Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative ‘gets wacky’

By Miranda Manier, News Editor

Photo courtesy of FSSI

Since 2009, the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative, or FSSI, has been raising money to fund scholarships for Columbia students. At Manifest this year, the group will get a little help from its 7-foot poodle.

The group—which is made up entirely of volunteers from the college who donate time and money to support the cause—is currently putting energy into its visibility on campus to coax more faculty and staff members into getting engaged with FSSI and to nudge students in financial need to apply for scholarships.

“We were talking about how to get higher visibility because it’s Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative, so we need more faculty and staff participating,” said Andrew Causey, an associate professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department. “So it was suggested that maybe we should make a bigger splash. Maybe we’re being too subtle. Two of us got a bit wacky and thought, ‘What else can we do?’”

The “wacky” idea that resulted was the birth of CoCo Chi, a blue poodle whose pronouns, according to Causey, are “me/me/me.”

CoCo Chi will be a 7-foot articulated statue sitting along the sidelines of the parade at Manifest this year, Causey said. The statue will be covered in information about FSSI and the scholarship process, and posters around campus will encourage students to keep an eye out for CoCo Chi so they can participate in giveaways, share their own scholarship stories or learn about scholarships available at Columbia.

Photo courtesy of FSSI

“By sharing that awareness about scholarships, [we hope] it will prompt a student to apply for a scholarship,” said Kim Livingstone, executive assistant for Strategic Communications and External Relations. “Our goal is … to have scholarship stories taken and then hopefully develop more scholarship stories. If CoCo is out there, and we have helped a student realize that they can apply for a scholarship, then maybe we have more stories to come.”

Aside from getting students to apply for scholarships, FSSI also hopes that faculty and staff members will learn more about the organization and get involved, either by donating part of their paychecks to the cause or by volunteering at fundraising events.

“Most of our events have been designed to provide those opportunities for our faculty and staff to show what amazing artists they are,” said Norman Alexandroff, communications coordinator for the Library.  “They really are just incredible musicians, theatrical people, visual artists.”

FSSI helps faculty and staff build community across department lines that might not otherwise be crossed, Causey said. It also gives faculty and staff members the opportunity to use their own talents and learn more about the hidden talents of those around them.

According to Livingstone, the most rewarding part about working with FSSI is building that community in support of Columbia students.

“We’re not only shaping the lives of our students, they’re out there [shaping] what’s next,” Livingstone said. “We’re helping them to find that vision to shape and … be creators.”