Kick-starting a new campaign

As Co-Chairs for the 2009 Supporting Our Students campaign, Laurel Corbiere, director for the International Centre for Students, and Dr. David Gregory, graduate program and research coordinator for the Faculty of Health Sciences, are gearing up for a new year.

Since its inception, Supporting Our Students, an internal annual campaign to raise money for student awards, has raised just more than $750,000. Bringing new ideas, the two new Co-Chairs are striving to make that number $1 million before the end of the year.

Recently Corbiere and Gregory sat down with the Legend to share their vision and thoughts on the coming year.

What are your goals for the 2009 campaign?

Laurel: I would like to see 100 per cent participation from faculty and staff members. I know that's quite lofty, but I want to see how far we can take it. It doesn't matter how much you give, if we can get everybody on board.

At the end of the campaign, it would be great to say that faculty and staff at the University have contributed $1 million through Supporting Our Students – what an amazing message that would be.

David: I would also add that the journey to reach these fundraising goals matters. This whole campaign is about connecting with members of the University, and what I really like is that it's positioned as the whole community; we're all in this for the benefit of our students. As it has in the past, this campaign will continue fostering that sense of community.

What role do the volunteers play?

Laurel: The volunteers play a significant role in getting the word out.

David: Their personal contact with colleagues and co-workers makes a big difference – they're the human face for the campaign.

The immediate response from every single person I asked to volunteer was 'yes, I'll do it'; not, 'I'll call you back later' or 'give me a second to think about it.' I thought it was amazing that people were willing to fully commit without hesitation.

How have you seen the experiences of students change?

Laurel: We all know it's not easy being a student; many of us have been there. What hits home for me is when I look at the cost of tuition compared to what I paid. It's a huge difference – it's actually more than tripled, and I still graduated with student loans.

David: I think there are many more financial pressures than when I was in school. Everything is extraordinarily more expensive from textbooks to transportation to housing. Many students graduate with a heavy debt load.

Laurel: One value the University has is to be accessible – Supporting Our Students helps with that.

David: I would say that most of the people who work at the University are privileged in the sense that we have the financial means to live a very good life. Part of the reason I have contributed to the campaign in the past, is that I recognize my privilege, financially and otherwise, and I want to pay it forward.

Laurel, at the Supporting Our Students launch on March 26, you shared that the International Centre for Students is going to see 100 per cent participation from its staff in the campaign this year. How did that come about?

Laurel: I brought up the topic of contributing as a group at our staff meeting. I didn't know what the responses would be, but I simply explained that this was an excellent opportunity to show our students we care. And you know, everyone was very excited about it. We ended up brainstorming some really creative ways we could contribute as a group.

We're going to put a challenge out to some of the other offices and have some fun with it.

In regards to contributing, you sometimes hear people say something along the lines of "I already work here and am giving of time." What's your response to that?

David: I do think we work hard. Everybody pulls their weight here at the University, and people are very committed as employees. So yes, in a way people are already giving. But this is a different kind of giving; this is an act of kindness.

Receiving a student award has the potential to touch students and make a positive change in their lives that has long-term consequences well past the degree they may receive or their formal learning.

When students receive a gift, whether it's a bursary or a scholarship or money directed towards a program, it changes them. Later in life, they look back on their alma mater and reflect fondly on how well they were treated.

Laurel: Again, it's really about building that community, and I think contributing makes a difference in going over and above just doing our jobs. After all, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our students.

David: I'm going to use a phrase that's probably not used too much in 2009, but it's a noble thing to extend an act of kindness, and who better to extend that to than our students.

And also, as a final note, may I suggest the adage: "Charity begins at home."

To make a contribution or to find out more about Supporting Our Students, visit: