Written by Tyler Shea, Advertising Design ’17, Ringling College of Art and Design
On November 11th, Ringling College held its first ever "Ringling Gives Thanks" event, where students from all majors came together between 11am and 3 pm in the Exhibition Hall to take photos, create short videos, and craft Thank You letters to Ringling College donors. Over 434 students stopped by to express their gratitude and thanks to the many donors that help countless students reach their dreams of becoming professional and passionate creatives.
I spoke with Lisa Intagliata, Assistant VP of Constituent Engagement at the Office for Advancement about the first-of-its-kind-on-this-campus event, and how much positivity it helped pass along through Ringling College and our surrounding community.
Tyler Shea: How did you come up with this idea of giving thanks to our donors and alumni?
Lisa Intagliata: The idea for the Ringling College Gives Thanks Day came from our Vice President for Advancement, Stacey Corley. Over the years, she saw the great impact the letters that students write to their scholarship donors had on the donor and heard from them how positive it made them feel. Many of our donors have commented that building relationships with our students, and seeing their progress is so rewarding for them to see. They can truly see how they can make a difference in someone’s life. Stacey wanted to spread this idea to include even more donors and thus the idea was born.
TS: Who helped you plan it, if anyone?
LI: We did some research online to see if any colleges did a letter writing campaign like this and saw that the University of Florida does a similar campaign called Grateful Gator Day. The University of Florida Foundation staff was kind enough to meet with us about how they organize their day which was immensely helpful in planning our first annual event.
TS: What was the overall turn-out of the students who came to give thanks?
LI: We had over 434 students that participated in our first annual Ringling College Gives Thanks Day. We like to refer to these students as our “Appreciative Artists”.
TS: Of the students who showed up, what were their reactions to the event?
LI: Students had smiles on their faces and seemed genuinely happy to be there and write these notes of thanks to our donors. Several even came back to write a second or a third note. Many students said that this event made them feel good and lifted their spirits at the end of a long week.
TS: What were some messages of thanks/pictures that stood out to you? Why?
LI: Some of the most heartfelt messages were from students who expressed that their dreams were made a reality because of the caring donors we have in our community that have helped to donate their time and money to help with scholarships, enhanced facilities, programs and upgraded state-of-the-art technology. We had several students who included beautiful illustrations of hearts, flowers, self-portraits etc… in with their thank you notes. One picture that stood out was a whimsical octopus that a student drew and he captioned the drawing by saying…let me give you a round of applause! It brought a smile to my face.
TS: What was your favorite part about planning this event? What about your favorite moments during the event?
LI: My favorite moment of the event was seeing all of our tables filled with students who were totally concentrating on writing these thank you notes to our donors and really taking time with adding a special drawing or coming up with a personal story to share in their note. It was a special moment to witness first hand. I also really enjoyed working with the Design Center and their team on creating a logo and “brand” for the Ringling College Gives Thanks Day. It really conveys life, color, brightness and a positive feeling when you see the sunburst. It represents the light that comes from giving back to one another. We want to use the image and brand it with this event for use in future years.
TS: Are you planning to have another "Give Thanks" event next year?
LI: Yes, definitely! The event was such a positive experience from beginning to end, and we went in with a goal to write 550 thank you notes, and we got all 550 hand written by our students by the end of the event (11am-3pm)! That was an extraordinary task, and it went so smoothly! All the notes were mailed this week (Thanksgiving week) and I just received mine at home last night (Nov. 21). Even though I worked on the event and am a staff member at the college, I was just as touched when I opened my card at home and read the note from a student. It was extremely heartfelt and it made me feel great.
TS: Since it was our first time having an “Appreciative Artists” event, how will it evolve next year?
LI: Due to the overwhelming response from our students, we are thinking about making it a bigger event next year and possibly even moving it to another area on campus (perhaps even a tented area) so that more students could participate. We would like to shoot for getting over 1,000 thank you notes written! We also had many faculty and staff members who stopped by and asked if they could write a note this year. We loved that. Our plan will be to include them as well next year.
TS: Do you think we could carry this theme of "Appreciative Artists" throughout the school year for different holidays/guests? i.e.: Valentine's Day, Veterans' Day, Christmas, maybe for faculty/staff, etc.
LI: I think you are on to a great idea! I think anytime you can personally show your thanks and share a personal story, drawing etc… with someone, it goes a long way and really expresses that you care and that their gifts have made a positive impact and have helped to change a life for the better.