Senior class gift aims to improve environmental sustainability

The husky statue outside the HUB was the senior gift from the class of 2006. This year's gift is an endowment for sustainability that will provide funding to make the UW more environmentally friendly.

For this year's senior class gift, the senior class gift council sought to do something that would both help students and benefit the University. The council decided on the Endowment for Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship.

"What a lot of seniors do - and what we're encouraging seniors to do - is donate the amount that corresponds to the year they graduate, so they can give $20.08," said Tara Miller, co-chair of the gift council.

The council isn't expecting a lot of the donations to come in until seniors start signing up for Commencement. There will be a link on the Commencement Web site when seniors go to buy their caps and gowns that will allow them to donate to the gift, and that's probably when most people will do it, Miller said.

To help make the University more environmentally sustainable, the council will be partnering with the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee and providing them with funding to continue the work they're already doing.

"We imagine it would go toward projects like composting, recycling, green cleaning and reducing our carbon impact," said Katie Harkins, the project manager of annual giving programs and faculty adviser to the gift council. "We want it to be used in ways that make the most sense for the money to be spent."

As an endowment, the gift will have an annual payout.

"At first, that amount won't be huge, but it'll grow over time," Harkins said.

The gift council, which comprises seniors nominated and chosen by various faculty, has been meeting together to discuss the senior class gift since mid-autumn. Their first task was to figure out what the gift should be.

Miller said the environmental endowment was chosen as the senior class gift because it's a combination of everything students wanted to do.

"It'll help the stats of the UW - it'll become a greener school. The money can go to fixing physical needs on campus and make it a greener, more beautiful place," she said.

The final goal, Price said, is not only to give back to the University but also to get students in the habit of giving back after they graduate.

"We're hoping the class will be tied in to the values of the gift," Harkins said.

Most of what remains to be done now is to raise money for the endowment. The council's efforts involve a direct mailing campaign, which has already been sent out, and a direct calling campaign, which will be happening in the next few weeks. Several large events on campus, during which the council will personally encourage students to donate, are also planned. So far, they've received about $4,000 from a total of 108 gifts.

Price has high hopes for seniors getting on board with the idea.

"We've been doing things in academia for the past four years," he said. "It's nice to give something back to the University. Not only is it good for the environment, but it's good for the school."

[Reach reporter Molly Rosbach at]

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