Low donations won’t hinder goal

Lack of fundraising progress not an issue for School of Graduate Studies


The School of Graduate Studies has achieved the lowest percentage towards its goal among all of the priorities in Queen’s Initiative Campaign.
The School of Graduate Studies has achieved the lowest percentage towards its goal among all of the priorities in Queen’s Initiative Campaign.
Graphic by Ashley Quan

While Queen’s Initiative Campaign has raised $551,000,000 for Queen’s, one faculty lags behind.

The School of Graduate Studies has received only 47 per cent of its $8-million goal with only five months remaining until the campaign closes. Each of the 11 other priorities in the fundraising effort are at least 83 per cent of the way to their goals, with the Smith School of Business having received 173 per cent of its original goal.

But despite the apparent failure to raise funds, the University says the number doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of donations that will go towards graduate students.

Tom Harris, vice-principal (advancement), said donations that go towards one specific faculty or school would be considered to go to those “priorities” as opposed to the School of Graduate Studies — even if the money is going towards a graduate award. 

Priorities refer to the area of the school that donations are put towards. The priorities include several different faculties along with other areas of university, such as Athletics and Recreation and Library and Archives.

“If we’re able to get support for a graduate student for say, Biochemistry or English or History, than those dollars are then recorded in the Faculty the student would be registered,” Harris said. 

“If the award is open for students in more than one faculty, it’s credited in the School of Graduate Studies. If it’s in a particular faculty or school, it’s credited in the particular faculty or school.”

The Initiative Campaign is Queen’s most recent fundraising campaign. First launched in 2006, the overall goal of the campaign was to raise $500 million for the University, the largest fundraising effort in Queen’s history. 

The School of Graduate Studies goal, meanwhile, was split into two separate objectives. 

The first $6 million was to go towards Graduate Leadership and Achievement Awards, which provide support for doctoral students on exchange or participating in multinational research. The remaining $2 million was for International Leadership Awards to help Queen’s attract talented international graduate students.

Harris said the way donations are given to the faculties changes the amount of money that other priorities receive. Campus-wide student assistance sits just over its $20-million goal, but because some donations that fall under that category are school-specific, the actual total donated for student assistance is closer to $70 million, he said.

In the case of the School of Graduate Studies, the nearly $3.8 million shown in the Initiative Campaign would be sitting closer to $7 million if all the money going towards graduate students was headed toward the School itself.

Harris said when the campaign closes in April, the University will look at what the donations went towards. He added that the amount of funds raised is “considerable.”

He also said the University will continue raising funds after the campaign closes. 

The Journal requested comment from the School of Graduate and Professional Students, but the Society was unable to comment before deadline.

For the School of Graduate Studies, the lack of donations comes down to choices made by individual donors.

According to Harris, it’s not a case of former graduate students not giving back to Queen’s. Instead, because donors have the option to put their money towards different faculties, donations can be sent to specific faculties — such as Chemistry, English or Mechanical Engineering — instead of the School of Graduate Studies. Harris acknowledged that part of this issue stems from donors giving to the faculties they had belonged to at Queen’s.

“Graduates of the School of Graduate Studies may direct their money back to the particular school or faculty where they did their graduate work,” he said. 

“They may not see the School of Graduate Studies as their natural home or affiliation. Their connections are to the professors there, to the other graduate students there, so donations from graduate students tend to flow back to the academic unit that they’re doing their degree in.”

One of the examples Harris cited was Robert Buchan’s donation to the Department of Mining. The $10 million he donated to the program — now called the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining — went directly towards mining engineering program, although it supports graduate and undergraduate students.

Ultimately, Harris said, donors go where their interests lie. He called the University’s approach to fundraising “donor-centric,” as the Office of Advancement work with potential donors to find the projects they feel strongest about.

While this means alumni from the School of Graduate Studies often send their money elsewhere, he said there are also cases where former Queen’s students who only received an undergraduate degree have sent money to the School.

With donors getting the opportunity to drive their funding towards certain projects, Harris said that some of the onus for increasing donations to the School of Graduate Studies falls on the Office of Advancement. 

The Office of Advancement is responsible for mobilizing donations and working with potential donors to further the goals fundraising campaigns. 

“The vast majority of our graduates have an undergraduate degree, so one of the challenges in advancement is that we are able to convey to all of our graduates the essential role that graduate students have on campus,” he said. 

“I would say that something that Advancement needs to do is better articulate to all of our graduates, to all of our potential alumni, the essential role that graduate students have in the life of the academy.”

While the School of Graduate Studies isn’t close to its goal, the donations that have been put towards student awards means that they’ll still receive a solid amount of money for graduate student awards.

Roughly $7 million — 10 per cent of all student awards donations — were for graduate student awards.

Harris said student awards is one of the three largest areas of donations, alongside capital projects and professorships. 

Because student assistance receives a large amount of donations, this allows priorities focusing on large-scale projects — as well as those focusing on student awards — to be recognized by donors.

“Student assistance is resonant for a great many of our graduates because they realize that education provides opportunity,” he said. “The vast majority of people who I have met or [who] support awards want to make sure there are opportunities for students, whether graduate or undergraduate students to pursue post-secondary education at Queen’s.”

Despite concerns about where the School of Graduate Studies sits, Harris is confident that once the donations are broken down, it won’t be an issue.

“It’s a priority and it’s a matter of, in the end, how we’re going to show how much money was donated as opposed to which bins they’re in now,” he said.

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