UND faculty and staff lead by example in UND Gives campaign

UND faculty and staff lead by example in UND Gives campaign

UND alumni, friends, faculty and administrators all participated in UND Gives, the latest fundraising campaign for UND’s Alumni Association & Foundation. Image courtesy of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

At midnight on April 24, the countdown commenced.

Nicole Polejewsk

Nicole Polejewski

The next 24 hours defined “UND Gives,” the inaugural online fundraising campaign of the University’s Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F).

“I think it’s a great way to celebrate all that UND has done so far, how far UND has come and how awesome everybody here is,” said Nicole Polejewski, AA&F student & young alumni coordinator.

Leading up to the virtual event, AA&F had raised over $200,000 – way above its goal of $125,000 – in matching gifts for the entire campus – from the Colleges to student clubs to the University Police Department.

Throughout the day, tracked on a special website, gifts trickled in as the donor wall stretched for 21 pages with names of alumni, friends, faculty and administrators.

Play by play

Elizabeth Bjerke

Elizabeth Bjerke

Here’s the play-by-play of how UND Gives progressed through the tales of several University benefactors:

7 a.m.:  Elizabeth Bjerke, associate dean at UND Aerospace, sipped her coffee in the quiet, before her kids rose, when she remembered it was UND Gives day.

The work hours ahead were about to get hectic, so she quickly logged online to make her donation.

“I may have been one of the first donors,” she said.

Bjerke split her gift into six causes.

Debbie Storrs

Debbie Storrs

“As a donor, I like to know exactly what great initiatives my donation is going towards,” she said. “UND Gives [allowed] one to easily see the impact.”

8:20 a.m.: Nearly $8,500 flashed on the UND Gives site.

Around that time, Senior Vice Provost Debbie Storrs checked her email from her hotel room in Denver, where she was attending the annual Western Academic Leadership Forum. In her inbox was a reminder for UND Gives.

Partaking in the conference that focuses on many issues facing higher education, including how to be more inclusive and welcoming to all students, she suspected her day to would become even busier. Thus, she made her gifts early – to a scholarship pot for Honors students and to a priority fund for experiential learning opportunities in the UND College of Arts & Sciences.

“I decided to give to those two because it is really about supporting students and one of the best ways you can support students is to provide resources,” Storrs said.

Whether on campus or across the country, friends of UND also took the time to donate. Image courtesy of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

10 a.m.: The amount of donations had swelled five-fold to over $41,000. There were nearly 100 gifts, including College of Arts & Sciences Dean Brad Rundquist’s.

Brad Rundquist

Although, leading up to UND Gives, Rundquist had committed a gift, he intended to do more.

On April 24, he was perusing his meetings-packed schedule when he spotted a calendar prompt for UND Gives. Rundquist made three more donations to programs at his College.

“I gave to several Arts & Sciences funds because I strongly believe in the importance of a Liberal Arts education and I especially wanted to support students and faculty in the Fine Arts during this opportunity to give,” Rundquist said.

“As dean of the College, I am acutely aware of the fiscal needs of academic programs as we continue to deliver outstanding and lasting educational experiences to our students. I also saw the opportunity to have my donations matched by our generous alumni, which provided me with extra incentive to give.”

10:30 a.m. The online donations tracker showed nearly $70,000. Its digits rolled to higher sums every few minutes.

Ernst Cosette Family

In this 2018 photos, UND School of Law Professor Julia Ernst (second from left), her husband Rich Clement, and their daughter, Cosette, pose for a photo with Class of 2018 Law School students. Cosette is holding a plaque recognizing the establishment of the Shuwang Ernst Clement Memorial Scholarship. Photo by Rob Carolin/UND School of Law.

Julia Ernst, UND Law professor and incoming associate dean, was preparing for a committee meeting of the Women Lawyers Section of the State Bar Association of North Dakota. She was helping organize a symposium on implicit bias in the legal profession – a task that occupied her mind when UND’s University Letter landed in her inbox. She glanced at a headline about UND Gives.

For Ernst, the event was personal. The AA&F was highlighting the Shuwang Ernst Clement Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which the UND Law Class of 2018 had established in memory of her son, who passed away in 2017.

“Shuwang, whom we had adopted from China and had a disability that never slowed him down, expressed a deep compassion for others and overcame significant challenges with incredible optimism and enthusiasm,” Ernst said.

Endowments need a minimum of $25,000 in order for the interest they earn to convert into scholarships. Prior to UND Gives, less than $10,000 separated the Shuwang Ernst Clement Memorial Scholarship Endowment from that benchmark.

For UND Gives, an anonymous donor had made a substantial gift to the endowment, which “pleasantly surprised” Ernst when she checked the website.

“I was so deeply touched that I let my husband know, and we decided to make a $5,000 contribution to honor the anonymous donor’s grant and to help build the endowment so that it can start paying out scholarships soon,” Ernst said.

The sum was no small figure for the family’s budget, Ernst said, but it was the chance to honor Shuwang that infused so much meaning in the donation.

With Shuwang in her thoughts, Ernst returned to her work for the symposium, which is set for September. The symposium’s topics are intended to coincide with very values espoused by the endowment – diversity, equality and compassion.

Leanna Ihry (left) and Sarah Prout of the UND AA&F tracked UND Gives donations at Wilkerson Commons, while encouraging passing students to learn about the inaugural virtual fundraiser. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

Noon. The amount raised through some 150 gifts surpassed $75,000.

1 p.m. UND Aerospace Dean Paul Lindseth was driving back to campus after lunch when UND Gives popped into his consciousness.

He stepped into his office with mere minutes to spare before a meeting. By fluke, he received an email reminder that contained a link to the UND Gives website. He clicked on it and donated to “support the great students” of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

1:30 p.m. With some 10 more hours to go, funds pushed toward the $90,000 mark.

At that point of the day, UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves found himself between engagements and dialed Valerie Sussex, director of development at AA&F, to contribute.

“Participating [in UND Gives] allows you to be a part of something much larger and in this case it is an opportunity to support this great institution,” said Chaves.

2:30 p.m. Some 250 gifts amassed over $110,000.

4 p.m. Close to 30 new donations had come in, nudging the dollar count to over $130,000.

In the following seven hours, more than $30,000 arrived, according to the online tracker, as gifts reached nearly 400.

11 p.m. The dollar volume stood at close to $165,000.

For Brian Tande, interim dean at the UND College of Engineering & Mines, meetings packed the day and fatherly duties filled the evening.

Minutes before UND Gives deadline, Tande donated to the Women Engineers Scholarship Endowment.

“When I finally had a moment to relax, I saw a tweet about it and remembered I still needed to do it,” Tande said. “So, thankfully I got it in on time.”

Jennifer Aamodt, director of admissions, also sneaked her contribution in with less than an hour left. She had been on the road the entire day for the high school counselor breakfasts her office hosts.

Once in her hotel room, she gave.

“The online process made it quick and easy to be a part of the UND Gives,” Aamodt said. “I participated in UND Gives to help support our students and create new opportunities for them.”

Final count

After AA&F counted all contributions – including those done by phone, in person or via mail – the final tally sat at $380,000.

“I feel extremely happy about how everything went,” said AA&F’s Polejewski, who is a UND alumna. “It was our first time doing it, so we kind of just went into it a little bit blind and not really sure what to expect. Our alumni and friends blew it out of the water. Their support of UND is crazy to me and I love it.”