Hailing from Western Pennsylvania, USA, Stephanie Urchick has spent her career working in higher education and college administration. A Rotarian for 23 years and a member of the Rotary Club of Canonsburg Houston Southpointe, USA, she shared with me her motivation for joining Rotary and who she’d most like to interview in the world.
You mentioned earlier that when you were younger, you thought you’d move away from Pennsylvania. Why did you end up staying there?
When I was younger, my dream was to join the Foreign Service or work for a government intelligence agency. I was really focused on international service but when I graduated from college with a degree in international affairs and was waiting for my application to go through, I found a job near my hometown and I’ve been here ever since.
What first attracted you to Rotary?
In 1991, I was asked to go to a meeting by a female acquaintance. Women had only been Rotary members for a few years and I wasn’t sure what to expect besides the usual stereotypes. I asked her what Rotary was. She provided a really great description of what Rotary was – that Rotary clubs are involved in both community and international service – and what Rotary did. The international aspect of Rotary was what really enticed me to join and its part of what has made me stay.
I experienced the internationality of the organization firsthand when two young women participating in a Group Study Exchange stayed with me. We spent a lot of time talking about our similarities and differences and I thought, “How would I have ever had this opportunity, to meet people like this if it wasn’t for Rotary.” And I realized: I wouldn’t have.
As a member of the Rotary Foundation Trustees from 2012-14, you probably asked people to contribute to The Rotary Foundation on a regular basis. What do you say to convince them that the Foundation should be their charity of choice?
I always tell people that it is the only charity where you can give and get back. The money that a donor contributes comes back to your club so that you can do projects and help people around the world.
That’s very true and something that is unique to Rotary. Speaking of service projects, of all the ones you’ve had an opportunity to work on, which has been your favorite?
Hands down, a maternal health project that my Rotary club did in southeast Poland. Through a Matching Grant, we worked with Polish clubs to build a mammography and biopsy unit in a local hospital. By partnering with Siemens in Germany, we were able to get supplies and machines donated and the staff trained. This project was done in 2000 and many women didn’t have access to the right equipment to obtain a diagnosis of breast cancer early enough to save their lives. The unit performed 5,000 mammograms per year – can you imagine the amount of lives that have been saved during that time? I attended the dedication ceremony as part of a Rotary Friendship Team and it was really special seeing the difference this was going to make in women’s lives.
It’s always great to hear about people helping others – if you could interview anyone around the world, who would it be?
I would interview Bono from U2. I would ask him two things: first, what made him choose his celebrity to help solve world problems? And second, what are his tips for encouraging normal people to serve the world. Because that is what I am – an ordinary person who is trying to make the world a better place.
If you could change anything about Rotary, what would it be?
I would make meetings less expensive so more people could attend and enjoy them. There are so many good ideas and connections that come out of large meetings such as the Rotary International Convention. However, it’s hard to pick and choose what I am able to go to. It makes for some very tough choices.
Finally, as TRF Moderator for this year’s 2015 Regional Leaders Training Institute, what is the one thing you are most excited about?
I am very excited to try a new format for this training with only incoming volunteer leaders. These leaders will have many fresh ideas and energy that is contagious.
These groups are so important to the work that Rotary does. They are like a quilt – each group is one piece and together they can do more than just one piece alone.