A New Initiative to Raise Funds for Diversity Efforts

I’ve written in this space before about the ongoing importance of recruiting and retaining students, faculty and staff of color. The past year has brought into sharp focus that society is confronting two crises: the health crisis of COVID, and the multi-faceted crisis of racism and inequity.

Today I’m pleased to share with you a new cross-campus initiative that represents our commitment to expand access, representation and inclusion at UW-Madison.

Last fall, I committed to raising $10 million in private funds to support our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. I’m pleased to tell you that as of today we have raised more than $20 million. With this success, we’ve been planning for an even larger and more comprehensive effort.

In partnership with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA), we are building on our fundraising momentum by publicly announcing the Raimey-Noland Campaign. The fund is named for Mabel Raimey and William Noland, the first known African American graduates of UW-Madison. William graduated in 1875; Mabel in 1918.

This effort will support scholarships, faculty and programming aimed at five broad fundraising priorities:

  • Increase the diversity of the student body;
  • Increase faculty and staff diversity;
  • Enhance academic success and career readiness for students who may arrive with less preparation in some areas;
  • Support an inclusive, welcoming campus community for individuals from every background;
  • Invest in research addressing injustices and advancing equity.

These initiatives represent a collective institutional commitment to our students, faculty, staff and alumni of color. A campus-wide workgroup developed the concept for the Raimey-Noland Campaign and helped identify the fundraising priorities to address the most promising diversity, equity and inclusion programs.  We want all schools and colleges as well as Athletics to be part of this effort, helping us raise money for the efforts most important to each unit.

In most cases, we will look to raise money for endowment.  This means funding that is invested, with support for programs and scholarship paid out of the returns.  The advantage of endowments is that they fund these efforts far into future, rather than disappearing once the money is spent.

The Raimey-Noland Campaign will build on the progress we’ve seen over the past several years to expand need-based aid and improve the recruitment and retention of students of color and other underrepresented groups. There is evidence that these efforts are paying off:

  • Over the last decade, the presence of underrepresented undergraduate students of color on campus has grown from 9.9 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent of the student body in 2020.  All students of color have increased from 14.4 percent to 19.8 percent.
  • During the same period, the presence of faculty of color from underrepresented groups has increased from 6.9 to 9.4 percent, while all faculty of color have increased from 17.9 percent to 24.6 percent of the university’s faculty.
  • Even in a difficult financial year, we are continuing to fund the Target of Opportunity Program (TOP) that helps departments recruit outstanding colleagues who enhance diversity in their respective fields. We started TOP at a time when we’d seen essentially no growth in Black and Native American faculty in 10 years and moderate growth in our LatinX faculty. In the past 2 years, we have hired 32 new faculty through TOP.  About 75 percent are people of color from underrepresented groups – most of the rest are women in sciences.
  • The retention rate (freshmen returning for a second year) for underrepresented domestic students of color is 95.9 percent. This is the highest it has ever been and above the retention rate for UW–Madison students as a whole (95.2 percent). The 2020 freshman class includes 989 underrepresented domestic students of color who identify as African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian, or Southeast Asian-American. This number is up 19.8 percent, from 825 the prior year, and represents 13.5 percent of the freshman class.

I’d like to thank all the members of the campus workgroup that helped develop the Raimey-Noland Campaign, and particularly Lou Holland Jr., a member of the WFAA Board of Directors, and interim chief diversity officer Cheryl Gittens for their leadership. I also want to express my appreciation to UW alumni Elzie and Deborah Higginbottom and Phill Gross, who have both made lead gifts to the campaign effort.

There is still much work to do, but I am excited by the momentum we are creating.