Students to be involved in capital campaign

By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 5, 2013

Although students won't serve on the University presidential search committee, a student committee has been formed to assist and participate in the upcoming capital campaign. It will be the first of its kind here on campus.

Set to launch Nov. 8, the University’s fourth fundraising campaign will focus on providing financial aid to students and expanding classroom learning into real-world experiences.

The campaign has a 38 fundraising units throughout the University’s schools and colleges, as well as volunteers and committees that will help connect the goals of the campaign. So far, the student campaign committee has 18 members representing undergraduate and graduate schools.

Tom Baird, assistant vice president of campaign strategy of the Office of University Development, said the students involved will have a formal role in the campaign and will help spread awareness about how the money will be spent.

“We actually have a student committee that is serving that has access to the real roles in the campaign and that will help advise us on how to get students involved,” Baird said. “It’s really exciting because it helps expand the culture of philanthropy around the University of Michigan.”

University faculty members nominated students to become members of the committee. Kat Walsh, director of student engagement with the Office of University Development, said almost all of those invited joined the committee.

The main purpose of the committee will be to extend the message of philanthropy to the whole student body in order to continue a long-standing tradition of student fundraising efforts on campus.

Many student organizations — including Dance Marathon, Galens Medical Society and Greek life — regularly raise money for a variety of University causes, and the student campaign committee aims to expand that practice.

“It’s exciting to have students across the University who are going to come together and say, ‘We want a better University now and for the students who will follow in our footsteps,’ ” Walsh said.

Walsh added that Stephen Ross, the philanthropist and real estate tycoon who made the largest donation in University history of $200 million, serves as an example of someone who understands the value of philanthropy.

Serving as the chair of the fundraising campaign, Ross set the bar high with his donation, which will be split between his namesake school and the Athletic Department.

“He will convince people that it is important to give,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said in an interview on Wednesday. “It is not only important for the Ross school, the athletics, the medical areas, in English, in writing, in history; we need those resources for our students all over the place.”

Rather than serving an honorary role, Ross is already actively serving as chair by speaking to potential donors and connecting alums to the University, according to Baird.

While the University has received a flurry of large donations — what Baird calls “leadership gifts” — from Ross, Charles Munger and the Zell Family Foundation, the campaign will likely receive gifts of all shapes and sizes.

Judy Malcolm, senior director of executive communications at the Office of University Development, said the University received a record-setting number of gifts that were less than $25,000 this past year.

Malcolm could not provide the exact numbers, but said Jerry May, vice president for development with the Office of University Development, will include the data in his presentation on the fiscal year at the University’s Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 19.

While the Michigan Difference, the previous capital campaign, focused more on infrastructural projects with a total of $3.2 billion raised, Baird said this campaign team will ensure that donors know the significance of their gifts going toward financial aid rather than physical enhancements to the campus.

“Donors give where their passions are,” Baird said. “I think our donors understand the challenges our students have in terms of paying for their education. We’re going to see a tremendous amount support for students to come.”

In an interview Wednesday, Tim Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said philanthropy has allowed the University to grow. Slottow said that providing financial aid to every in-state student who is in need — and working toward offering the same to out-of-state students — will allow the University to develop its diversity.

“We went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for affirmative action and diversity, and we studied and proved that diversity prepares students more for successful lives,” Slottow said. “So, that’s a very important thing.”

More details about the campaign will be released at the kickoff on Nov. 8. The Office of University Development plans to host a press conference regarding the campaign on Nov. 7.