While the campus slowly emptied for Thanksgiving last Tuesday afternoon, President McConnell sat down with Cistern Yard News to shed some light on the recently-launched BOUNDLESS campaign. With the ambitious goal of raising $125 million by June 2016, the campaign is the largest fundraising effort in the school’s history. It encourages students, alumni and parents to not only reach for their check books, but to reflect on their College of Charleston experiences. A social-media heavy website for the campaign highlights student art, sports events, faculty research and other key points meant to foster school pride. The money that is raised will go towards five goals; scholarships, faculty, academic and campus programs, facilities and annual giving.
Cistern Yard News: What makes the 2014-2015 school year the right time to launch this effort?
Glen McConnell: Once the decision had been made, we didn’t want to go public until we had a firm footing. $125 million is an ambitious goal, but we made $110 million in the non-public phase, so it was a natural fit to open it up this fall. We needed the excitement of the public launch to spur these more grassroots contributions.
CYN: What is the purpose of the silent phase, which precedes the public giving phase?
GM: It builds a firm foundation and sets a tremendous example. It’s people from all walks of life, giving as they are able. The cumulative effect is very persuasive.
CYN: How were the members of the Steering Committee selected?
GM: The team all had experience with fundraising and a history of giving to the College. Steve Swanson, my co-chair, has given $2 million and really demonstrated his loyalty to the College.
CYN: Is this campaign at all connected to The College of Charleston Foundation?
GM: Yes. Scholarships are set up in the Foundation account. The sole purpose of the Foundation is to fund our goals at the College, what better repository for BOUNDLESS funds.
CYN: Can you elaborate on what annual giving is and how it plays a role in this particular effort?
GM: The annual giving fund is flexible to our needs. For example, annual giving funds were used for a traffic study, out of concern for the students. The Trustees wanted it done, so did SGA and my office. We allocate these funds based on a consensus. It’s a way for people who can’t make large, one-time gifts to still contribute meaningfully to the College.
CYN: How will the funds be used to attract top teachers?
GM: A donation could fund an endowed chair or fund certain research. Or it could be used as faculty supplements from the Foundation, in addition to what the College can pay. This isn’t nailed down yet, but it gives us the opportunity. If the opportunity comes and there’s no money, you’re stuck. And often, in these situations, timing is everything.
CYN: Could you elaborate on your goals for scholarships?
GM: Those aren’t nailed down yet but I imagine will be up to different committees to allocate the money. But my position is, we are student focused. If an idea for spending has no link to the enhancement of the student experience, I’m not likely to approve it.
CYN: Could you give an example of what will be done to our facilities with BOUNDLESS money? Which buildings are at the top of the list for improvements?
GM: Rita Hollings, Learning Technology Center, more space for our business school and computer science department, I could go on. We are critically short on meeting and activity space for students. With the pool closing, hopefully we can raise funds to repurpose the space.
CYN: BOUNDLESS is clearly an effort that places a high value on reflection and appreciation, as well as mobilization and fundraising. What is your vision for the College in June 2016?
GM: That this College will be more affordable, accessible, inclusive, and that the student experience and opportunities have been improved. I also see it moving in the direction of having more research in targeted areas. You know, we shouldn’t be defensive at all, we should be bragging that we produce students who have broad knowledge, know how to think, and can solve problems. We know where we’re headed.
After concluding the questions, McConnell spent several minutes praising the student performance of Assassins, which he had seen the night before. “When I go and see students working so hard in that Arts center and producing such amazing work, it lights a fire under me to go to the legislature and say we need this money” he said. “There’s a buckle in that stage, there’s water damage…but the students are doing incredible work.”