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A sea of graduates seated at commencement in their regalia.

'I Gaucho Back'

The Class of 2017 rallies for its Senior Class Gift

If college graduation feels like a million years ago, there’s a heartwarming reminder each year as UCSB’s seniors launch into the world. Campus delights in summer’s approach and seniors experience the paradox of looking back and looking ahead; many of them wonder if, in some small way, they can produce a legacy.

“Unity within a class can really make a mark,” says senior Kaitlyn McQuown ’17. “Collectively, we can make a difference.”

McQuown co-chairs UCSB First, a student organization dedicated to fostering a campus-wide culture of philanthropy. The organization partners with various student groups to fundraise for the Senior Class Gift, a collective donation made by the senior class to a charity of its choice. Over the years, senior class gifts have enhanced the UCSB experience in myriad ways---they’ve been directed towards the UCSB Library, student safety in Isla Vista, provided financial support for students, and supplemented textbook funding (just to name a few). This year, the Class of 2017 selected the Associated Students (AS) Food Bank, an organization that provides free and nutritious food to students with financial difficulties.

“There’s definitely been an evolution over the years where you can see seniors more willing to give because of a great cause,” reflects Karina Vicente ’18, member of UCSB First and UCSB’s Annual Fund. Vicente attributes seniors’ involvement to the enhanced democratic process: this year alone, AS President Austin Hechler ’17 identified three organizations that fit within his political platform, and the senior class subsequently voted for their top pick.


UCSB's mascot Olé poses with a student.


“Any donation, no matter how big or small, will truly make an impact,” says McQuown. “I would consider [our Senior Class Gift] a success if more students don’t have to worry about where they’re going to find their next meal.”

So just how big or small are students’ donations? There is a wide range produced by the senior class, ranging from single gifts of $500 to $20.17 (a symbolic amount that represents their graduation year). In between these is something called the “Gaucho Dollar a Day”---a popular choice among students and young alumni. “Gaucho Dollar a Day” is an annual pledge of $365, equivalent to a $1/day contribution. Many millennials prefer this option because it falls within their fiscally feasible category.

Regardless of gift amount, alumni’s philanthropy is a matter of personal conviction. As Vicente notes: “People have different financial situations. I 100% believe I will give in whatever capacity I’m able to. I love UCSB and I want to see it thrive.”.