Fundraiser brings out faculty, staff talent

By Samuel Charles

More than a dozen acts performed at Stage Two in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building, on Dec. 2 in an effort to raise money for

Columbia students.

“Columbia’s Got Talent,” a talent show organized by the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative, was put on to assist Scholarship Columbia efforts. As of press time, the fundraiser brought in more than $13,000.

“[Scholarship Columbia] is a way to get both the internal and external community excited about supporting our creative students,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. “It’s been a very powerful way of raising funds.”

In April, the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative hosted an art auction/loft party at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building. Proceeds of the event went toward Scholarship Columbia. The auction earned more than $11,000 for the fund.

Scholarship Columbia defines itself as a five-year, $1 million challenge grant that aims to raise unrestricted amounts of scholarship money for students who demonstrate financial need and merit. The challenge matches gifts 1-to-1 and matches gifts from alumni 2-to-1, up to $25,000.

One benefit of the fundraiser, other than money for scholarships, is the opportunity for faculty and staff to meet members of other departments they may not have known, said Pattie Mackenzie, assistant dean for Faculty Advising in the School of Media Arts.

“[Our focus] is two-fold—to raise money for Scholarship Columbia and to create community among faculty and staff, and we haven’t had that,” Mackenzie said.

Performers hoping to raise money included a juggler, one poet, interpretive dancers and musicians from different Columbia departments. One participant, organizing committee member Bethany Brownholtz, performed a medley of Lady Gaga’s songs “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.”

Several tip jars were set at the front of the stage, with all money going toward Scholarship Columbia. Audience members were encouraged to “give tips” to their favorite performers—who ranged from the president’s chief of staff to adjunct professors.

The organizing committee wanted to be accessible and encourage all faculty and staff to get involved, Mackenzie said.

“It’s really been important to the committee to stay [down-to-earth],” she said.

“We want excitement and interest in creating something brand new to come from an organic place. It’s going to continue to grow and become whatever we want it to be at any given time.”

The artistic environment was appropriate, Brownholtz said.

“Working at an arts school, everybody has talent, so this is really the place to have a talent show,” she said.

The 17-person organizing committee is open to the idea of venue changes for the fundraiser as well, added Mackenzie.

Another goal of the fundraiser this year, aside from building a sense of community between college employees and raising scholarship funds for students, was to give faculty and staff a creative outlet, said Susan Imus, organizing committee member.

“We have so much talent at this school,” Imus said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we provide a venue for staff and faculty to share their own talents and earn money for students at the same time?’”

Julie Volkmann, board liaison and director of presidential events, said while the scholarship fund is young, she believes it will grow because of community support.

“Like anything else in life, [Scholarship Columbia] is in a beginning place and will get better every year as it gets more and more entrenched in the minds and hearts of the people involved,” Volkmann said.

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