Reaching Out to Reedies
The lilting French accent can’t hurt, nor the genuine curiosity about Olde Reed, nor the easy willingness to open up about life as an African student on an American college campus.
All these things helped Marushka Ngahane Baoh ’09, an international student from Cameroon, to become one of the top fundraisers in Reed’s phonathon this past fall. To date, the effort has raised $224,400 from 1,267 donors, a 70 percent increase over the previous year.
Baoh is one of 26 students who worked the recent phonathon. Together, they logged nearly 24,000 calls, connecting with more than 3,200 alumni and parents. Students manage the call center in the basement of Eliot Hall largely on their own, says Lindsay Nealon, assistant director of the annual fund.
Baoh admits her motivations are partly mercenary—on behalf of Reed’s financial aid program. “I am on financial aid,” she says. “University in the United States is very expensive and my parents can’t pay for everything. I like the fact that I can raise funds so that others can attend college.”
A leisurely phone chat with an alum doesn’t necessarily convert to a large gift when you’re fundraising. But Baoh still gets the most enjoyment from conversations that linger. She’s talked international politics with a Reed philosophy major, and given travel advice to a Reedie who was thinking of visiting Cameroon. And she often talks about the experience of being an African on the Reed campus. “Most of the alumni tell me that when they were here, there were no African students,” she says. “They’re pretty surprised that someone from Cameroon found Reed.”
Baoh was originally headed to France to study math and computer science when her father, a management consultant for an international relief agency, urged her to consider applying to American universities instead. “In the French system, you specialize in high school, and then you specialize further when you get to college,” Baoh explains. “The U.S. system is much more flexible.”
She is still leaning toward a math or science major, but as she plows through the heavy reading load in Hum 110 (English is her second language), Baoh finds herself tempted by the social sciences as well. She’s considering international relations, political science, sociology, and psychology, plus maybe an art class next year. ”I don’t really know what I want to major in,” she concedes.
But she does know what she wants to do before heading back to Cameroon. “I like trying new things,” she says. “I’ll do snowboarding, kayaking, rock climbing—things I can’t do in my country.”