By Nathan J. Gallagher
The idea of asking a complete stranger for $300 seems odd. However, for a Humboldt State Phone Jacks student caller, asking someone they have never met before for $300 is a nightly occurrence. Allison Issacson, a 21-year-old psychology major and five semester Phone Jacks veteran, is not fazed by this type of work.
“Three hundred dollars is a standard ask,” Issacson said. “I’ve asked for up to $1,200.”
This is the job of a Humboldt State Phone Jack, a group of 23 dedicated students who contact alumni and parents of current students in an effort to raise money for various university funds. Each night, in a Siemens Hall conference room turned call center, these students strap on their headsets and pick up their pens and dial, and dial, and dial.
The purpose of each phone call is not just to raise money, although the Phone Jacks are very good at that. According to an informational flyer produced by Humboldt State University Advancement, $349,701 was donated to the university last year, much of that through the call room. Each student caller is taught to bond with alumni and parents, share some of their own personal stories about Humboldt State, and get to know them on a personal level. Issacson describes it as fun work environment.
“It’s really friendly,” Issaconson said. “We’re a big family in the call room. It’s really fun to work there. We get talk to the alumni and share those stories with each other. It’s a pretty great place to work.”
Phone Jacks’ student manager Jenna Hanson, 22, agreed with Issacson. She noted that a job as a student caller not only is fun, but can also help students with life after school.
“Besides the pay rate, the job you’re doing allows you to acquire skills that are pertinent to the real world,” Hanson said. “You’re not just chopping onions, you’re networking and if you excel there is opportunity for advancement.”
Hanson would know. After spending three and a half years as a student caller, she was promoted to student manager in the spring of 2012. Since the promotion, Hanson has gained a better grasp of what funds raised by student callers go to.
“Most recently, the Loyalty Fund supported multiple programs and projects including the BioCore Facility on campus, the Telonicher Marine Laboratory upgrades as well as digital art tablets.” Hanson said.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The two main funds that the Phone Jacks raise money for, the Humboldt Loyalty Fund and Parent & Family Fund, have provided an array of campus upgrades. The funds have purchased spin bicycles for the Student Recreation Center, helped expand HSU’s composting program and enhanced funding for the upcoming Centennial Speaker Series.
Despite all of this, the Phone Jacks rarely receive the recognition they undoubtedly deserve. When asked if she was aware of the Phone Jacks program and all of the upgrades made possible by their work, Caitlin Mitchell, a 22-year-old communications student, said she was not.
“I had no idea (the Phone Jacks) did all that,” Mitchell said. “I have known a couple of people that have worked as a student caller in the past, but they never told me that kind of stuff, mostly just how silly some of the alumni were who they talked to.”