Faculty, staff have begun to give back

By BenitaZepeda

Scholarships are a vital part of student survival, due to the rising costs of higher education and unstable economic conditions.  At Columbia, various faculty and staff members have joined together to “create change” and help ease the financial burden students face.

The success of the new Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative lies directly within the hands of employees of the college. From staff members in building maintenance all the way to top administrators, such as President Warrick L. Carter, money is donated directly from their pockets in hopes of helping students fund their educations.

In October 2009, College Adviser J. Wayne Tukes decided it was a good idea to give back to students, especially during a time where the state’s funding for the Monetary Award Program grant was at risk.

From that moment on, Tukes began to involve other members of the Columbia Community in assisting students financially.

The initiative works in conjunction with Scholarship Columbia, the main scholarship program available to Columbia students. The awards are available to students with a minimum 3.0 grade point average and who show financial need.

“The Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative is a way to celebrate the faculty and staff while providing resources for students at Columbia College,” Tukes said.

What makes this program unique is that each dollar donated by a faculty or staff member is matched through Scholarship Columbia, one-to-one. If the faculty or staff member happens to be a Columbia alumnus, the amount is matched twice, two-to-one.

Tukes said many scholarships are through endowments, and this initiative is different because they are funds to be used as soon as they are available, not

through interest.

Although the program is fairly new, the initiative has already raised more than $52,000 to be disbursed to students through Scholarship Columbia. Even though it is a separate initiative, it will be working in conjunction with Scholarship Columbia until at least 2014.

Taryn Smith, junior broadcast journalism major, said that she likes hearing about more scholarships available to students, and if Columbia can deliver more scholarships, she has nothing bad to say about it.

“Whenever I hear ‘scholarship,’ and Columbia trying to do something else with scholarships for students, I guess I just get happy,” Smith said. “As long as we actually see the result and the product and it comes out as something beneficial to students, then I can’t really fight that.”

Laura Kozak, junior magazine journalism major, said that she likes what she has heard about the initiative.

“It’s amazing to think that a teacher could directly help one of their exemplary students through school,” Kozak said. “You forge strong bonds with professors, especially in the art world and at Columbia.  Why not foster those bonds even more?”

She also added that there is a benefit for the faculty and staff members that participate in the initiative.

“I also think it’s especially beneficial to the people who donate,” Kozak said. “It gives them a unique opportunity to see exactly what their contribution does, instead of just donating to a lump fund to be given nationwide.”

Pattie Mackenzie, assistant dean for Faculty Advising, said that staying in conjunction with Scholarship Columbia is more pragmatic as far as matching funds, and that this initiative helps build a stronger community.

“We’re creating change in not only passing the jar, but we’re hoping to create a change within the community,” said Mackenzie. “We’re going to have stronger communication between the departments.”

Mark Gonzalez of Building Services said that he wanted to get involved with this project as well.

“We are behind the scenes. We set up classrooms and when [students] are gone, we set up the rooms and whatever needs to be done,” Gonzalez said. “There are several guys in my department that wanted to help out, so we have several guys that are on the committee.”

The committee is excited for the upcoming event in April, headed by Kevin Cassidy, build shop manager at Columbia.

The event will take place on April 1, hosted in the space previously occupied by the Writing Center on the first floor of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building.

“I think that most of us that work here feel very lucky to be working at Columbia and to be working at a place that is about creativity and education,” Cassidy said. “We understand that the reason that we work here is the students and our livelihood comes from the students. We are aware that it’s getting harder for money and as staff, we would like to do something.”

Cassidy said the silent auction is a way to create more of a cohesive community between various faculty and staff members at Columbia. The silent auction will showcase various artists within the community.

“The fundraising event is purposely low-overhead, so all the money goes back to the students,” Cassidy said. “I’m still calling this a ‘bring your own’ party and we don’t want people coming expecting to be wined and dined.”

Cassidy also emphasized that he doesn’t want faculty and staff members to feel exploited. If they can and are willing to give money, then they should. He said they shouldn’t feel like they are betraying the students if they don’t donate.

Extra work has been put into advertising this initiative as well. A commercial spot that has been created by Bob Blinn, college adviser, has now gone viral on the Internet and been submitted as a candidate for the CLIO awards, which is an award given to individuals all over the world to recognize creativity in advertising and design.

“I was a filmmaker for 20 years and I thought, ‘What if I make a few spots?’ said Blinn. “I came up with the idea of a jar, and money dropping in the jar, and the punchline was ‘create change.’”

Tukes, Blinn, Gonzales, Mackenzie and Cassidy all agreed that they are invested in this initiative.

“Because of the team, sense of community and a core of good, talented and brilliant people who are dedicated to the college, I am amazed,” Tukes said. “It has changed the way I come to work now.”