By DAHLIA SOMERS
Due to the planning that went into the five year Mary Washington First campaign, the school’s $50 million campaign goal is now within reach. By the end of the fourth fiscal year of the campaign, the projected donations are safely over $40 million.
The campaign was created to help spotlight the University of Mary Washington as a first-rate liberal arts school. It was a goal to create momentum, energy and excitement for the university, as well as increase private funds.
The campaign targets alumni, parents and friends of UMW.
“We want our donors, our friends, our parents, when they’re thinking about charitable giving, to put Mary Washington first,” said Ken Steen, associate vice president for Advancement and Alumni Relations.
Private funding is used by the school to create a higher quality college experience and environment for students by maintaining a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and offering a range of academic programs led by experts in their given fields.
The funds from the campaign are allocated to seven areas. Scholarships receive $15 million, followed by UMW Program Initiatives with $10 million. The Fund for Mary Washington receives $7 million, the amphitheater reconstruction receives $3 million and $5 million each for the College of Arts & Science, College of Business and College of Education.
Data from the 2014 fiscal year shows that 61 percent of the goal, or $30,676,796 in funds have been raised. The campaign is projected to run for two more years.
The 2014 fiscal year was a banner year; the university totaled $12.1 million in gifts and pledges, representing a 37 percent increase from fourth quarter totals for the fiscal year 2013.
However, dividing the money can be difficult because each department has its own interests and goals, which all require different levels of funding
“Well as far as allocation, I think that the fact that the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and College of Education all get equal amounts – that’s good,” junior geology major Taylor Coxon said. “I’m a science major so I want more money for science and science research. I don’t know how much the College of Education or College of Business need or use, but I know that research takes a lot of money.”
As of March 31, $11.5 million has been committed for Program Initiatives, surpassing the $10 million goal. Program Initiatives include funds such as Arts for the Community, the Libraries and Information Technology and Center for Honor and athletics.
A campaign requires effort and support to be successful; it is not immediate, Steen noted.
“You don’t dare go public until you have all your ducks in a row because one of the ways you raise $50 million is by being extremely organized and strategic,” Steen said.
According to Steen, Mary Washington First had a solid planning period of eight to nine months before being brought to the Board of Visitors for their approval. After that, starting July 1, 2011, there was a ‘silent’ or ‘quiet’ phase when lead money was gathered. During that time, campaign gifts and pledges totaled $28.5 million.
“We extend our sincere thanks to the many generous supporters who already have made their campaign commitments to Mary Washington,” said Torre Meringolo, vice president for Advancement and University Relations.
The campaign was made public last May.
For a campaign like this, it needs “good people and belief in the institution,” Steen said. “People give to institutions like Mary Washington because they believe in it and they believe in the leadership. People give because they passionately believe in the education they received. It made a huge impact in their lives and they had life changing experience so they support the campaign.”
Savannah Stuart, a junior computer science major, is grateful to the people backing the campaign.
“I really appreciate it when people donate to the school because we want to make it nice so we can get more students and more funding,” Stuart said.
Although the school has a small number of alumni compared to other schools, the percentage of alumni participation and donation is still impressive.
“For the past five years Mary Washington has been third in the commonwealth in publics [schools] for percentage of alumni participation, behind UVA and William and Mary,” Steen said.
According to Steen, the Mary Washington First campaign’s success has been in part because of the great team leading it, but mostly because the school leaves a lasting impression on the people who have come to visit, who teach and especially those who have received their education here.
On the Mary Washington First webpage, President Hurley talks about how alumni can become more involved in a short video series titled “Conversations with President Hurley.”
In the four episode series, President Hurley answers questions submitted by Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) about UMW and how alumni can contribute to the university and be involved.
“You as a student should major in a discipline that you really like to do because overarching the discipline, our effort is to make sure you know how to speak well, write well, think critically, solve problems, analyze problems, debate cogently argue your points of view and do it with confidence in the classroom,” Hurley said. “If you leave here with that skill set you can do anything that comes along in your life regardless of the undergraduate major that you received while you were here.”
Many alumni seek to give back to the university by investing in UMW and in the future of current students.