Looking around, some would argue that students at UCSD are generally apathetic and a bit disdainful of their undergraduate experiences. After all, we are not a Division I school. We don’t even have a football team.
But look a bit deeper, and you will find that student involvement is making UCSD one of the top-ranked schools in California and in the nation. In fact, as a public institution, we place seventh in U.S. News and World Report’s 2001 college ranking. UCSD is also the third-ranked college in the UC system and, at 31st, one of the youngest colleges to make the top 50 in the nation.
As a research institution, UCSD is even more impressive. We recently took one of three major $300 million state grants from UC Berkeley, which is perhaps a telltale sign of more to come.
These statistics are made possible in part by the involvement of students, like the members of the UCSD Student Foundation, the donors that support this group and the inspiration of people like Vice Chancellor James Langley, who initially came up with the idea for the group.
The UCSD Student Foundation is an idea carried over from Georgia Tech by Langley, who, as vice chancellor, is in charge of external relations. It is the first in the UC system and stems from the philosophy that when given the opportunity to become involved and invested in the betterment of their own education, students will rise to the occasion.
The idea took off in early 1999 when UCSD graduates Marc and Patricia Brutten agreed to donate $100,000 to start the foundation. The Bruttens have a history of donating money to UCSD, specifically to the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, and saw this as a chance to encourage student participation and to enable students to make a difference for themselves.
The money established a means of “”reaching out to aspiring students with business acumen and offering them a way to connect to the University,”” according to the Foundation’s Web site, located at http://www.studentfoundation.ucsd.edu.
The main goal of the UCSD Student Foundation is to build a strong student community that understands the role of philanthropic acts in a society. Written directly into its bylaws is this statement: “”The purpose of the UCSDSF is to promote, facilitate and perpetuate the philanthropic spirit among the UCSD student community.””
Langley has described the Student Foundation as an opportunity for friends and supporters of the university to interact with students, a mechanism for the student body to support fundraising efforts and a way for students to give to each other by way of scholarships.
It isn’t that difficult for one student to make a difference, according to Carolyn Muhlstein, a graduate student at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, and member of the Student Foundation.
“”The founders of the UCSD Student Foundation understood that when individuals begin donating money to philanthropic organizations at a young age, this habit stays with them later in life,”” Muhlstein said. “”The founders also understood that it is important for all members of society to make contributions of any size to philanthropy, regardless of personal wealth. As students, most of us are financially strapped, but by giving a little, and seeing how our resources can be pooled to make a difference, we gain a very real understanding of our ability to positively influence the lives of those less fortunate.””
According to Ping Yeh, an engineering graduate student and the current president of the Student Foundation, the “”philanthropic spirit of UCSD”” means an awareness of how lucky we all are.
“”We have more than an opportunity to get an education at UCSD,”” Yeh said. “”Once we realize we have such gifts in life, we have seemingly a moral obligation to take action to improve our university, our communities and our earth. Making daily efforts to strengthen our relationships with others, with UCSD and ourselves, will bring us all closer to the way of life that brings respect and caring for each other and our environment.””
The Student Foundation is modeled after the UCSD Foundation, a committee of 50 people entrusted to manage the university’s endowment fund of over $200 million. Trustees have designed a formal mentoring program to help the members of the student foundation manage their endowment and work more efficiently. It is important for the Student Foundation to be patterned after the foundation in order for the trustees to better advise the student trustees.
“”If the organization is committed to the same guiding principles and has the same structure, it’s easier to provide counsel and to serve as a model for students to observe,”” Langley said. “”Also, we hope that the student trustees become involved alumni and ultimately aspire to a place on the UC San Diego Foundation.””
The students also appreciate the knowledge that the members of the original Foundation provide.
“”As with the creation of any new organization, our learning curve is incredibly steep,”” Muhlstein said. “”Since members of the original foundation have been through many of the same challenges we are experiencing, their expertise is invaluable.””
Currently there are 12 Student Trustees, including several graduate students and one student studying abroad. The full board is a diverse group, representing all five colleges, that meets weekly to discuss current projects and foundation development.
