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Answering the Call

April 17, 2020
group of people posing outside
The Cowboy Callers team in front of the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

The UW Foundation’s Cowboy Callers reach out to alums, donors and friends to reconnect them with their alma mater. 

By Sunnie Lew and Tamara Linse 

For 20 UW students, work begins at 5 p.m. at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

As they file into the Cowboy Call Center, they joke and catch up. The group is tight-knit. The team gives the impression of close friends rather than co-workers. The environment is professional but also very personable. It’s clear that the Cowboy Callers are motivated students, focused on making an impact. Their enthusiasm for philanthropy is inspiring.

“Being a Cowboy Caller gives me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives and education of students just like myself,” says Cowboy Caller Sydnee Pollock. “Raising funds for special events is very exciting. I’ve been able to experience firsthand the positive impact of donor support.”

“It’s a family environment,” says Doug Hammond, call center operations manager. “Even though we all come from different backgrounds and majors, we find camaraderie in our common goals, which are to reach alums and donors and get them connected back to campus.”

Cowboy Callers are a student voice of UW and play a vital role in reconnecting, establishing and maintaining relationships with alumni, parents and friends who generously support the University of Wyoming through annual giving.

Callers are diverse and represent colleges across campus. They spend their shifts engaging in meaningful conversation and making personal connections with those who have a shared pride in UW.

Cowboy Callers are also making a real impact: Last year, they raised a record of almost $200,000 that directly supports their fellow students, faculty and programs. They are often the only direct contact UW supporters have with the student body, making their role essential to the university’s fundraising efforts.

In the center, the students share details of their favorite calls. Some of these stories are humorous. One caller recounts singing the UW fight song, loud and proud, over the phone with an alumnus. Other stories depict how connecting with alumni has been life-changing.

“My most memorable experience was having the opportunity to apply for a scholarship funded by one of the donors I called,” says Cowboy Caller Maggie Needs. “After having an engaging conversation with him over the phone, he personally invited me to look into the scholarship and apply. The best part about this call was the amazing advice he gave me. I know I’ll carry it with me throughout my entire life.”

Throughout the year, special fundraising events such as the Border War Blitz and UW Giving Day—an annual tradition held in conjunction with Giving Tuesday—are conducted through the Cowboy Call Center. Through these events, callers learn about UW’s organizational structure and its funding needs, all while developing skills in public relations and engaging with their university.

This year, the center organized the first-ever Cowboy Call Thank-a-Thon. Cowboy Callers reached out to every donor who gave to the university in 2019 to personally thank them for their support.

The event was a remarkable success. Through the efforts of the Cowboy Callers, several donors renewed their pledges for the following year. Gifts such as these directly support the colleges, departments and programs that have a daily impact on the lives of UW students.

“We’re looking to generate some memorable conversations,” says Hammond. “Cowboy Callers want to make sure that donors know their philanthropic generosity is appreciated and share with them the impact of their gifts. All who give make a big difference for UW, no matter the amount.”

Student callers are essential to UW and to the UW Foundation. They play an important role in raising the support that enhances the quality of education at UW.  Being a Cowboy Caller is an opportunity to gain highly applicable work experience, to learn and implement negotiation techniques and to be involved in a diversity-rich environment.

Cowboy Call encourages all enthusiastic students interested in professional development to apply each semester. Open positions appear on the university’s job listings website, when available. Cowboy Callers are student philanthropy ambassadors. By maintaining strong relationships with UW supporters, they make a huge difference for fellow and future students at the university.

For more on Cowboy Call, find us under Annual Giving on the UW Foundation website, or view the thank-you video on the UW Foundation YouTube channel.


head portrait of a woman
Abby Tygart

Meet a Cowboy Caller

Abby Tygart is a speech, language and hearing major from Scottsbluff, Neb. This is her second year as a Cowboy Caller. She will graduate in May and plans to go on to grad school in the fall.

What is the best thing about being a Cowboy Caller?

One of my favorite things about working here is really just the people we get to talk to. I have talked to some interesting alumni and supporters. I love hearing about the things they experienced when they attended UW and how they are experiencing UW and supporting now. We get to talk to them about the university, of course, but I have also heard life stories and interesting experiences and learned life lessons from others who have been students at UW.

What is the worst thing about being a Cowboy Caller?

The worst thing is probably nights when people don’t really pick up the phone. I think most of us get pretty excited to talk to alumni and supporters of the university. Being yelled at sometimes is pretty disappointing, but I think the good things kind of make up for it.

Do you have a specific anecdote, something that happened to you at Cowboy Call, you’d like to share?

Each year, we participate in Giving Day on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, I talked to someone on the phone and helped them donate. This is always really special, and I hope donors know how much it means to us. During the spring semester, we called to thank those who had given to the university, and I actually called her again. I thought that was pretty cool, and she ended up remembering me as well, so we got to talk for a few minutes.

How has the Cowboy Call program benefited you?

I think I have learned a lot about talking to people and gained a lot of valuable experiences making phone calls like this. I have met a lot of great friends, and I really value all of the conversations I have had. This job also gave me the chance to help the university, which is important to me because I have gotten so much out of just going to school here.

Why is the Cowboy Call program important to UW?

We obviously raise money for the university, which is important. As students, we see a lot of the places that this money goes, and we are aware of the difference it makes for students. One of the other really important things that we make possible at UW is establishing and maintaining relationships with alumni. This is a big part of bridging the gap between current students and alumni.

What advice to you have for future students who are thinking about becoming Cowboy Callers?

For one, this job is not as scary as I thought it would be when I started.

I think the best advice I can give is to do your best to create good conversations and to be yourself. The people you call will enjoy hearing from a student and having an authentic conversation. It is also really helpful to go into each night or each call with a positive mindset and just look forward to all the conversations you will have. Don’t get discouraged by disappointing or difficult phone calls—there are plenty more good ones.

What do you love? What are you passionate about?

One of my biggest goals with my degree and eventually when I find a job with is to find a position that allows me to help other people.


The UW Foundation Student Philanthropy Board

The UW Foundation Student Philanthropy Board provides students with a unique leadership opportunity centered on the role of philanthropy at UW. It’s for those students with a passion for nonprofits and fundraising, those who want to make a difference in the world. Activities include active fundraising efforts, stewardship of donors and networking with leading business professionals. It nurtures an environment that values and manifests diversity, internationalization, free expression, academic freedom, personal integrity and mutual respect. In addition to their philanthropic projects and events throughout the year, the group meets one evening a month, with dinner provided. It’s a great opportunity for students to get valuable experience while making a huge difference on our campus.


The UW Ethics Club

The University of Wyoming Ethics Club is a recognized student organization focusing on developing student character and conscience as well as promoting ethical decision making. It provides a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment for members to make friends, to make a difference and to enrich their college experience. Spark Tank is the UW Ethics Club’s philanthropic effort to further the missions of nonprofits in the Laramie community. Spark Tank’s goals are to serve the community through outreach, to provide funds that “spark” the mission of local nonprofits and to increase the value of the college experience for UW Ethics Club members by enabling them to participate in philanthropic endeavors. Spark Tank works like “Shark Tank,” where local nonprofits and groups in Laramie pitch what they would do with $10,000 in investment. After the pitch, the club’s members and officers vote on the cause or causes most worthy of the funding.

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