Zhuoman Gardner is a development coordinator for the Dartmouth College Fund. She has worked with the Fund for four years—and in April was adopted by the Class of 1961. Born in Shanghai, China, she herself adopted the United States when she became a citizen in 2004. She lives in Concord, N.H., with her 14-year-old son, Morgan.
What do you like about your job?
I work closely with my colleagues and alumni volunteers to raise money for the Dartmouth College Fund, mostly for financial aid. This is something I truly believe in. What I love about my job is our talented colleagues and our high-caliber alumni volunteers—their dedication to raising funds for students, their unwavering love for the College, and their lifelong friendships with each other are the reasons I look forward to coming to work every day.
How did you come to work in fundraising?
In China, people are kind and giving, but philanthropy, aside from large-scale donation drives for disasters, is not part of the culture. I didn’t know fundraising was a professional field until after college, when I landed my first job in the development office. That’s when I learned philanthropy is so prevalent and organized in the States. People’s generosity in giving their time, talents, and treasures moves me. Their belief that they can make a difference moves me. They do make a difference, and because of them, I now believe I can make a difference, too.
Any advice for international students?
I was an international student. I thought I had been prepared for culture shock before I came here, but you’re never prepared enough. But you gain confidence by interacting with the community, by daring to go out of your comfort zone. Dartmouth is a small community, and that makes it intimate. Dartmouth has a good support system to help international students make the transition. I think Dartmouth is the right place for international students. You’re going to make your roots here and build lifelong friendships. You’re going to become a global citizen by learning this American culture, but also stay true to yourself.
You were recently adopted by the Class of 1961.
I got a call from the ’61 head agent and the class president: “Zhuoman, you are now an honorary member of the Class of ’61.” I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it. And now I’m like, “Yay! I’m an adopted Dartmouth alumna.” That feels so good, because I believe in this institution so much. Being part of it as a staff member was inspiring enough, but being part of a class—it’s amazing. I proudly present myself as a ’61a (in alumni materials). We’re planning for the class’s 55th reunion right now, and I realized, oh my gosh, I’m planning for my reunion, too. I’m so thrilled and honored and just—it’s a good feeling.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I’m a single mom, so my weekends are mostly chores, shopping, and taking Morgan to sports. But I really enjoy learning—I like to read, and I’m a TED Talk junkie. Learning has grounded me and helped me understand the people around me and the culture. I didn’t grow up here, so I feel that I missed out on so much, like the music and movies. I’m learning historical events through a very different perspective now. Learning is exhilarating and liberating.
What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
One thing I’m proud of: I can dance! I didn’t think I was a dancer, but I learned to cha-cha in 10 days and won first prize in a contest.