Seven years ago, Athabasca University’s Open Our World campaign kicked off. It was the spring of 2008—the height of the global financial crisis which saw the stock market implode and families and corporations cutting back everywhere.
But that didn’t stop the supporters of AU from giving.
Since that time, the world’s economy made a comeback, Canada maintained fiscal solvency —only to fall again at the end of last year— with Albertans now bearing witness to the harsh economic results wrought by the tanking of oil.
Yet through it all, despite the doom and gloom, we’ve continued to be amazed by the wondrous advancements in research and education, right here at AU.
And so much of it is due to the constant giving launched in the spring of 2008, which hasn’t stopped.
On Tuesday evening, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary, glasses clinked through the Founder’s Room when Athabasca University’s Advancement team, standing alongside President Peter MacKinnon, members of the Board of Governors and the Campaign Cabinet, announced the final tally for the Open Our World campaign.
Friends, supporters, partners, faculty, staff, alumni and students saw the impressive figure of $32,203,663 emblazoned on a big screen – 106 per cent of the campaign’s original $30 million goal!
That figure was supported by 525 contributors who invested in AU’s student awards, research, community service and innovations in learning across the university—which goes beyond any bricks, mortar or hallowed hallways—and enriches people throughout Canada and beyond.
“This celebration tonight was to recognize people who are prepared to look to the future – and to help the agents of the future, our present students,” said President MacKinnon.
“We are so grateful for the support by people who want to assist the students of Athabasca University.”
Contributors like the Royal Bank of Canada and its Blue Water Initiative which provided a significant contribution toward AU’s non-partisan research hub, the Athabasca River Basin Research Institute (ARBRI) and its Community Engagement Project for collaborative research.
The purpose of the Project is to help ensure a healthy future for the River Basin and the communities that depend on it, identifying ways to promote sustainability and research.
“Water is the most precious resource that we have. It leads to economic and environmental sustainability,” said Jeff Boyd, regional president, Alberta and Territories, RBC.
“To be able to support the Athabasca River Basin Research Institute is a great match for us. ARBRI is doing some terrific work identifying and quantifying the impact of the River Basin and providing that insight to everyone.”
RBC’s Blue Water Initiative is a 10-year, $50 million campaign to protect and sustain watersheds to provide drinkable, swimmable, fishable water, globally.
Adds Boyd: “When you look at the work Athabasca University is doing, it’s really innovative; it provides post-secondary education for people who [might] otherwise not have access to it. So for us to be able to support the Open Our World campaign—it’s just a great match for all the things we’re interested in.”
AU scholarships clearly help students in many ways. Roger Laycock thanked AU for supporting him to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship while he juggled his Master of Education in Distant Education studies.
Laycock, who also has a Bachelor of Administration degree from AU, is currently a Calgary-based training consultant with Electra Learning Inc. Before joining Athabasca, Laycock found himself constrained by a full-time job in the rapidly declining educational publishing business with five family members to support including four children under eight.
He wanted new skills that would align with his work experience but give him a new set of credentials. Laycock’s job had him travelling frequently so he needed to find education anytime, anywhere, and that had the accreditation and reputation he was seeking.
“Simply put, I chose Athabasca because the program was the right fit and I knew I could trust this great public institution,” said Laycock, noting that he has found the links between his education and workplace application to be “very direct.”
When learning he’d won the scholarship, Laycock remarked: “It was the motivational boost at the right time that helped push me through the most challenging part of my studies.”
“I’m very grateful for those individuals and organizations that support Athabasca University and its scholarship programs. My life, career and family have been positively impacted. And for that I give Athabasca University and its donors a heartfelt and enthusiastic ‘thank you.’ ” ~ Roger Laycock, Athabasca University recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship.
Heather Kennedy, Campaign Cabinet chair and public member of AU’s Board of Governors said the campaign provided a unique opportunity to share AU’s story with countless people who didn’t otherwise know about the institution.
She says the drive also makes the university accountable because “we have so many partners who are now invested in the future of our students.”
And Pamela Walsh, AU’s vice-president of Advancement, extended a special welcome to former President Frits Pannekoek who helped champion leadership, passion and support for the Open Our World Campaign.
On June 12, at AU Convocation 2015, the Open Our World Campaign Cabinet will be receiving the Order of Athabasca.
This campaign may now be complete, but its impact on many will continue. Stay tuned and keep checking the campaign website to see how these contributions and new initiatives will continue to support research and learning at AU.