October is always a whirlwind of activity. This year is no exception. Last week, we celebrated donors and scholarship recipients at our annual recognition dinner, kicked off our fall Petri Dish series at the new Bell and broke ground on a new Conservatory!
We invited CBS alum Dr. Mary Kemen to say a few words at the Conservatory groundbreaking. Mary studied botany as an undergraduate and went on to become a physician. She is a member of the steering committee for the Campaign for the College of Biological Sciences a longtime supporter of the College who created a scholarship to honor former faculty member Douglas Pratt and has given generously to the Conservatory and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. At the groundbreaking, Mary talked about how doing research at the Conservatory was a formative experience for her. She talked about how places like the Conservatory are a vital part of promoting science literacy and inspiring people to take action to address climate change and diminishing biodiversity. I mention this because Mary’s personal commitment to supporting science education is one example of how what we do now — our day-to-day work of teaching, doing research, engaging the community — matters and continues to resonate into the future.
Surprising sources of inspiration
Speaking of sources of inspiration, our own Perry Hackett was among a handful of University of Minnesota faculty highlighted in the University’s 2018-19 Driven to Discover campaign, which officially launched earlier this month. Perry’s story about the Sleeping Beauty Transposon is significant because it underscores the importance of basic research, the role of serendipity, the openness of science and the value of collaboration.
A tradition of giving
October is also Community Fund Drive. As co-chair of this year’s drive, I was asked to provide a statement about why I give. I talked about the sense of community here in Minnesota and the tradition of giving that is such a hallmark of this place. The Community Fund Drive is one very simple way to participate in the longstanding tradition of giving that is so integral to this place. As part of the University of Minnesota community we can collectively make a tremendous impact. Whatever your capacity and whatever your interests, I invite you to join me in supporting the wonderful community in which we live.
Focus on fundraising
In my last message, I talked about bringing greater transparency to the budget process. One aspect of our budget that is a bit of a mystery to many is fundraising. As you may know, the College had its best year ever for fundraising in FY18. We raised $5.1 million. We are currently in the midst of a campaign to raise $21 million by 2021 and we are 77% there at this point. The Campaign includes a number of priority areas and specific things we would like to raise money for. These priorities act as a sort of strategic plan for fundraising, guiding our efforts and informing where we focus our attention. That said, fundraising is driven by the wishes of our donors. Ultimately, they determine how the money they give is used. Donors tend to direct their funds to things that have personal meaning or value. For many of our donors — some of them also alums of the College — that means funding scholarships and fellowships. Moving forward, we will continue to think creatively about how to raise funds for programs and initiatives through new sources including corporations and foundations.