MCSG Overseer: Brown previews Macalester Moment campaign

Rebecca Edwards

This week’s MCSG meeting began with a presentation by Vice President for Advancement Andrew Brown on the public launch of the college’s new fundraising campaign.

Titled “The Macalester Moment,” the campaign will attempt to reach its $100 million goal over the next two years to support access and excellence at the college – access meaning Macalester’s ability to enroll students of varied backgrounds, and excellence meaning all the components of the education they provide.

Of the $100 million, $40 million will go towards financial aid, and $20 million each to academic support, program support and the Macalester – formerly the Annual – Fund.

Why the campaign? Brown noted that Macalester’s budget is smaller than 37 of its 41 peer institutions, largely because the school slowed its fundraising efforts significantly after Reader’s Digest publisher Dewitt Wallace donated nearly $250 million to the college in 1987.

After that donation, Macalester was briefly one of the wealthiest colleges in the United States.

“What [Macalester] said was, ‘we’re now so wealthy, it would be unseemly if we kept asking for money’,” Brown said. “We skipped a whole generation of fundraising, which put us well behind our peers. So now we have to play catch-up.”

To do that, Brown says the college will attempt to foster a feeling of ownership and involvement among its graduates and biggest donors – its top one percent. The Legislative Body (LB) had several questions. Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) member Brian Yu ’19 was the first to speak.

“Compared to peer institutions,” he asked, “do we have a similar number of graduates in that top one percent who can make these types of big donations?”

Brown answered that many peer institutions have a larger number of extremely wealthy graduates due to their emphasis on post-graduation positions in the financial sector and their larger proportion of students from extremely wealthy families.

However, he believes Macalester can close the gap with a significant amount of participation in this and future campaigns from all different types of college alumni. “We can overcome [the gap] by strength in numbers,” he said. “We just need more people participating and taking ownership.”

President Malik Mays ’19 then asked Brown how the college determined the campaign’s priorities.

Brown replied that the advancement office spent the time before the campaign launch asking Macalester’s biggest donors what their donation priorities would be in a campaign like The Macalester Moment. That information, coupled with a practical understanding of the areas the school most needs to support, informed the campaign.

Academic Affairs Committee Chair Kofi Ofosu ’19 wanted to know how to keep the Macalester student body informed about the purpose and progress of the campaign.

Brown noted that at the moment, even most faculty are not fully informed about the campaign – and that an effort will be made to bridge the information gap. The townhall event on Sept. 20 represented the beginning of that outreach.

The LB then moved on to a discussion about ways to better involve student organizations in student government led by Diversity and Inclusion Officer Stacy Gerondelis ’19 and Community Engagement Officer Fatiya Kedir ’21.

The LB talked about getting in contact with different organizations on campus and asking about how they feel MCSG can best support them.

The group also considered how to get more students involved in off-campus activities. Kedir suggested creating a database of volunteer opportunities organized by major or a specific interest, in a similar vein to a course catalogue.

The meeting concluded with the LB singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mays, who turned 21 on the 19th.