University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Calling All Alumni

Fatema Pardhan phones grads for U of T’s Annual Fund. She, like many students, also benefits from the fund

It’s not easy calling strangers to ask them for money. But Fatema Pardhan, a fourth-year pharmacology student, believes in her cause. Pardhan works for U of T’s call centre. And for many evenings this fall, she will be calling U of T alumni to ask them to donate to the university’s Annual Fund.

Pardhan, 21, knows better than many how important the Annual Fund is to U of T students: she herself has benefited from it. Originally from Tanzania, Pardhan works three part-time jobs to cover some of her university expenses (her father used to pay tuition and rent). She says that, until recently, balancing work and school had been challenging but manageable. Then – seemingly overnight – “things changed.” Due to circumstances at home, her father was unable to continue supporting her.

A U of T registrar advised Pardhan to apply for a bursary, which she gratefully received. Now, Pardhan says, she works at the call centre to “fundraise for all the students like myself, so we can afford to study.”

More than 20,000 U of T alumni and donors contribute between $12 million and $15 million a year to the Annual Fund, which supports scholarships, bursaries and student life initiatives. According to Dean Hughes, U of T’s executive director of annual and leadership giving, half of all U of T students benefit from financial aid at some point in their university career. Alumni support of the fund is crucial for students in need, he says. Pardhan herself readily agrees. “Receiving the bursary changed my whole third year,” she says. “I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

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