WWU launches largest fundraising campaign in college’s history

Old Main on the Western Washington University campus.
Old Main on the Western Washington University campus. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Western Washington University publicly launched the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the university on Friday, Oct. 24, one that school officials say will help offer students scholarships, improve student learning and make up for a dip in state funding.

The Western Stands for Washington campaign already has privately raised over two-thirds of its $60 million goal through the Western Washington University Foundation. On Friday the campaign went public in a campus event open to students, faculty and donors.

“While enabling us to expand access to Western’s distinctive excellence through scholarships, the campaign also builds on our unique strengths in teacher education, the STEM fields, environmental science and more, to prepare graduates to tackle the most pressing issues of the 21st century,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard in a prepared statement.

Students outside of the Viking Union Multipurpose Room on Friday spread a different message, however, attempting to get potential donors to pledge not to contribute to the campaign until the WWU Foundation divests funds from fossil fuel companies.

The student group was continuing its efforts for divestment despite the foundation’s September decision not to change its investment policy regarding fossil fuels.

Rona Bryan, media coordinator of the student club Students for Renewable Energy, said they did not know about the new campaign while planning their protest but saw it as an opportunity to gain exposure.

“A lot of this is focused on building a movement and making sure it’s visible,” Bryan said.

Steve Swan, Western’s vice president for university relations and community development, said the foundation board’s decision not to end investments had nothing to do with the campaign funds they quietly have raised the last few years. While the foundation is unlikely to change its decision, he acknowledged the student’s willingness to protest as a positive.

The campaign’s website says the funds for the new campaign would help offer student scholarships after state funding for financial aid has gone down in recent years. It also would direct money to Western’s Institute for Energy Studies, among other departments, to improve student learning. Swan said some of the $40 million raised so far is already producing scholarships.

Swan said the campaign “further establishes Western as an institution of excellence.”

“This is an exciting day for Western, it’s our first capital campaign in a long time,” he said.