Campus and Community

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Little Things Mean A Lot

On December 17, 2016, Taylor Dubey was preparing to take the stage and receive her diploma from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. But "the old sheepskin" was not the only thing Dubey and her fellow winter graduates received that day. Prior to the Commencement ceremony, each soon-to-be new alumnus was given a gold dollar from the Chancellor, which he or she could keep as a memento of time spent at the school or donate to the university by depositing them in one of the purple buckets stationed at the doors leading into MAC. Dubey didn't hesitate to return her coin. Neither did 224 of her classmates–nearly half the graduating class.

What was literally a drop in the bucket turned out to mean so much more. The occasion marked the start of UWSP's Gold Coin Society.

The idea behind the Gold Coin Society is straightforward: Instill in graduates the desire to give back to the university by making their first donation as alums easy and meaningful. Giving back the gift of their gold coin either immediately prior to or after Commencement makes graduates eligible for membership in the society. Alums must make a gift to the university each year in order to maintain their standing as Gold Coin Society members.

Dubey made the choice to donate because she saw value in her gift. "Not many recent grads can afford to make financial contributions," she said, "but the Gold Coin Society allows recent grads to feel like they gave something back, and inspires us to give more one day."

The size of a Gold Coin Society gift makes no difference, as that first donation of a single dollar attests. Chancellor Bernie Patterson made note of this fact in his comments to graduates as they received their coins. "At major turning points in your life – days like today -- it may seem like you don’t have enough to give to make a difference." said Patterson. "But sometimes, it is the smallest things that matter most."

At the time, UWSP was still basking in the glow of a $4 million gift from local employer Sentry Insurance, made in March 2016. Plans were well under way to make the new degree in data analytics, and the two endowed professorships, for which the money was earmarked a reality. The largest donation in the history of the university, the Sentry gift received plenty of attention.

"What you don’t always hear about are all the gifts that don’t receive the fanfare," Patterson told the graduates. "Those small gifts also come from the hearts of alumni who love this place–dozens of them every week that make scholarships and programs possible across campus, things we just couldn’t do without the generosity and support of friends."

For Dubey, the choice to become a Gold Coin Society member was pretty much a no-brainer. As a UWSP student, she had made a point of participating and being active in university affairs. She served as a campus tour guide, and completed internships with the admissions and advancement offices. 

"I was always interested in what makes students choose UW-Stevens Point their home," she said. "Anytime I was a part of a campus event, I always felt like I was an a part of something meaningful."

Her past experiences brought Patterson's words into sharp relief. "Every person involved makes such a difference in the way UWSP operates and changes the lives of its students and alumni," she said. And that is why she didn't hesitate to drop her coin in the purple bucket.

Unlike the Sentry gift, which was allotted specifically for the data analytics program development, initial Gold Coin Society donations go toward funding a number of different student services and programs. Dubey hopes that in some small way her donation might help another student achieve his or her dream of studying abroad. She was fortunate enough to spend a semester in Poland, which she describes as "one of the best experiences I have ever had."

Currently a member services coordinator for the nonprofit marrow registry Be the Match in Minneapolis, Dubey understands that it can be tough for recent graduates to donate to the university when they first start working. She likes that the initial contribution of a single gold coin provides a way of giving back that every new graduate can afford. Donating that first dollar also is an inspiration "to give more one day."

Dubey is honored to be an inaugural member of the Gold Coin Society.

"We are the class that starts the trend," she said of the 2016 winter graduates, " ... and it’s an exciting trend for years to come."

 

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