More than 100 student scholarship recipients, faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered on April 26 to celebrate the official launch of the UNC School of Social Work’s $23 million fundraising campaign.
The campaign is the largest in the School’s nearly 100-year history and is part of the University’s “For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina.” An ambitious effort to raise $4.25 billion by Dec. 31, 2022, the Campaign for Carolina was developed “to foster an innovation generation prepared to lead the world to a better future.” The UNC campaign is the largest in the Southeast and second largest among public institutions in the nation.
The School of Social Work concluded its last major fundraising campaign in 2008, raising $21 million. This latest endeavor took years of “dreaming about what is possible for our School, and then creating a plan to make it happen,” said Dean Gary L. Bowen, who urged those gathered to support the campaign.
“Every gift is truly an investment in the future and the well-being of our state, our nation and our world,” Bowen said. “And because you care, we hope that you will choose to invest, too.”
As planned, gifts to the School of Social Work will support three key priorities:
- Academic excellence to strengthen programming for MSW and Ph.D. students
- Recruitment and retention of award-winning faculty through the development of professorships and research awards and
- Community-level changes for marginalized populations through a new Collaboration for Social Justice and Racial Equity initiative.
Although fundraising efforts are just beginning, donations totaling more than $6.6 million have been received, including a recent $300,000 unrestricted gift from long-time School of Social Work supporters Meghan Cioffi, MSW ’98, who sits on the board of advisors, and her husband Rob. This year alone, the School has raised nearly $1.9 million, a 210 percent increase over last year, announced School of Social Work campaign co-chair Louise Coggins. With plans to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the School has set its sights on expanding its reach, Coggins said. Broad support, especially from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, will be vital to the campaign’s overall success, she added.
“So the dollars we’re going to raise for this campaign for Carolina will not only provide crucial support for faculty and students, it will enable us to expand life-changing programs in the state, nationally and internationally,” said Coggins, who also serves as chair of the School’s board of advisors. “With your help, and believe me, we can’t do it without you, we can create a more just and equitable society, which is really the goal of all of social work.”
Festivities for the evening included a catered reception, recognition of scholarship recipients and their donors and a special appearance from Rameses Jr., the youngest mascot of the Carolina Tar Heels. The event largely celebrated the work of faculty researchers and social work students who are leading or collaborating on innovative projects that seek solutions to some of society’s most pressing social problems.
Special speakers included Rebecca Macy, L. Richardson Preyer Distinguished Professor, who is nationally known for her work to prevent and end interpersonal and domestic violence; Paul Lanier, an assistant professor with expertise in developing and evaluating programs for low-income families with young children, including efforts to improve parenting skills for new fathers; Gina Chowa, an assistant professor and founding director of Global Social Development Innovations, a new School-based research center focused on improving the lives of marginalized populations around the world; and Amy Blank Wilson, an assistant professor whose work with the Tiny Homes Village in Chatham County, N.C., is helping to bring independence to and transform the lives of people with mental illness.
The celebration also included presentations from LaVoya Woods-Dionne, MSW ’19, a research assistant for ethics education and policy management and intern with the School’s Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative; and Yazmin Garcia Rico, MSW ’18, an advocate for Latino issues, especially those related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and immigrant farmworkers. The student scholars spoke of their passion for social work and thanked the School’s generous donors for giving them the financial ability to pursue their degrees and to advance their careers.
Although longtime donors Prudence Meehan and her husband Peter have already given more than $1 million to the School over the years, the Chapel Hill couple remain committed to supporting students and faculty. As campaign co-chair, Prudence Meehan said she sees the current fundraiser as an opportunity to showcase how contributions to the School offer a significant return on investment.
“The thing I like about the School of Social Work is the ripple effect,” said Meehan, a member of the School’s board of advisors. “You train a student here and they go out and they help other people… and it just goes on and on. It’s very impressive.”