UAF community comes through for Giving Day 2021

By Theresa Bakker

A woman in a dress stands before a stage table and holds an award, while embracing with one arm a young girl holding flowers. The words "Business Leader of the Year" are projected onto a pink stage curtain behind her.
Photo by Todd Paris
Lorna Shaw ’96, ’05 is honored with the Business Leader of the Year award from the College of Business and Security Management (formerly School of Management) in 2014.

The online fundraising event, UA Giving Day: 49 Hours for Alaska, drew participation from more than 1,600 individuals Nov. 9-10.

Online donations to the three universities totaled more than $1 million to support students, university programs, research, athletics and scholarships. More than 60% of those gifts were from UAF donors, who gave a combined $661,709.

Of those who made a gift to UAF programs during Giving Day, 40% were alumni. Participants came from 38 states and eight countries. 

The UAF Alumni Association encouraged donations to support first-generation students during the event. The UAF First Gen Support Fund was started with a gift from UAFAA and matched by the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

UAF has a high proportion of first-generation college students — more than half of UAF undergraduates are the first in their family to seek a college degree. These students can struggle to find a sense of belonging and sometimes lack the social and cultural capital to successfully navigate the university system.

Darryl Lewis Sr. ’88 recently revisited the scene of his college basketball career.
Photo courtesy of Darryl Lewis Sr.
Darryl Lewis Sr. ’88 recently revisited the scene of his college basketball career.

Claire Swanson, UAF’s First-Generation Student Success Program graduate assistant, said the financial support raised during Giving Day will allow for more programming for these students. 

“We hope to develop a semesterly scholarship to provide much-needed assistance to those who are the first in their families to pursue higher education," she said. "Our purpose is to bridge the gap for first-generation students at UAF and invite them into a supportive community that will help them feel less isolated and enable them to grow a sense of belonging."

When first-gen students have access to direct mentorship, programming and scholarships, the results are immediate. At UAF, Student Support Services has seen graduation rates double with the implementation of similar services for baccalaureate students who are both first-gen and low income. These types of programs send a message that students are valued, while also providing the support they need to graduate.

Darryl Lewis Sr. ’88, UAFAA board member, said the alumni association was inspired by this work and wanted to encourage others to get involved during Giving Day. “I consider it a tremendous honor to be a first gen student. 

A young woman in a hat and coat holds a salmon while standing on a dock.
Photo by Marina Lloyd
UAF Climate Scholars student Sierra Lloyd holds a salmon during a Girls On Water expedition while in high school. She shared this social media post as a UAF champion during the 2021 Giving Day online event.

“Growing up in a disadvantaged home on the Southside of Columbus, Ohio, I was the oldest son to a single parent with zero money to finance a college education,” Lewis said. “Being able to get an opportunity to come to UAF and further my college education and all the good that has come after that — it all stems from that choice to get on that plane and go to Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s paid dividends and dividends.” 

Lewis said the idea to support first-gen students at UAF with a new fund and a challenge to encourage others to give just made sense.

“During our recent board meeting, we heard presentations from several first gen students,” he said. “It was real. Their stories were not sugar coated or embellished. I, along with the other board members, felt good that we could all come together in support of this new fund. It was a no-brainer, and I was honored to be a part of it.”

Every UAF college and school participated in Giving Day, sharing student stories and recruiting champions to help spread the word. This year, several research institutes joined the effort. The International Arctic Research Center featured a new climate change research fund. Many scientists and students, such as Sierra Lloyd, shared their stories on social media. 

As a high school student, Lloyd participated in university expeditions through the Inspiring Girls program now housed at IARC. She joined a Girls On Water expedition, a 12-day kayaking excursion in Kachemak Bay, and credits the experience for setting her on her current path. 

A screenshot of a social media post touts an offer from Bagels & Brew to donate to UAF when people purchase a certain sandwich.
Social media posts such as this one were shared by UAF champions during the 2021 Giving Day online event.

