Julie Lucas

Students participated in Thanks Day outside Gregory Gym on Wednesday by signing a giant thank-you card to be presented to UT’s alumni and donors at a special Texas Exes Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday.

Donations are essential to securing UT’s $2.26 billion annual operating budget, said Julie Lucas, assistant director for development at the University Development Office.

Student tuition and fees only make up 24 percent, less than half the 54 percent provided annually by alumni gifts.

The event, organized by Students Hooked On Texas, was designed to educate UT students on what it takes to create and fund a “Longhorn” education. Students filled in turkey-hand letters, writing the names of anyone they were thankful to on the fingers, to be sent to alumni. Lucas said donations have been very stable year to year despite the current economic climate. Donations were not being sought at Thanks Day, Lucas said.

“All we want to do is say thank you to everyone who participates, whether they’re UT parents, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, taxpayers, state legislators and everyone else, for helping to make our students’ education possible,” Lucas said.

More than 1,500 students participated in Thanks Day last year, said Lucas.

Government sophomore Hannah Tucker, Students Hooked On Texas philanthropy council member, said it was important to increase the culture of giving on campus.

Tucker said the aim of the event was to get enough handwritten messages to send every single donor a personalized message.

“We want students to appreciate all the donors and what they make possible,” Tucker said.

Students Hooked on Texas was formed in 1998 with the purpose of providing education for students about the impact of philanthropy at UT. The organization sports a graphic representation of funding’s importance in the shape of a cow on the group’s brochure.

Student Government spokeswoman Sydney Fazende said she does not think students are fully aware of how much of UT’s funding is reliant on donors.

“This campaign is all about letting students know how important donations are,” Fazende said. “I didn’t know how much alumni donations made up before Thanks Day, but the cow graphic has been really effective in demonstrating the funding breakdown.”

Management information systems junior Veronica Becerra filled in the giant card with a message reading “Thank you for the support, my education is thanks to you.”

“All the private donations that come in are just so important,” Becerra said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to [go] here.”

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Thanks Day event celebrates contributions to UT funding

Students dug in their pockets to help support the Student Emergency Fund at the first-ever Spring into Giving campaign.

Students Hooked on Texas, a group devoted to community service and fundraising for UT, sponsored the full-day event on Gregory Plaza on Wednesday to raise money for the Student Emergency Fund. The cause brought together student volunteers from several University colleges and
philanthropic societies.

The fund helps students stay on track academically in times of crisis, said Christa Lopez, the coordinator of Student Emergency Services in the Office of the Dean of Students, which sponsors the fund.

“We help students sustain their progress at UT,” Lopez said. “Sometimes, without these funds, the students would have to leave the University, delaying their education a semester or a year. We help them make it to their graduation on time.”

The Student Emergency Fund, which started 10 years ago, is available to any UT student facing a “temporary financial hardship resulting from an emergency situation,” according to the Dean of Students website, which is also where students apply for aid. On average, amounts given range from $25-$150 and have previously helped students pay for hardships, including medical tests and treatments and plane tickets to attend an immediate family member’s funeral.

Party on the Plaza, the Hearts of Texas, Texas Parents, in addition to yesterday’s event, provide most of the donations to the fund, but anyone can contribute by going to the Dean of Students website. All of the money raised goes toward students who apply for financial help.

“There’s such a direct, immediate benefit with the Emergency Fund, as every dollar raised goes to help someone experiencing a personal crisis,” said Julie Lucas, the assistant director of Students Hooked on Texas.

For this year’s Spring into Giving campaign, a group of five alumni have pledged to match student donations dollar-for-dollar by each donating up to $5,000, Lucas said. They will renew this pledge annually for the next four years. Lucas said they won’t know the total amount raised this year until Friday.

“[With $3,000-$4,000 currently in the fund] and the 50,000 students at UT, we obviously can’t help everyone,” Lopez said. “So for students that may be OK financially, we encourage them to give back to their friend who needs a little help or their classmate who is homeless and living on the street. Even if someone doesn’t think that giving a dollar will help, that dollar becomes two. And you never know who or how you are helping."

Students interested in applying for a grant from the Emergency Fund can find the application on the Office of the Dean of Students website. The application must be accompanied by sufficient documentation of financial hardship.

“In times of crisis, it’s already so stressful, and to know that there is some backup from the University takes some of that pressure off,” said applied learning and development freshman Sumayya Pirbhai, who volunteered at the event.