By Ariana Assaf, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 3, 2013
A new philanthropy project is helping to grow the student network that will contribute to fellow Wolverines in need.
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Project Wolverine was founded two and a half years ago by University alum Joseph Eisman. His original goals were to build a Wolverine statue as a gift graduating seniors would give to the University as well as create a means for current and graduating students to make donations to their school.
Now, LSA seniors Han Zhang and Vishrut Srivastava have taken charge of the project and slightly reworked its goals.
Project Wolverine’s team is comprised of students on-campus working to inspire their peers to make donations to raise money for scholarships future students can take advantage of.
In the next four years, its goal is to raise $50,000 for an endowed scholarship. So far, $350 has been raised.
“This year is an experiment phase,” Zhang said. “Scalability has been hard, so to pass the message about student philanthropy in the best way possible, we created the website this year.”
Zhang said Eisman wanted the University’s mascot to have a bigger presence on campus, but ran into some technical difficulties.
“There’s red tape everywhere in terms of building a statue,” Zhang said.
Eisman’s preliminary team focused on the legal aspects of the project. Now, Zhang and Srivastava’s team have partnered with the Office of University Development, giving them the ability to use the University brand in their advertising and merchandise.
Srivastava said many students wonder why they should have to give more to the University than what tuition requires, so the team worked on giving students an incentive to donate.
“For a five-dollar donation you get a laptop sticker, and for a $15 donation you get a t-shirt,” Zhang said.
“Just buying a shirt and a sticker enables students who wouldn’t be able to experience the University otherwise (to have that experience),” Srivastava said. “There’s no better way of giving back.”
Aside from the monetary goal, the team’s other goal is to change the culture surrounding student philanthropy on campus.
“It’s so easy to be wrapped up in student orgs and exams and going to bars, but we’re really lucky to be here,” Srivastava said.
Both Zhang and Srivastava have experienced the problems that high tuition rates can pose for potential students, which inspired them to become involved in the project.
Zhang’s freshman year roommate lived in Ann Arbor for 11 years but was born out of the country, and thus had to pay international tuition. The only way he could afford attending the University was if he graduated in three years.
“I didn’t see him for two and a half years because he took 18 credits every semester to graduate in three years,” Zhang said. “He didn’t have anything close to the Michigan experience.”