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IU Northwest News

‘It feels good to give back’

Despina Amanatidis says alumni must contribute to help move their university forward

Thursday May 21, 2015

Despina Amanatidis of Valparaiso believes the opportunities that have helped her succeed must also be made available to others, and she feels a sense of responsibility for helping to make that a reality. This belief stems from her gratitude of the very opportunities that she’s been afforded -- opportunities made possible largely by the philanthropy of others.

Like being able to earn her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from a world-class business school located right in her “backyard,” for instance. A 2009 graduate of Indiana University Northwest, Amanatidis enrolled in the program in hopes of advancing her career. Ultimately, her diverse education, which also includes a teaching license and two degrees in music, has equipped her to pursue an entirely new professional direction, teaching business and economics at Valparaiso High School.

Now, the Highland native says it’s her turn to work toward ensuring others have the same caliber of education and the same great experience she had while at IU Northwest. She said IU Northwest holds a special place for her because it is her region’s university.

“The one thing that keeps bringing me back to IU Northwest is that it’s right here. It’s in Northwest Indiana. It’s a wealth of knowledge,” Amanatidis said. “I still continue to communicate with my professors. I bring my students here to campus. It’s a wealth of knowledge that is easy to tap into.”

Leading by example, Amanatidis contributes to moving our campus forward in many ways. She serves on the Chancellor’s Commission for Community Engagement and search committees to hire key leaders at the university. She freely gives her time to mentor and coach students whenever possible and encourages fellow alumni to get involved. She even sings at Commencement, sharing her talent and tapping into her musical education at Ball State University and the University of Akron.

Amanatidis also feels strongly about her role as an involved alumna. She is the immediate past president of the IU Northwest Alumni Association (IUNAA) and remains an active board member. She also gives financially to IU Northwest. Funding scholarships is one of the most important reasons to do this, she said, and the IUNAA is currently working on creating an endowed scholarship.

Amanatidis knows firsthand the personal impact the gift of a scholarship can make, both as a recipient of many scholarships herself, and a high school teacher.

“I see the impact scholarships have for our students,” Amanatidis said. “They are our future. Economically, education is our number one investment. It’s critical that our young people have the opportunity to go to college and develop skills.”

Amanatidis wants young students to know that their life goals should not end with graduating from college and gaining a career for themselves. 

“I hope many more students have a great experience just like I had and I hope they will also give back so we can continue this wonderful wealth of knowledge that we have right here in Northwest Indiana. It’s very important to support that.”

Amanatidis is well aware of the trickle-down effect of her actions and she spreads that message whenever she can.

“When family and friends ask me why I give so much to IU Northwest, I tell them it’s just a part of me. It’s something I enjoy,” she said. “I feel like a professional student at times. I like to give back because I enjoy seeing the improvements on campus.”

Of course, the benefits of staying engaged with her university continue to offer her benefits as well and not just future generations. She sees herself as a stakeholder in an IU education. Like all alumni, her degree is an investment that is only as prestigious as IU.

That’s saying a lot, of course, because an IU education is world-renowned. But it takes a community of engaged people for IU to maintain its strength.

“Giving to IU Northwest makes me feel a lot of things,” she said. “I think it feels good to give back. It’s rewarding. It feels like an accomplishment. And it is fun.”

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