“It is because of the wonderful women I met in this program that I decided to go into ocean studies at UAF,” Lloyd said. “When I got to UAF, IARC continued to fuel my journey via the Climate Scholars program. Through them, opportunities to study Arctic waters are available to me in ways that I would not get anywhere else.”

Other champions leveraged their online audience to promote UAF through their local businesses, such as In My Element, Frank’s Menswear and Jolly Roger. These community champions shared on social media, promoted UAF specials or donated a part of their profits over the two-day period. 

Alumna Audrey Ranstad ’93, owner of Bagels & Brew, created a special sandwich just for UA Giving Day.

“I am proud to say I am a first-generation college student,” she said. “I think it’s important to offer support to current students, because without the help I received during my time at UAF, I would have never graduated. I see myself in them and am excited that they chose UAF to continue their education.”

Another UAF alumna, Lorna Shaw ’96, ’05, partnered with 15 loyal alumni, friends and businesses to collectively provide a leadership challenge totalling over $19,000. This gift was unlocked when 49 donations were made to the College of Business and Security Management. 

A photo of Lorna Shaw is set within a screen thanking her for unlocking over $19,000 in donations with a leadership challenge during UA Giving Day.
Lorna Shaw unlocked over $19,000 in donations with a leadership challenge during UA Giving Day.

In addition to her gift, Shaw promoted UA Giving Day several times on social media, something she said made sense on many different levels.

“UA Giving Day is a great opportunity to reflect on the role UAF has played in my life and think about how I can support UAF in providing opportunities to today’s students,” she said. “I know that UAF will spend the money raised in the way that most benefits the students.” 

The total surpassed last year’s giving day proceeds by 59%. The donations will support a wide variety of programs, including merit- and need-based scholarships for UAF students, scientific research, academic programs and Alaska Nanooks athletics. 

UAF’s phenomenal success was an example of the partnership between benefactors, organizations and businesses who teamed up to sponsor 47 challenge and match gifts, and the community.

The generosity of the following helped inspire additional gifts from more than 700 individuals: 

Alaska 529; Alaska Airlines; Allstate — Terri Olsen Agency; Ann Tremarello and family; Aurora Animal Clinic; CEM Dean Bill Schnabel; Bob Bundtzen; CFOS Dean Brad Moran; Brock Anundson and Family; CBSM Alumni Leadership: Ben Roth, Diane and Garry Hutchison, Leslie and Bob Hajdukovich, Lorna Shaw, Marilyn Romano and Brian Hove, Mike Fink, and Ryan Muspratt; CBSM Business Leadership: Chris Marok Allstate Insurance, Denali State Bank, Hale and Associates, KPMG US Foundation, Newmont Mining, Petro Star, RJG A Professional Corp., and Warwick & Schikora CPAs; Chancellor Dan White; Cold Spot For Healthy Pets; CBSM Dean Mark Herrmann; ConocoPhillips; Denise Wartes; Cathy Cahill; Dr. Cary and Mrs. Sarah Keller; CLA Dean Ellen Lopez; Erik Largen; Fairbanks Women’s Basketball Association; Hajo Eicken; HooDoo Brewing Company; Interior Women’s Health; Jim Alves; Keyes & Associates; CNSM Dean Kinchel Doerner; Linda Hulbert; Marilyn Russell; Regent Mary Hughes; Matt Varga; CTC Dean Michele Stalder; UA President Pat Pitney; Patty Roberts and Frank Barcalow; Rhonda and Clint Stark at Alaska Prime Power; Running Club North; Spine Care Specialists of Alaska; Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union; Tod Burnett; UAF Chancellor’s Board of Advisors; UAF Hockey Alumni Association; UAF Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: Sarah Garland, Monte Landis, Alice Stickney, Ritchie Musick, Ann McCann, Gail Davidson, Rich Siefert and Wes Potter; UAF Alumni Association; Usibelli Coal Mine; and Water Wagon.