Alumni Association donates $800,000 to student services to enhance the Laurier experience

Homecoming weekend saw the announcement of the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association (WLUAA) donating $800,000 to enhance student services for current students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The donation was split up into four parts to cover different student services around campus that could use funding.

$350,000 of the donation was put towards scholarships for students and $270,000 was to enhance safety for students including public education, counselling, a 24/7 helpline four support and counselling and support for victims of sexual violence.

$30,000 will be going towards the makerspace programs at Laurier to enhance student creativity and the final $150,000 will be going to the Nadjiwan Kaandossiwin Gamik Indigenous Student Centre to redevelop a learning and development centre for Indigenous students on the Waterloo campus.

“We started working with Mark Gray who is in the major giving area of Laurier, he actually presented about eight different options that were key priorities for the university and we looked at what the impact each opportunity would have for students, we were also looking for projects that could be implemented fairly quickly,” said Ryan Smith, president of WLUAA.

It’s fairly consistent with previous donations, in 2015 we pledged $750,000 so we’re a little higher than that this time, the way it works is that we do three year gift agreements, so what we pledged this year will actually be paid to the university over three annual installments.

— Ryan Smith, president of WLUAA

“There was a fairly interesting option of doing something redevelopment of a space in Brantford, but when we looked more closely at it, it looked like something that was still a few years away, but it wasn’t really a shovel ready opportunity.”

The WLUAA has donated almost $2 million dollars for projects at Laurier as well as student scholarships since 2009, with partnerships with fellow alumni and revenue from their GradVantages program helping make these donations possible. 

“It’s fairly consistent with previous donations, in 2015 we pledged $750,000 so we’re a little higher than that this time, the way it works is that we do three year gift agreements, so what we pledged this year will actually be paid to the university over three annual installments,” Smith said. 

“The way I look at it as an alumnus from Laurier, we had a fantastic experience on campus and a very great education, a lot of that was due to previous generations of donors and donations made many years ago to develop the campus. It’s paying that forward, all of it that we benefitted from we want to make sure that continues.”

WLUAA also puts on events that connect students and alumni alike to network and become mentors and mentees to each other by hearing the stories of fellow graduates to help steer current students in the right direction post-graduation.

“I’m really excited to make a donation of this size, but we don’t want the alumni association to be seen just as an organization that provides financial support to the university. We want to be heavily involved in all the issues happening on campus and provide a voice for alumni,” Smith said.

“Virtually any committee that’s struck on campus, our goal is to be invited and have a voice. Last year when Laurier was revising its strategic plan, we had a member of our association represent us on that committee, this year there are concerns about Ezra street gatherings so we participate in that, in general, we elect three members to the board of governors and senate too.”

The alumni association will continue to look at options in the future for ways to help out Laurier at many of the campuses, but for the near future, the funds received will be put to good use to ensure the student experience stays at the top for future generations.

“Something that was new to me was the programming for the Indigenous students, we start off every meeting with a land acknowledgement, that made me want to do more research into what is being done in that area. Right now there are 535 students who self-identify as indigenous, an increase from 2010 where there were only 199,” Smith said. 

“Being able to provide a space where they can have a home away from home for them was a great investment. As for the makerspace, we saw how the space was supporting academics through experiential learning as well as other classes that were good for stress relief we were sold the moment we saw it.”

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