It’s researching Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, studying global diseases, focusing on seahorses and marine conservation and providing people in need with dental services.
And it educates thousands of students each year.
But none of that work comes cheap, which is why the University of B.C. hopes to harness the passion of philanthropists and its alumni with Canada’s largest fundraising and engagement campaign that it has dubbed Start an Evolution.
UBC aims to raise $1.5 billion by 2015 at the same time as it nearly doubles its active connections with alumni to 50,000 former students.
“We’re trying to evolve the relationship that people have with the university from the point that they enter as a student so that students and our alumni really realize that it’s a lifetime relationship, that there are opportunities to be engaged with the university for a lifetime,” said Jeff Todd, executive director of the alumni association and associate vice president of alumni affairs. “The university is the place that you came and received a degree, but it’s more to that and there’s more depth to that relationship.”
UBC wants to offer its students more scholarships and mentoring opportunities, turn out more research and boost activities that aid the broader community.
Nadine Caron became the first aboriginal woman to graduate from the UBC Faculty of Medicine, finishing at the top of her class in 1997. She now holds the positions of general and endocrine surgeon at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. and assistant professor in UBC’s Northern Medical Program. Scholarships and prizes, including the prestigious C.K. Choi Scholarship, which she received while undertaking her medical degree, supported her success.
Last year, UBC journalism students won an Emmy award for their documentary about the dumping of electronic waste in Ghana. They produced Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground as part of the new UBC International Reporting Course. Both the documentary and the course were made possible by a donation from Vancouver philanthropist Alison Lawton to the UBC Graduate School of Journalism.
In the years leading up to the campaign that launched last week the university raised $760 million toward its goal of $1.5 billion.
The number of alumni involved with UBC has increased by more than 50 per cent in the last three years and Todd said its now has close to 30,000 individuals connected in some way.
The university has 260,000 alumni, 170,000 of whom live in the Lower Mainland.
Of the $760 million raised, alumni have contributed 19 per cent, but this doesn’t include the influence they’ve wielded in contributing foundations or corporations.
A new website, startanevolution.ca, highlights the university’s success stories, projects prioritized for donations—including establishing an alumni centre—ways alumni can get involved and upcoming community events.
“The amazing thing is the extraordinary array of different areas the university’s engaged in and opportunities for everyone,” Todd said.
Robert Lee, who earned a bachelor of commerce and a doctor of law from UBC and chairs the Prospero Group of Companies, is honorary chair of the Start an Evolution Campaign.