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Giving Day UC Chile Rallies the University Around a Philanthropy Campaign

This initiative, which attracted more than 800 donors and raised over $90 million pesos, is a decisive step in building a culture of philanthropy within the university community. The event reignited the discussion on what it means to contribute to your alma mater and the creation of a philanthropic culture. Six people share their reasons for joining Giving Day UC.

Image of donors having their picture taken with a frame that says "we join in".

photo_camera Giving Day UC seeks to build a culture of philanthropy and highlight the importance of giving back to the university to support its survival in the future. (Photo by: César Cortés)

At the end of October, the university held the first ever Giving Day UC, a philanthropic activity that brought together the university community around a donation campaign focused on 31 UC Chile projects and scholarship initiatives. With banners on campus, on-site activities and a strong digital presence, Giving Day UC marked a milestone in the process of developing a culture of philanthropy at Universidad Católica.

The campaign raised more than $90 million pesos and attracted 822 donors, mainly UC Chile alumni, staff, students and faculty members.

"We are building a culture, I think that’s the main thing. None of these initiatives can be implemented quickly, all of them need time, cultural changes, and the community needs to absorb the knowledge and experience on how to achieve this,” said President Ignacio Sánchez.  

He also highlighted the cross-cutting nature of the event, which brought together the College, the Villarrica Campus, UC Endowment and almost all of the faculties: "We have been in contact with all the academic units. Projects have been developed and through these we have learned from the initiatives that are at the heart of the different faculties, from the various professors, directors, professionals, administrative staff, and also students. We have learned how to disseminate, where the most fertile ground is, the preferences of our university community, which faculties are in the lead, which faculties are just starting with the spirit of donation, of philanthropy. I commend what has been done in this first year.”

Among the many people who decided to participate in Giving Day is Dr. Armin Oswald. A double graduate of the Faculty of Medicine and the MBA program, he joined out of a sense of gratitude towards his alma mater and for the international philanthropic experience: 

"As a UC Chile alumnus, it is very important to give back to UC Chile for the great opportunities I have had in life resulting from the knowledge, skills, experiences and interpersonal relationships I gained from my formative years at both faculties. Also, as a graduate of an American university (University of Texas at Austin), I have been able to see the profound culture of gratitude and giving back in the US, an example that I hope will be increasingly embraced by the graduates of different universities in Chile."

Giving days are relatively new to Chile. 

Around the world, on the other hand—especially in the United States—they are commonplace. 

One of the first experiences in our country stems from the School of Engineering, which last year launched its own Giving Day. This academic unit also organized multiple field activities, such as an Open Day on Saturday, October 22, to which students and alumni were invited. 

"The School of Engineering is extremely committed to contribute to the development of the country and national talents. In this context, to be able to support students who have economic difficulties; to help them pursue and exercise their profession, and in some way, use all their talents to give back to the country, is a fundamental mission for us as a community

These moments strengthen us, generate fellowship and call us together to carry out actions of social responsibility in all areas of our daily work. It is important to raise awareness of the problems that afflict the community in order to develop empathy. Knowing that some students face greater difficulties makes us more sensitive to their needs," explained Loreto Valenzuela, dean of the School of Engineering.

Beyond the monetary contribution that each member can make, for her the deeper meaning lies in the collaborative work that is performed: 

To drive the community to generate change, mobilize and motivate, regardless of the school, faculty or academic unit, is what unites us as a university. Ultimately, we share the same needs for student support and doing it collaboratively across the university only strengthens the outcome."

Other institutions that also organized events were the UC Chile Law School and College which held fun activities. The Law School organized a solidarity pizzathon in its courtyards and a paddle tournament, while College held an activity called "Sunset", which included standup comedy.

A large group of scholarship students posing in front of the camera.
"(...) To be able to support students who have economic difficulties; to help them pursue and exercise their profession, and in some way, use all their talents to give back to the country, is a fundamental mission for us as a community,” said Dean of Engineering Loreto Valenzuela. (Photo credit: Financial-aid Scholarships/Faculty of Engineering)

Philanthropy, a Critical Aspect of University Sustainability

According to Armin Oswald, one of the donors, giving back has a profound effect on the institutions. 

In a recent letter published in the newspaper, La Tercera, President Sánchez stated the following: 

“Universities are institutions that, along with reflecting upon the present and the future, have the mission of educating the country's youth in a comprehensive manner, conducting research, creating new knowledge in all fields and transferring it to society, being closely connected to the needs of local communities and the country, in order to contribute to solving the pressing problems that afflict us all. 

To conduct all these tasks, public and private resources are required, which due to the income structure of all our institutions—which mainly come from student tuition—are insufficient to fulfill these tasks. Understanding this situation is key to committing to the future of universities."

In this regard, for Patricio Donoso, Provost for Institutional Management, the university community has a central role, particularly the alumni, who in many places and with various levels of responsibilities, are actively making their way with the UC Chile seal on their backs.

"It is essential to convey to alumni the importance of helping to strengthen their "alma mater", and the importance of "giving back." 

Financial sustainability enables us to carry out more and better research and knowledge creation; it allows us to strengthen our commitment to inclusion, so that no one is left out of the UC Chile due to lack of financial resources; it gives us the opportunity to further empower our faculty members, so that we can educate better professionals and citizens. 

