Unfolding philanthropy

Porter walks backward on campus while giving a tour.

Chris Porter, a UWL political science and communication major with a minor in leadership development, became president of Student Philanthropy Council when the group formed in January. He is also a member of the Vanguards, a student group that gives campus tours.

Student group builds awareness of not just why UWL is great — but how

As a campus Vanguard, UWL senior Chris Porter gives tours to prospective students. Most share a common expression at the start — fearful and a little hesitant, he says. But, by the tour’s end, many are nodding and smiling. He can see they are picturing themselves at UWL and they have a good idea why he loves this school.

When incoming students arrive on campus, Porter continues to share not only why UWL is so great — but how.

As the first president of the Student Philanthropy Council, his primary role is building awareness on campus about donors who play an important part in making UWL what it is. Donors’ contributions range from supporting student research and study abroad experiences to funding scholarships so more people can attain a college education.

This is particularly important after decades of an overall decline in public funding for higher education in Wisconsin. This decline has led to students increasingly paying a greater share of the cost to deliver higher education through tuition.

Porter, and other students on SPC, want current students to see how they have benefited from alumni who give and recognize the importance of giving when they graduate. “As students, we see the benefits of giving today, and it’s important people continue to see those benefits down the road,” he says.

As part of those awareness building efforts, SPC formed in January. The group held UWL’s first Philanthropy Week in April. Through activities such as a selfie contest, sidewalk chalking, tabling at campus locations, a philanthropy scavenger hunt and more, SPC connected with students and shared how philanthropy impacts UWL.

Porter says the group wants students to understand a contribution to support UWL when they become alumni doesn’t have to be huge. A gift of any amount — even $10 or $20 — can add up and make an impact. A penny war during the week among residence halls demonstrated this — raising $280 for the campus food pantry.

Gow, Schimpf, May and Stringham give a thumbs up to the camera.

From left, UWL Chancellor Joe Gow, with Student Philanthropy Council members: Sarah Schimpf, Michelle May and Liza Stringham.

Student Philanthropy Council member Sarah Schimpf says being part of SPC has given her a better understanding of what philanthropy is.

“It’s not just putting a name on a building,” she says. “Contributions go toward the experiences students have.”

These experiences create opportunity for students so they can  get the most out of their college experience, graduate and reach their future goals.

An example is recent $2 million gift that does much more than name UWL’s new science labs building the Prairie Springs Science Center. The gift supports research and scholarship in areas of environmental studies and education, wildlife habitat protection, wildlife protection, conservation and ecological technology.

Another important part of Philanthropy Week was saying thank you to donors. During one of the tabling times, students on campus could hand-write personal thank you notes to faculty and staff who give back. Members of SPC then hand delivered the notes to people across campus.

“I was met with a lot of smiles,” says Schimpf. “I think the staff really appreciated that gesture.”

She calls it a successful first philanthropy week. “I can’t wait to take part in the next one,” she adds.

Scott and May pose for the camera at their table display.

Student Philanthropy Council members Anna Scott, left,and Michelle May spreading awareness about the importance of philanthropy at the Student Union.