The foundation is organized into three formal committees. Development focuses on “”increasing the Student Foundation’s endowment through gifts made by students, faculty, and friends of UCSD,”” according to the Web site.
The Investment Committee provides the main source of growth for the committee by managing the investment portfolio of the group. The Nominations Committee is responsible for helping to select new trustees, publicizing the foundation and interviewing and recommending potential trustees to the Board of Trustees for final approval.
According to Yeh, the group is in the second stage of a four-stage process that began at its 1999 conception.
During the first year, Student Trustees focused on building the infrastructure of the group, including creating a mission statement, establishing bylaws and a Web site.
In the second stage, student trustees are beginning to focus on outreach programs to involve staff, faculty, alumni, the community and especially students in the improvement of UCSD. Yeh feels that the Student Foundation has an advantageous position in this particular stage because the members, as students, know better than staff and administration what works and what doesn’t work with students.
The third stage is to work with the students to generate donations for important causes around campus. Here students will have the opportunity to donate both time and money to a cause of their choosing. Yeh hopes that the foundation will serve as a facilitator for philanthropic service among UCSD students.
The fourth stage is to help to change the rhetoric surrounding UCSD student apathy. The hope is that students, upon discovering their own power to instill change in this community, will carry that philosophy throughout their lives and continue to give in their lives to their communities and to UCSD.
“”I think the students of UCSD should be proud that we have the only student foundation in the UC system,”” said Yeh. “”We have an organization that is a teacher and facilitator for our own peers. That feels great to all of us.””
Although only in its second year, the Student Foundation is already working to initiate change in the UCSD community. The group is currently focusing its energy on two projects. The first, titled “”Change for Change,”” is designed to help the Preuss School students, and the second will benefit UCSD students directly.
“”Change for Change”” pits the five colleges against one other in an effort to see which one can raise the most money by throwing extra change into bins located around campus. Each college is in charge of the strategic location of its own bin.
Although the Preuss School was recently completed, the construction funds fell short of including items such as lunch tables, jungle gyms and other standard middle school equipment. Money from “”Change for Change”” will be used to purchase lunch tables for the students, who currently sit on the ground and on grassy areas during lunch time. The tables will also be used for tutoring, a service that some UCSD students currently provide.
This competition is being sponsored by the UCSD Alumni Association. The Association has agreed to match donations up to $2,000 in an effort to improve the Preuss School. The tables will be inscripted with plaques reading, “”From current college scholars to future college scholars.””
The competition goes until Feb. 2, and the money will be counted at Spirit Night. The college that wins the competition will earn a free movie night at the Price Center Theater, with the discretion to pick the movie and night.
UCSDSF’s second project is in conjunction with the University Center Advisory Board to develop a “”Wall of Student Excellence and Philanthropy”” for the Price Center. The UCSDSF is working with Sony to have a flat-screen television donated, which, if garnered, will be hung alongside several awards in the A.S. offices. The television will be used to advertise UCSD activities and projects and to highlight the efforts of UCSD students. The wall will also highlight UCSDSF scholarship recipients.
In addition to raising money for UCSD projects, the Student Foundation has also made financial contributions to UCSD. The most generous would be its $3,000 contribution to the Chancellor’s 5K, a run designed to raise money for scholarships. The money donated to the fund is matched by the Chancellor, resulting in six $1,000 scholarships for incoming UCSD students.
The Student Foundation also donated 1,000 bottles of water to the UCSD Un-Olympics during the first week of fall quarter, as an effort to reach out to incoming students.
Currently students can help by contributing to their colleges’ bins to support the Preuss School. In the future, students will be able to go online to donate to a specific cause or to the general pool of investment principal that only goes towards scholarships.
Applications to become a student trustee can be found online. UCSD undergraduate or graduate students of any major who are in good academic standing may apply.
“”Applicants should have experience in and/or be motivated to learn about philanthropy, fund raising and investment management,”” states the Web site.