CHAPEL HILL - Campus Y, the social justice center of the UNC campus, has begun raising money for a $10 million to $15 million endowment.
The endowment, which would be the Y’s largest in decades, would provide seed capital for its new Social Innovation Incubator, and create a new faculty position and social entrepreneur resident position.
“This would give a 360-degree set of experiences, services and resources to the students,” director Richard Harrill said. “We would complement vision and theoretical research with workshops and seminars to build skills to act on social enterprises.”
“We’ll be able to reach hundreds if not thousands of students across campus with this model,” he added. “It’s exciting.”
The organization began reaching out to its 12,000 alumni this summer and will apply for foundation and corporate funding. The Y is also partnering with the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the fundraising effort, which is expected to take about five years.
The endowment would provide more stability for the Y’s 32 student committees and three new programs unveiled in the past two years, all of which have been on more precarious footing since the recession, according to Harrill and others.
UNC’s budget has sustained $231 million in state funding cuts since 2008. Meanwhile, tuition and fees have increased from $5,340 for in-state students for the 2007-08 school year, to $7,690 for 2012-13, according to UNC’s Finance Division.
The harsh economic environment has more students thinking about entrepreneurship. And many students with the Y are looking into social entrepreneurship, a triple bottom-line approach emphasizing environmental and community impact along with hard numbers.
“At UNC, and around the country in general, there’s been a recent drive for entrepreneurship,” said Meg Vandeusen, a junior who is co-chairwoman of HOPE Gardens, one of the organizations in the incubator this year. “On Campus Y, the idea of entrepreneurship has really taken on its own spin, and students are taking on organizations that have committed to social justice and seeing what kind of new problem-solving we can do.” New programs
In the past two years, Campus Y has launched three new programs to meet this dual interest in service and business:
• Bonner Leaders, a leadership program for low-income students;
• Global Gap Year Fellowship, which provides stipends for a year of public service between high school and college; and
• Social Innovation Incubator, which opened this year and is providing space, expert advice and seed capital of $15,000 to four student-run teams.
The financial support for the programs is still shaky. Campus Y is an independent organization at UNC and does not have a dedicated university development official.
Its budget in 2011 was about $750,000. That’s the total of all operating expenses, salaries and money raised by the 32 student committees under the Y umbrella. The budget comes from numerous sources, some of which are dependable, such as the Anne Queen Endowment, which provides about $24,000 annually, and some of which are less reliable – such as federal work-study funding, which had cuts this year and nearly affected the Bonner Leaders program.
“Luckily, we were able to secure last-minute funding to make up the difference,” said Y spokeswoman Leslie King.
Seven of the Bonner students are working with The Jackson Center in Chapel Hill this year. Monica Palmeira, community services manager at the Northside center, said having the manpower of the students has helped them record the history of the neighborhood.
“Usually, that’s a small, private college program,” Palmeira said of Bonner. “I think that speaks very highly of Campus Y to bring in a program like that, to engage the community in ways the university hadn’t before.”Transitional time
Campus Y’s fundraising is launching during an odd transitional time at UNC.
The university has faced several public scandals in the past year, most recently culminating in the resignation of head development official Matt Kupec and the surprise resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp. Thorp has been a major advocate for innovation and entrepreneurship during his tenure.
Campus Y passed a resolution in support of Thorp and asked him to reconsider his resignation.
“We were very fortunate to have a chancellor who was driving the campus dialogue, and we’ve been exploring what innovation and entrepreneurship means in the larger setting,” Harrill said. “The Y has been doing social innovation for over a century and a half. … I believe we’ll be successful in raising the endowment because our alumni base will see this as the continuation of what we’ve been doing for generations.”