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Marshall Supporters Give Back in More Ways Than One

Marshall Supporters Give Back in More Ways Than One

USC Marshall SCervice Project provided an opportunity for Torch Initiative supporters to meet students at the university’s First Generation Plus Success Center and Veterans Resource Center.

Color photograph of students and donors building care packages

Torch Initiative supporters Wendy Fisher and Sharon Kilmer build care packages for students at the First Generation Plus Success Center. [USC Photo / Chris Flynn]

Stay Informed + Stay Connected

The old adage, “it’s better to give than receive,” was never truer than when members from Marshall’s BOARD OF LEADERS and the recently launched TORCH INITIATIVE FOR WOMEN'S PHILANTHROPY held their inaugural USC Marshall SCervice Project on Friday, October 20th.

Gathering distinguished business leaders, professionals, donors, and alumni, the event presented a unique opportunity for participants to spend time on campus with students. The Marshall supporters partnered with the USC FIRST GENERATION PLUS SUCCESS CENTER, USC VETERANS RESOURCE CENTER, and USC STUDENT BASIC NEEDS to learn more about these vital USC resources and the students they serve as part of USC Student Life’s STUDENT EQUITY AND INCLUSION PROGRAMS (SEIP).

To begin the day, a panel of students associated with the centers shared personal stories about their USC journey. Their lived experiences left an indelible impression.

“The best part of the experience was hearing the students’ stories. These students are truly dedicated to their education and future careers, and they are so excited to be at USC,” said Cheryl Sylwester Faillace, BS ’88, MBA ’98. “I don’t think a lot of USC alums know about the Veterans [Resource Center] or the First Gen [Plus Success] Center, and it was definitely an education for me. I am excited that this service initiative will introduce these programs to other members of the USC community.”

Faillace supports the Torch Initiative, which was recently launched to amplify women’s influence and impact at USC Marshall. Through efforts like the service project as well as generous donations and thought leadership, Torch advocates hope to ignite positive change at the school.

Female alumnae from USC are doing amazing things and the Torch Initiative is an opportunity for women to share their success by giving back to USC.

— Cheryl Faillace, BS ’88, MBA ’97

“As administrators and higher education professionals, we need to address the issues that are actually facing our students. We need to realize they are not just 18- to 22-year olds with families who are able to financially contribute to their education. We have those students, but also every other kind of student,” said Alejandra Delacruz Hong, EDD ’22, director of SEIP Trojan Success Initiatives.

First-generation, undocumented, former foster youth, transfers, veterans, and military-affiliated students face unique challenges compared with many other segments of USC’s student population. The Veterans Resource Center and First Generation Plus Success Center create a sense of belonging — a place to hang out, do homework, join affinity groups, and provide other resources to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Any USC student who needs food, housing, and economic support can also seek help from Student Basic Needs.

“Launching with a SCervice Day is indicative of our intent to roll up our sleeves and learn firsthand about the many USC programs and initiatives,” said Sharon Kilmer, BA ’80, MBA ’82 and fellow Torch Initiative supporter. “We can understand what is available and what may be lacking in order to determine where our donations can be the most effective.”

SCervice Project participants built 100 care packages filled with snacks and items to boost students through their day along with handwritten notes of encouragement.

“Every student that walks through our doors needs something different, whether that is community or just a welcoming place to process the challenges of the day. We see individual needs change daily and any time we can show the Trojan Family the value of these programs, events, and resources, it makes a big difference,” Hong said.

The Torch Initiative values women’s contributions in various forms — the SCervice Project was just one example of the initiative’s goal to foster meaningful connections among donors and connect with students.

That’s why Faillace, whose career was in investment management, a primarily male-dominated industry, wanted to be a part of the Torch Initiative from the beginning.

“I want to be able to inspire other female alums to give as well and show how vital women are to the USC community and its future success,” Faillace said. “Female alumnae from USC are doing amazing things, and the Torch Initiative is an opportunity for women to share their success by giving back to USC.”

Kilmer agrees that the initiative can be a catalytic force to uplift the school’s top priorities through leadership and philanthropic action at USC Marshall.

“We collectively hope to make an impact in specific areas in more visible ways that incorporate high standards of accountability and that result in demonstrable outcomes,” Kilmer said.

Their efforts have already paid off. Several of the attending students connected with donors who attended the event and may be receiving help securing an internship. For Hong, that give-back is what it’s all about.

“Seeing a student who can say ‘this is who I am and these are my experiences’ and have someone see what we get to see every day, and trust and believe in them the way that we do, is just so rewarding.”

Fostering this type of holistic approach to philanthropy and direct impact by supporting priorities at USC is exactly what the Torch Initiative aims to do.