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UNC School of Social Work raises 107% of $23 million goal in Campaign for Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work surpassed its ambitious goal to raise $23 million by 107%, concluding the University’s signature “Campaign for Carolina” fundraising drive with $26.4 million in gifts.

The campus-wide Campaign, which the University publicly launched in 2017, was one of the largest fundraisers in UNC’s history, with more than $5 billion in total collected. The School of Social Work’s campaign success adds to this historic milestone.

Many of the most generous donations came from the community of people who know the School best — supportive alumni leaders and key stakeholders. Campaign co-chair and longtime Board of Advisors chair Louise Coggins, MSW ’80, along with Alumni Council chair Caitlin Kappler, MSW ’14, and previous council chairs Kristen Lakis, MSW ’12, and Ashley Benefield, MSW ’08, guided the mission.

“This is a momentous day for Carolina and for the School of Social Work,” Coggins said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the friends who joined me on the campaign.”

With the campaign well underway by the time she was appointed dean in August 2021, Denby-Brinson initially worried that the $23 million goal might be out of reach.

“However, I quickly realized that there is a strong belief in the work that we are doing and unwavering support from so many alumni, friends of the school, and board members,” said Denby-Brinson, Wallace H. Kuralt, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Public Welfare Policy and Administration. “It is now clear to me that nearly twenty-seven million is a number that reflects a well-earned confidence in our teaching, research and community engagement efforts as one of the Top 10 schools of social work in the nation.

Becoming the number one ranked school of social work is within reach.”

Supporting Key Priorities

From the beginning, the School set fundraising priorities to increase crucial tuition support for MSW and Ph.D. students; attract and retain talented faculty and staff; and provide more experiential opportunities to better prepare master’s level students for career success.

For donors Carl Baumann, a member of the School’s Board of Advisors, and his wife Susan, giving back to a University that is committed to improving access to an education has always been important. At the same time, the couple has long believed in steering their philanthropic efforts toward people who are working to strengthen communities and advance social justice.

Their $1.6 million commitment to the School last year targeted students eager to pursue this same mission by establishing a scholarship for those interested in careers in community, management, and policy practice — a concentration that prepares graduates to create change at community, organizational, and societal levels.

“Receiving this award has allowed me to meet and exceed my educational goals by granting flexibility throughout this school year to focus on the work I will be doing for the community,” said Kelsey Yokovich, a recipient of a Baumann Scholarship and student in the School’s 2-year MSW program.

Inspiring Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Providing high quality, rigorous and original research has been a hallmark of the School. Annually, social work scholars bring in more than $16 million in combined federal, state and foundation grants and other funding to develop and implement evidence-informed practices and policies that advance equity, transform systems, and improve lives.

For local philanthropists Marilyn Jacobs Preyer and Board of Advisors’ member Rich Preyer, supporting the School means ensuring that UNC continues to attract faculty with expertise in advanced research methods. Most recently, the Preyers provided a six-figure gift to create a new Early Career Award. This award will boost the School’s efforts to strengthen and retain top talent by providing stipends to junior faculty for research and professional development opportunities.

“Investing in early career researchers is not only a talent retention strategy, but it also plays a role in driving transformational findings because of the innovation and creativity that such awards allow early career researchers to engage in,” said Gina Chowa, director of the School’s Global Social Development Innovations and associate dean for global engagement. “These awards are a channel to retain the kind of exceptional faculty we need to remain a top-ranked school of social work well into the future.”

Thanks to donors, such as Vera Tayeh, MSW ’97, and a member of the School’s Board of Advisors, students enrolled in the MSW program have also gained opportunities over the past few years to pursue entrepreneurial ideas that make a difference. In 2020, Tayeh committed a six-figure gift to inspire MSW students to develop innovative interventions for supporting communities in need.

Strengthening Our Future

With the help of visionary donors, our School will continue to lead boldly into the future to serve communities in North Carolina and beyond. Such a commitment will require an investment in additional academic programming.

Over the next year, School leaders will continue to push forward with an online MSW program — a step that, if approved — will increase access to the School’s nationally ranked program. Such an expansion will also extend the School’s reach into every corner of the state, multiplying the number of future social work graduates prepared to invest in their own communities.

Additional financial support is welcomed to help us meet the goals of our School. Below are a few funding priorities:

Call for Collaborations (C4Cs)

This initiative needs to be expanded so that we can continue to engage with and empower our community partners to develop their own solutions to pressing problems. Broadly speaking, C4C projects are designed to fund pilot projects carried out by North Carolina-based organizations and groups that focus on helping children, families, and communities. Community organizations are supported to find sustainable strategies to continue their work.

Stipends for Practicum Education

Our online MSW program option will provide access to many promising students who believe a Carolina education is out of their reach. We intend to invest significantly in recruiting, educating, and supporting students who have an interest in making their careers in North Carolina and in practicing in underserved areas of our state. Talented students who aspire to support children and families or provide mental and behavioral health care have a greater opportunity to achieve their professional goals when we can offset the cost of college by providing stipend support.

Becoming THE No. 1 ranked school of social work

Advancing to the very top requires attracting and retaining nationally recognized researchers, teachers, and scholars. Investment in our faculty, MSW and Ph.D. programs, scholars, and researchers by way of research development, fellowships, and professorships will elevate our national rankings. At the same time, investing in our faculty and researchers will enable them to continue to solve pressing problems and make an impact in our local, national, and global communities.

Moving forward, we need your support to achieve our goals for the future. Gifts of unrestricted funding provide the School with the greatest flexibility, allowing us to support the needs of students, faculty, and staff and to respond to change and dedicate funds to the greatest needs within our community.

To help, contact Associate Dean of Advancement Kandace Davis Farrar, at 919-962-7222 or