Following recent donations by University alums Stephen Ross and Charles Munger, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced Tuesday that she and her husband will donate $1 million toward global scholarships.
As part of the Victors for Michigan campaign set to launch Nov. 8, the donation will be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students to fund international study, internships and service work, among other opportunities abroad.
Coleman announced the gift at her annual Leadership Breakfast Tuesday, where she spoke on the University’s accomplishments and upcoming initiatives. The event marks her last State of the University speech as she prepares for an announced July 2014 retirement.
In a University press release Tuesday, Coleman said she hopes to provide more students with the opportunity to travel abroad, “experience other cultures firsthand, seek solutions to world problems and learn to thrive in a dynamic global environment.”
Together, Coleman and her husband, Kenneth Coleman, a political scientist, have contributed $1.79 million during her tenure — totaling more than any University president’s contributions before her. The two took advantage of study-abroad opportunities while in their undergraduate and graduate programs.
Coleman traveled throughout Europe for three months as an undergraduate — an experience that “changed my outlook about myself and what I wanted to do with my life,” she said in the release.
Coleman said she hopes her donation will provide study abroad opportunities for those not previously able to do so.
“What intrigues us so much about education today is the rich variety of international experiences with which students may engage,” Coleman said in the release.
The Colemans’ interest in supporting global engagement for University students isn’t a new endeavor. Previously, the Colemans have donated $25,000 to create the Mary Sue Coleman and Kenneth M. Coleman Student Global Experience Fund, supporting the President’s Challenge for the Student Global Experience. The challenge proposed to provide a match to each endowment gift to study abroad programs, which included a $1-million donation from Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012. The gift was matched with $250,000.
For the past few years, Coleman has donated salary increases above her base pay scale back to the University. She has typically donated to financial-aid programs, specifically scholarship funds supporting global engagement through study abroad programs. In 2012, Coleman donated what would have been a merit pay increase of 3 percent, or $17,574 on her $585,783 salary.
“I’m perfectly well compensated,” Coleman said.
In 2007, 2011 and 2012 Coleman’s salary increases were entirely donated back to the University in the form of study-abroad scholarships.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily in 2011, S. Martin Taylor, a former University regent, said he was not surprised by Coleman’s consistent donations.
“Her willingness to give back to the University has been there since the beginning,” Taylor said.
While Coleman’s donation serves as a parting gift to the institution she has lead for more than a decade, it may also influence potential donors considering giving during the next capital campaign.
Campaign organizers have said financial aid would be the top priority of the Victors for Michigan campaign.
In a February interviewColeman said it will be important to articulate the impact of scholarships on students and faculty in order to encourage donations directed towards financial aid.
“We need to fashion this in a way donors can get excited about the difference they can make in people’s lives, so a lot of this will be storytelling about what students have done and what the impact of having various scholarships has been,” Coleman said.
Additionally, Tom Baird, assistant vice president of development campaign strategy at the University, said the campaign would also center on projects that connect classroom learning with real world experiences — which, like Coleman’s gift, could likely include support for study abroad aid.
Apart from financial support, Coleman has emphasized a global view in her leadership at the University — both in promoting experiential learning abroad and efforts to build University connections outside of the United States.
Coleman has traveled to four international destinations on behalf of the University during her tenure: Brazil, Ghana, South Africa and China.
In November, Coleman will embark on her fifth trip abroad, this time to India. With a select group of faculty, Coleman will engage with civic and academic leaders and enhance the University’s academic connections in the country.
“What I really hope is that we provide more opportunities for our students to really go and have a really robust experience,” Coleman said in a mid-September interview. “India is, by population, a huge democracy; it’s got growing pains, a rapidly growing economy and real issues. I think there’s a rich area for our students to engage.”
Last month, James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education, emphasized the importance of experiential learning in a presentation to the Board of Regents.
However, the number of University students studying abroad dipped between 2008 and 2011, partly due to challenges related to costs, which Holloway said the University hopes to alleviate with increased financial aid.
“We need students to be saying to themselves not ‘I wonder if I should go abroad.’ We need our students to be saying ‘I wonder when I will study abroad,’ ” Holloway said.
Aside from their contributions to international studies, the Colemans have contributed to a host of departments to support students. In 2003, they donated $500,000 to the Michigan Difference Campaign to support the Rackham Graduate School, an undergraduate scholarship program, the Life Sciences Institute and a fellowship program for the Institute of Social Research.
The couple also gave more than $15,000 in 2007 to help financial aid programs for graduate and professional students. Their gifts have also funded renovations to the Trotter House and the University’s Museum of Art.