Uncovering Powerful Stories by philanthropy

Ashley Han.
Ashley Han. Hometown: Santa Barbara, Calif. Major: Science and Technology Studies

By Ashley Han  

As a journalist, I have a soft spot for breaking news, injustice in the system and giving voice to the voiceless, and working in the Marketing and Communications Department at UC Davis Alumni and Development Relations has changed my perspective on the many ways this can be accomplished.  

The more I write and the deeper I get into what goes on at UC Davis, I’m amazed at how philanthropy has impacted the lives of students, faculty, staff and friends. People may be skeptical of marketing but there are actually even more amazing stories out there than we are able to tell, and I’m convinced that philanthropy means more than the stories I share. 

At first, I couldn’t relate to alumni donating thousands of dollars to their alma mater because my mind is consumed with two part-time jobs and a full load of classes. I’m mentally preparing to pay off my student loans, but writing stories about alumni inspired me to give back in the future.  

I interviewed Firmin Berta ’57 back in November 2017, and what he said left me speechless. He funded a graduate fellowship for Juan Polari Ph.D. '20 so Polari could continue his studies at the UC Davis Olive Center. Berta said that when he heard Polari might have to move back to Argentina after his scholarship ended, he just had to help because “Juan is the type of person UC Davis needs and the type of person this country needs if we want to be leaders in research and agriculture.”  

Berta’s generosity and forward thinking shows his pride for being an Aggie, and I felt pride for sharing his words with One Aggie Network readers. And alumni are not the only Aggies who give back; I’ve also witnessed UC Davis employees give part of their paychecks to the university. 

Romy Villaluz completed an internship at UC Davis before he was hired as a physical therapy assistant at the UC Davis Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Working 40 hours per week just isn’t enough for Villaluz. He is passionate about his job, patients and colleagues, which drives him to give back to the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Fund through payroll deduction.  

Not only do alumni and employees benefit from giving back; I’ve also seen how it impacts students and their education. Zachary McGaugh ’21 just started attending UC Davis in the fall, studying Political Science and African American Studies, and he was awarded the prestigious Blue and Gold Scholarship. When I asked him what he plans on doing after he graduates, there was excitement in his eyes as he explained how he wants to teach in urban cities and make educational reforms. The financial support from McGaugh’s scholarship allows him to comfortably attend UC Davis and pursue his dreams.  

Philanthropy has affected me personally since the day I was born because of my dad. He has held a career in development for over 25 years and worked for several large public institutions like UC Davis. Currently the Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Development Officer for External Relations at UC Merced, he meets with donors and receives donations from alumni to support students and the university.  

I am always so intrigued by the people I interview and the stories they share, and I’m honored to write inspiring stories for fellow Aggies and the world to read. Being exposed to philanthropy through my dad, I am now able to put his work in context with the stories I write and it’s a gratifying experience!