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Give back to the future

Student councils take the long view when they contribute to campus initiatives

September 22, 2014

Give back to the future
Sarah Emms (left) and Liz Nash say the Arts & Humanities Students’ Council decision to support the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity honours a former student’s literary career while championing artistic expression for creative minds.

When assignments pile up, days run into all-nighters and exams bear down, most Western students focus on the immediate, the now. That’s normal. Yet, when they look beyond what is, they catch sight of what can be. That very picture of ‘looking ahead’ pressed leaders of two student groups at Western to make significant donations to improve the learning experience of future students – those who will come to Western after they’ve graduated.

The gift of creativity

In the spring of 2014, leaders of the Arts & Humanities Students’ Council (AHSC) contributed $25,000 in support of the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity. Established by the University to celebrate Ms. Munro, DLitt’76, and her Nobel Prize in Literature, the Chair will lead a campus conversation about creativity and how it applies to all parts of life, and teach courses that develop creative thought and expression.

“We see our gift as current students giving in the name of a former student to help future students,” says Liz Nash, president of AHSC for 2014-15 and an English and Creative Writing student. “We’re looking ahead to how our support today can facilitate the creativity of students tomorrow.”

The Nobel committee’s recognition of Ms. Munro as a “master of the contemporary short story” created a buzz on campus. “She walked the same hallways as we do, and her international acclaim made us proud to study arts and humanities at Western,” says Sarah Emms, BA’14. “I started to wonder if someone sitting beside me in my classes would become the next great writer.”

While the AHSC leaders could have supported other projects, the permanency of the Chair added impetus to their decision to donate. “As we talked about it, we recognized the longevity and importance of the Chair,” says Liz, “and how our donation will invest in something that will always be around, and help students discover creative expression for years to come.”

The gift of study space

The gift of study space
Kate Dillon (left) and Desmond Swamy, leaders on the Science Students’ Council, know what it’s like to find a place to study at Taylor Library. A gift from the Council will outfit the library with 45 new study carrels.

That view to the future echoes another student gift – a $61,250 donation by the Science Students’ Council to support Western Libraries (particularly the Allyn and Betty Taylor Library).

For science, engineering, health sciences, medical and dentistry students at Western, the Taylor Library plays a significant part in their education. “Libraries are where students connect and collaborate, and where they find solitude without isolation,” says Kim Cornell, assistant university librarian. “That’s one reason students are staying longer in the library, making it hard to find places to study.”

That popularity posed a space challenge. “It can become crowded and nearly impossible to find a seat, especially during peak times at midterms and final exams,” says Kate Dillon, a leader on the 2013-14 Science Students’ Council. “People will come here in the morning and stay until closing.”

Student forums and surveys consistently noted a lack of individual study carrels that power electronic devices and provide wireless access. Recognizing this need, the Science Students’ Council (SSC) decided to fund the purchase of 45 new study carrels for Taylor Library. Through this donation, the SSC is challenging other areas of Western to follow their lead – and give to the Science Students’ Council Western Libraries Challenge Fund to add another 45 study carrels to the library.

“Our gift is a tangible way to support students and show how we can be part of improving the Western experience,” says Desmond Swamy, the Clubs Finance Coordinator with SSC. “We’re stepping up and giving to something that will last for a long time. In years to come, students will benefit from using the carrels.”

That makes the SSC gift – and the one from AHSC – an academic investment that backs the future.

Western Alumni pays it forward

Learning of Western’s student leaders’ commitment to future learning, Western’s alumni association, Western Alumni, has joined with students to support academic excellence on campus. At their quarterly board meeting in March, 2014, the Board of Directors committed to making two donations.

The first was a $50,000 contribution to the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity. The second was a gift of $50,000 over two years to the Taylor Library with $19,500 earmarked for study carrels.

“Alumni remember well the positive impact that dedicated and knowledgeable faculty members had on our learning experiences,” says Gary West, Chair of the Alumni Legacy Committee with Western Alumni. “Most alumni will also remember the many hours spent at the library researching and studying for exams. We’re happy to be able to support these two initiatives that invest in Western’s future alumni.”

As previously reported, Foundation Western’s Board of Directors also recently granted $250,000 to renew the Allyn and Betty Taylor Library. The money will be used to construct and furnish six main floor consultation rooms as well as state-ofthe- art communcations technology.


This article appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Impact Western
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