Dr. Melissa Shivers, VP for Student Life, stands outside her office inside the IMU on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Dr. Shivers sat down with reporters from The Daily Iowan to discuss her progress on campus with issues related to international student enrollment, racial representation, and the University of Iowa's potential responses to proposed changes to the "Dear Colleague Letter." (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Guest Opinion: The transformative power of philanthropy at the UI


Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, encourages students to thank donors who shape the UI campus.

As a student who greatly benefitted from financial aid, I can attest to the transformational power of philanthropy. While I am grateful for the support I received as an undergraduate, I wish I had known more about the source of the funding that helped me complete my degree with less debt and made it possible for me to attend graduate school. At the time, I didn’t understand private donations and the direct impact they had on me.

In the years since I graduated, colleges and universities have done a better job of educating students and faculty about the sources of their awards. In some cases, scholarship and fellowship recipients have the opportunity to meet the donors whose kind support brought these awards to fruition. These connections are powerful. In my experience, it brings donors great joy to meet those affected by their generosity and to hear their stories. 

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University of Iowa students, faculty, and staff benefit daily from private donations made by faithful UI alumni and friends. As state funding decreases, these acts of generosity will become even more important to sustain student success. There is no limit to the significant role philanthropy plays on our campus. Look at the names on buildings, classrooms, and programs. Many of those names belong to contributors. Without their donations, our campus would look very different.

In celebration of philanthropy at the UI, I encourage you to pause for a moment the next time you see a donor wall, an inscribed brick, or a plaque on a bench. Remember that behind the name is a story that involves a passion for Iowa and the desire to help the university be a top-tier public institution that educates our future leaders. If you are a student who receives private scholarship money, ask your college or department for more information about your funding, and consider sending a sincere note of thanks if you haven’t already. To celebrate Phil’s Day on Thursday, April 26, stop by one of the various locations on campus (listed at PhilWasHere.org) from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. to sign a thank-you postcard to a donor.

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To those of you who make the UI a part of your philanthropy, thank you. Thank you for giving your time, talents, and treasure to this great university. Thank you for recognizing how extraordinary our students are and making it possible for them to achieve their dreams. Thank you for ensuring the UI can continue to serve our state, our country, and our world.

— Melissa Shivers

Vice President for Student Life

University of Iowa

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