gifts ‘money in the couch'—it's found money in which all the hard work of raising it has already been done."

Westfall offers these strategies for maximizing matching gifts:

1. Maintain good data.
Use external services such as HEPData to identify who in your database is eligible for a gift match. Analyzing information on alumni with available employer data can help identify the top 10 companies that offer a gift match and employ a critical mass of your institution's graduates. Approach these companies for targeted matching-gift campaigns.

2. Create awareness.
Many donors don't know that their employers will match charitable gifts. Include matching-gift marketing information in all appeals and acknowledgments to donors, and feature success stories whenever possible in newsletters, emails, magazines, and website content.

3. Appeal to donors.
Send out personalized letters to donors who made a gift and are eligible for but did not take advantage of matching. Outline the steps they can take to make sure their next gift is matched. Make the process as easy as possible for them by providing either a link to the matching-gift form or a paper copy. EL

1 in 10

Number of donors,
on average, who are
matching-gift eligible


Number of parent and subsidiary companies in the U.S. with matching-gift programs


Percentage of Fortune


companies that have
matching-gift programs


Average amount
universities received in matching gifts in 2016


Average matching
gift size in 2016

Sources: "Matching Gift Automation: More Money, Less Problems," HEPData 2017; Corporate Matching Gifts Help Disaster Relief Efforts, HEPData 2017; Council for Aid to Education, Voluntary Support of Education Survey 2016

North Carolina A&T State University's journalism department annual fashion show and food drive

What on Earth (Day)?

From conducting waste audits to hosting campus festivals, universities around the world use Earth Day to engage and teach students about protecting the planet. At North Carolina A&T State University, the journalism department’s annual fashion show and food drive features costumes students create from cardboard, leaves, and other reusable materials. Donated food goes to the Greensboro Urban Ministry.

Boston University’s Earth Week+ lasts nearly a month and includes a tour of energy companies in the Boston area. “There’s a lot more out there than just a clean-up day,” says Lisa Tornatore, BU’s assistant director for sustainability. For more Earth Day ideas, check out the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s photo gallery. EL

The Importance of Being Foolish
Promoting the institution, with a side of mirth

For many colleges and universities, April Fools' Day never gets old. That's because people love a good laugh, and the payoff lasts longer than the lark.

Every year, universities around the world prank their students and alumni with inspired tricks. The University of Nottingham, for example, in 2016 announced plans to construct a jungle gym for the #FatSquirrels on campus. On April 1, 2014, Michigan's Oakland University promoted a new course in "Post-Apocalyptic Survival Studies."

"April Fools' Day gives us a chance to reach an audience beyond the people who currently get our content. It's such lighthearted and shareable content, so it gets people instantly engaged," says Stephen Baxter-Crawford, social media manager at the Queen's University Belfast.

The key to a successful gag is to ground it in institutional history or an area of ongoing academic inquiry. Queen's University Belfast reached more than 60,000 people and garnered 3,578 online click-thrus when it announced a dragon egg hatching timed around the release of the latest season of Game of Thrones (the show is mostly filmed in Northern Ireland).

"The pranks are still coming up on our social media years on. People are coming back to the story again and again," Baxter-Crawford says. "A lot of prospective students remark on it when they visit campus. It's a great way to showcase our sense of humor and personality before they even step on campus." EL



Now Trending
Think you're up on giving trends? Test your altruistic acuity:

1. Which generation of parents is most likely to research charities before giving?

A) The Silent Generation (1928-45)
B) Baby Boomers (1946-64)
C) Gen X (1965-80)
D) Millennials (1981-98)

2. Which charitable subsector, based on the latest data, receives the highest percentage of charitable dollars?

A) Education
B) Environment/Animals
C) Religion
D) Arts, Culture,and Humanities

3. When it comes to life satisfaction and charitable giving:

A) A majority of people see giving as a burden.
B) The impact of giving is greatest in high-income households.
C) Giving makes all people happy.
D) Satisfaction with giving depends on the charitable cause.

4. Charities and institutions are seeing an increase in surprise gifts from:

A) Religious Gen X-ers
B) Childless baby boomers
C) Millennial women
D) High-income Gen Y-ers

5. When reaching out to today's LGBT+ donors, it's important to:

A) Focus on single-person bequests.
B) Use family-friendly messaging.
C) Stick to LGBT+ issues.
D) Ignore marital status.

Answers: 1. D | 2. C | 3. C | 4. B | 5. B