Benefits of the Chicago Initiative

By Jesse Ehrenfeld

In many ways, the creation of knowledge and the destruction of academic barriers define the spirit of the University of Chicago. Beginning in 1999, the University challenged itself in a new arena as it launched a plan to surpass one of its own great accomplishments—a plan to break the impressive fundraising record of $676 million in its last campaign by raising $2 billion as part of its current fundraising effort to support the future of the institution. Realizing that the current and future needs of the University could only be met by an aggressive fundraising campaign, the Chicago Initiative was formally launched in April of 2001.

The Chicago Initiative is much more than a simple attempt to solicit funds for the University. The Initiative is an essential component of a plan designed to ensure that the next 100 years in the history of the University are as productive as the last. To this end, the goals of the fundraising campaign include:

1 – Preserving the University’s distinctive undergraduate education with new support totaling $250 million. A crucial element of this goal is to raise $100 million in new endowment for undergraduate financial aid so that the College can continue its commitment to need-blind, merit-based admissions. This goal also includes support for new programs that enrich the educational experience for College students, such as the Study Abroad Program, language training grants, and Metcalf fellowships. Additionally, the Chicago Initiative seeks $190 million for graduate student support.

2 – Maintaining a world-class faculty with $222 million in new support for scholars and teachers. Included in this goal are 35 new endowed professorships, funds for visiting professors, guest artists, term appointments, and lectureships.

3 – Facilitating 21st-century research in the sciences, including support for cancer research, the Interdivisional Research Building and Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, a Computation Institute, and funds for new faculty and research positions that allow the University to continue leading the evolution of scientific knowledge.

4 – Completing the Graduate School of Business-Hyde Park Center.

5 – Building a Center for the Creative and Performing Arts so that facilities dedicated to the arts on campus meet the growing needs of the University’s students, faculty, and community. The University is planning construction of a new center along with preserving and adding to the historic Midway Studios. The new space will include visual arts studios, classrooms, music practice rooms, and space for theatrical performances.

6 – Expanding the University’s engagement with the community through new initiatives to support the Center for Urban School Improvement, the Collegiate Scholars program (which brings academically-talented high school students from Chicago public schools to campus for summer learning opportunities), and endowment funding for the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture to support new scholarship on race and ethnicity and to strengthen diverse communities on campus. In their campaigns, the Harris School of Public Policy, the School of Social Services Administration, and the Medical Center will seek funding for programs addressing community economic development, housing, and health.

Already, you can see how the Chicago Initiative is having an impact on the quality of life for students today. Although tuition is high, these revenues cover less than half of the University’s operating budget. The difference must be covered by gifts from alumni and friends, revenue from the University’s endowment, grants and other income. Each year, the University’s fundraising efforts provide a significant percentage of support to current students, and the Chicago Initiative is helping to make more activities, programs, and classes available each quarter.

While the University’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations directs the Chicago Initiative, students are playing an increasingly large role in helping the University reach its fundraising objectives. Soon after the launch of the campaign, a student steering committee was formed to involve students in the Chicago Initiative, keep students informed about the progress of the campaign, and to help develop an understanding of leadership and philanthropy among students. The steering committee has sponsored several events to raise awareness of the campaign and its impact, including the popular “Free Shake Day” and the unveiling of the “Future of Ideas Photo Mural” in the Reynolds Club last spring.

On Thursday, April 22, the student committee will host another event in Hutchinson Courtyard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which will highlight the progress of the campaign over the last year. Students will have a chance learn about the campaign, all while enjoying complimentary ice cream novelties. Come, and help us on the countdown to $2 billion!