The numbers pile up like used textbooks at Norris University Center: eight billion, nine billion... until eventually they lose their meaning. What is the marginal benefit of the latest $100 million donation to a university whose nearly $10 billion endowment is larger than the GDP of 54 different countries? I don’t know, but those glass-paneled offices on the new Kellogg building sure look nice.
Oftentimes, alumni give money for specific projects. These can be for new football stadiums or a fancy theater with the donor’s name on it, but in other cases the impact is more personal. And in December, Northwestern’s #CatsGiveBack initiative paid off big time for kids with special needs, students of color and women in hyper competitive industries.
As part of #givingtuesday, a new international holiday on the first Tuesday of Thanksgiving, Northwestern invited student groups from the University’s crowdfunding site, Catalyzer, to be among a list of programs alumni could donate to, ranging from purchasing ergometers for the NU Crew team to funding a fashion show dedicated to suicide prevention.
“If it weren’t for the Catalyzer campaign, I honestly didn’t think we would have had a budget,” says Medill junior Arielle Chase, director of programming at the Minority Business Association (MBA).
Putting Minorities In Business
Chase wrote the proposal for the Minority Business Association. The group had planned use funds from the Institute for Student Business Education to hold a winter conference with speakers from banking and consulting firms in Chicago. But ISBE only gave them $200, not nearly enough to cover even the cost of food (all events in Norris must use Sodexo), let alone paying speakers or travel fees.
Using Catalyzer, they raised over 800 dollars from 16 donors, enough to cover the full conference that will bring three professionals of different minority groups from Morgan Stanley, Kellogg and Slalom Consulting.
Chase says the conference is particularly important because the financial industry is largely homogenous. White-collar offices are traditionally dominated by white men, which can have a psychological impact on minority professionals. In the book, legal scholars Mitu Gulati and Devon Carbado note how men from racial minorities, women of all races and LGBTQ people change their behavior, hide their emotions and work longer hours to avoid racial stereotypes.
“As a minority student… it can definitely be daunting when you see that everyone that works there is white,” Chase said. “Everyone that goes to Northwestern seems to be white, and it’s like is there even a place there for me?”
Women in Hollywood
Where the MBA focuses on breaking barriers in business, the Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance (NUWFA) is trying to open up Hollywood. In 89 years, four women have won the Academy Award for Best Director. In October, longstanding inequities, prompted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to start an official investigation into female gender disparity in film. To stem this gap, the NUWFA has since given a $1,500 grant to a woman undergraduate to write or direct a movie each year since 2007. But next year Northwestern’s RTVF program will stop giving money to student groups - instead doling it out to individuals - sapping the NUWFA of their primary revenue source.
They set a $2,000 goal for Catalyzer but blew past it, raising $2,526. Although the gender disparities are less pronounced at Northwestern than in the larger industry, fundraising chair and School of Communication senior Kathy Del Becarro said it’s still hard for women to get behind the camera.
“Half of it is preparing women, giving them experience so when they go into the industry and it gets harder for them, they have more confidence and are more prepared,” Becarro said, “And even at NU, it is more rare to see women directing large projects or writing large projects.”
Another Kind of Inclusion
NU to Benefit Special Olympics raised far less money - $545 - but they will use it to promote a kind of inclusion that goes beyond the traditional lens of race, gender or sexuality. The group has long sent students and varsity athletes to coach individual's special needs in the Evanston community. Too often, though, they feel that there is a disconnect between the special olympic athletes and Northwestern’s student body
We wanted something “to promote more inclusiveness on campus,” executive co-chair and Weinberg junior Rachael Sarette said, “because we feel like there’s not really an event where athletes can come to campus and meet the greater student body”
They wanted to bring the athletes to the university, but ASG wouldn’t fund it. The student government organization only finances events that have proven to be successful. That’s when Catalyzer stepped in: This spring there will be food trucks, athletes, students and Evanston residents for a barbeque on Deering Meadow.
Overall, fifteen groups raised a total of $21,291 dollars - a drop in the bucket of Northwestern’s entire $3.75 billion We Will campaign.