On this Giving Day we took another step forward in building this philanthropic culture, and for this reason we are very happy and grateful to those who are now donors to Universidad Católica.”

What Inspires Donors

From his role as dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Felipe Heusser  is familiar with the difficulties involved in the process of raising resources in Chile. 

The university and the School of Medicine, both have very good projects in the pipeline looking for funding sources, and we have the potential to develop many others, always with the aim of contributing to our university mission, to improve the wellbeing of our country," said the professor and pediatric cardiologist, who also donated.

"On the one hand, I thought it was important to join this philanthropy initiative that helps UC Chile create a culture of giving back to our University. 

Today, the university's funding sources are limited, and philanthropic contributions are relatively low compared to universities in other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Europe. In many of these institutions, donations not only contribute directly to operating expenses and new projects, but also make it possible to build very significant endowment funds and thus give stability to the university's financing. 

On the other hand, to donate to the UC Chile is to contribute to the education of professionals of excellence, to the development of new knowledge and new creations, and to the significant contribution our university makes to the country.”

Collective solidarity, meanwhile, is a factor highlighted by professor Roberto Gonzalez of the School of Psychology,  who learned about this activity through the website, e-mail messages and posters on campuses.

“I thought it was very important to join efforts under the assumption that the collective support, the sum of the effort of all the members of the community, can make the difference for many of the projects that are being implemented that help many communities, both inside and outside the university. Solidarity is key to helping many institutions, people and communities to move forward when resources to implement their projects are scarce.” 

Moving forward, the psychologist and doctor of the University of Kent, proposes to reinforce concepts such as community, solidarity, support and also the importance of contributing, so that "people feel that they are part of an initiative and that their contribution can make a big difference so that these can achieve their objectives".

Valuation of UC Chile in Society

Photo: Ernesto Camacho, PhD student of Astronomy, at Foster Observatory
"I joined because I think it is especially important to have centers where science, curiosity and astronomy, which are so important in this country, can be developed and disseminated," said María Elena Ángel Bruna, who participated in Giving Day by donating to the Foster Observatory. (Photo: Ernesto Camacho, PhD student of Astronomy, UC Chile Institute of Astrophysics/Photo credit: Ricardo Acevedo)

According to Mónica Arellano, director of Projects and Philanthropy, the area in charge of promoting the Giving Day, this first experience was aimed mainly at reaching alumni.

However, it later became apparent that both the internal community—students, faculty and staff—and the general public were interested in participating.

"Universidad Católica is highly valued in Chile, and it shows. People appreciated the many existing scholarship programs; the vast majority of the projects had a clear public vocation and represented a clear benefit for all people." 

The business administrator added that, as the organizing team, they felt widespread support.

"We appreciate the commitment of many offices in the university and also of the coordinators and communications managers of the academic units. Their work was key to making Giving Day a reality.”

Wladimir Luque is part of the first group. 

He is a social worker and College UC Chile graduate, and he is currently working in the Office of Inclusion of the school. Wladimir collaborated with the College's financial-aid scholarships for students from regions. 

"I think it is extremely important to contribute to a cause such as scholarships for students from other regions, who have to move to another city and region and live on their own. In this sense, I believe it is necessary to provide support based on the diverse experiences and trajectories of each student. 

The key is to provide support for various groups in our community. It is well known that many students pay their rent or have to supplement it with residency scholarships, so there must be some measure to mitigate their other expenses as students," said the 27-year-old professional. He believes that in the future it is necessary to conduct a stronger awareness campaign to emphasize the importance of donation.

Cristián Reyes is a student of Natural Sciences and Mathematics College.

"When I found out about Giving Day UC, I wanted to help right away. I had no idea it existed. For me it was an act of solidarity and justice to be able to contribute to continuity of scholarships for my fellow College classmates, this allows them to continue their studies and university life, and it also give their families peace of mind, knowing that money is not an obstacle to study at UC Chile. It was a pleasure to support Giving Day UC.”

Image: Wladimir Luque, College UC .
“I think it is extremely important to contribute to a cause such as scholarships for students from other regions, who have to move to another city and region and live on their own,” said Wladimir Luque, College UC Chile graduate and professional of the Office of Inclusion. (Photo: Wladimir Luque)

Although she is not a UC Chile graduate, psychologist Angélica Jerez, from Osorno, decided to contribute because she values the work of the institution. 

"I learned about Giving Day from my daughter, who supports one of the initiatives, and so I know about the effort and the current needs. My contribution wasn’t much, it was pretty symbolic, but I think it is very important to support these actions, which are known to have a solid backing."

María Elena Ángel Bruna, a 57-year-old elementary school teacher, felt the same. In her case, it was her passion for education and science dissemination that motivated her to contribute specifically to the Manuel Foster Observatory of the Institute of Physics.

"I love teaching reading and writing skills; this year I have a first-grade course. I found out about the activity because I follow the Astro UC Chile page and because my son is an astronomer and posted it on his Instagram page. I joined because I think it is very important to have centers where science, curiosity and astronomy, which is so important in this country, can be developed and disseminated. I believe that we must continue to promote the benefits of this initiative."

Giving Day UC is due to return in 2023 with renewed energy to continue fostering the philanthropic culture among the university community.

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