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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Fundraising for the future of Western

 

 

Professor Heather Davidson teaching her class. // Photo by Christina Becker
Professor Heather Davidson teaching her class. // Photo by Christina Becker

The curious case of the $60 million fundraiser “Western stands for Washington” caused Heather Davidson, professor and two-time alumna, to take on a new student-led approach to scholarship fundraising.

Her campaign, WeAreWWU utilizes students, staff and overall connections to fundraise $15,000 for future Western students scholarships, according to its website.

“Western stands for Washington is kind of troubling for me,” Davidson said. “What part of Western gets 60 million dollars?”

The campaign was Western’s $60 million initiative to bring money to the university, Davidson said.

Western stands for Washington  seeks to make “equal opportunities” for all college hopefuls and all areas of study, according to the initiatives listed on Western’s website.

Davidson saw an opportunity at hand upon teaching various communications classes geared towards fundraising and event planning, she said.

After a 35 percent increase in college applicants this school year, Western is finding there is a greater need for more scholarships, according to the WeAreWWU website.

Davidson brought her students together and started the WeAreWWU campaign in winter of 2014. The campaign aims to fundraise money for future applicants undergoing financial trouble, Davidson said.

Recent alumnus Nick LeBlanc had the chance to work with WeAreWWU before he graduated in June. The team was close and allowed the group to apply what they learned in class to help future students, LeBlanc said.

“Heather was able to bring a class of 30 people together from completely different backgrounds and create something that was so amazing,” LeBlanc said.

Davidson recruited students from communication courses focused on event planning and fundraising. The courses are application only and accept students on the basis of how much experience they have through volunteering, work, and school, Davidson said.

“There is a lot of variety in the class,” Davidson said.

Davidson’s frustration with the direction of these funds inspired her to start building a scholarship campaign for students.

Junior Beth Gotski, English major, said that she believes the campaign is a good idea because she knows of students who would have financial difficulty coming to college.

“There is that financial barrier that prevents them from going to the school of their dreams,” Gotski said.

In the winter of 2015 Davidson and her event planning class began the layout of the campaign, Davidson said. They started a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an Instagram to promote the campaign.

Western alumna Taylor Dumas had the opportunity to get involved with WeAreWWU and found the student-run aspect of campaign refreshing.

“It was cool that we got to be the first year of creating a fundraiser rather than just joining some other standing fundraiser that we didn’t really have a connection with,” Dumas said. “But this was a fundraiser for students by students that we could connect with.”

With social media and video promotions, graphic design, event logistics and sponsorship, Davidson said that the group was able to create a website dedicated to their cause.

“She was able to really bring all of our strengths together and give students a chance to see what a real life work situation is going to be like,” LeBlanc said. “I feel like a lot of college classes don’t give you that opportunity.”

The site includes statistics and goals regarding the campaign. It offers ways of donating, and lists events that the committee is putting on.  Videos created by students scatter the page and ask people to consider donating.

Graphs explain how the scholarship money will be distributed with 50 percent of the funds going to departmental communication majors and 50 percent going towards recruitment of new students.

“There are a lot of infographics about tuition and the need for funding education,” Davidson said.

The campaign strives to get annual or bi-monthly donations so that anyone’s small contribution can become substantial over time, according to the WeAreWWU website.

“We had a little trouble getting Western involved other than outside of our class,” Dumas said.  “A lot of people backed us up in the beginning but wouldn’t follow through.”

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