by Bryan Slinker, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine
Thanks to our many supporters—that’s you—our team completed another very successful year, raising more than $13.4 million in private funding. All of us in the college thank you from the bottom of our hearts because your gifts have taken on ever-increasing importance as we reach for our goals in a challenging budget climate. Challenging? The “great recession” is long in the rear view mirror, but the effect on the University and our college from those days continues to ripple because most of the state appropriation that was lost has not returned.
So today, gifts make an even bigger difference to help us continue to improve the health of animals and people locally and globally. Often, we seek gifts for specific needs. For instance, student scholarships, which are always critical, or raising funds specifically to replace our 21-year-old MRI in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. But we also have a critical need for flexible funds that can be directed to when and where they are needed most. The uses of these funds range from buying a new piece of lab equipment that could lead to a medical breakthrough, or purchasing diagnostic equipment that might save a pet’s life, or investing in a great idea to improve our teaching or curriculum.
Flexible funds help us meet unexpected challenges and react to critical opportunities. They can provide seed money for innovative research and programs, which often sows more success. A critical, sometimes relatively small, investment in a great idea can then be leveraged into significant new funding from more targeted gifts from donors or grants from foundations. They can also leverage larger gifts by positioning the college to match other donors’ gifts to meet specific goals.
Flexible funds can also help recruit and retain the college’s best faculty minds, train graduate students for the next generation of advances, hire veterinary technicians to help our patients and our students, or meet a host of other needs, big and small, that may not be met with other sources of funding.
Recently, for example, in negotiations to retain one of our brightest young faculty members, they asked for help to take some of their research in new directions that are “risky” in the sense that they may not pan out, but if they do the payoff would be very high. We really want to be able to invest in our talented faculty to allow them to do such things. This faculty member is really starting to hit their stride, and is strongly motivated to achieve more than can be reasonably funded by their current grants. Their request to us is thus eminently reasonable—if we will backstop their push into new areas with funds for the next two to three years, they will take those risks. If, during that time, they get the larger grant they are seeking to expand their program, we would stop providing the additional funds. I’ll take that deal any day from talented, motivated, thoughtful colleagues, but we need help in the form of flexible, uncommitted funds to do so.
Our critical need for this type of flexible funding often is not as visible or concrete as scholarships or a new MRI, but it is just as important.
As always, thank you, take care, and Go Cougs!