The Dallas Chapter had a problem—a good one, but still a problem. It had too many volunteers who wanted to get involved with its scholarship program.
Organizational change takes multiple steps, so leaders convened a scholarship steering committee to brainstorm solutions. It included brand-new board members and veterans, as well as other leaders, thinkers, and doers.
The question, scholarships chair Karen Liu Pang says, was this: “What do we need to do to make scholarships more meaningful for our scholars, and donors, and the community? Because this is really the heart of what we do at the Dallas Texas Exes.”
The main way for interested chapter members to get involved with scholarships was to review applications, but that was only for a compressed time. Several people wanted to have more personal interaction, but there was no easy mechanism for it.
That’s when Nidus Abrahams, BA ’08, hit on an idea: provide scholarship winners not only with money, but also with a mentor from the chapter.
At UT, Abrahams had been involved with the Neighborhood Longhorns program that allows college students to tutor and advise East Side high school students.
For the Dallas Chapter, he thought: “It’s fine that we’re giving recipients this scholarship, but our relationship after that is left open. These are the type of kids who are going to be campus leaders, and if we can allow them to tap into the depth of resources we have, we can add value.”
Content to be a behind-the-scenes idea man, Abrahams thought it would be a perfect project for Pang, BS ’99, to execute.
A director of process development at the United Way, Pang was already known among her friends and colleagues as an avid mentor. And one who has made a difference. One of her mentees, Whitney Hicks, grew up in inner-city Dallas and was placed in a summer internship at United Way through a mayoral program. Liu Pang quickly took Hicks under her wing. Recently, the young woman received a four-year, full-ride Mustang Scholarship to Southern Methodist University.
Pang found being mentored helpful herself at several points in her education and career. After law school, for instance, a mentor helped her realize that she still wanted to work in a helping profession.
As she sought Longhorn mentors and worked out the details of the new component to the Dallas Chapter’s scholarships, volunteers were the simplest thing to obtain. She quickly had the 15 needed for the recipients; she’s even considering matching each recipient with more than one mentor.
“Connecting them is an easy value-add to the scholarship,” Pang says. “I think they’re going to have an amazing experience at UT anyway, but having someone there to give them extra advice could help.”