No student should have to choose between buying books or food. Or pass up an internship opportunity because they can’t afford gas. Or drop out of school to ease the financial burden on their family. But these choices are a reality for many students who attend the University of California, Riverside.
Launched by UCR on Oct. 4, a new fundraising initiative will strengthen the university’s commitment to supporting students — especially those from low-income families — in all aspects of their educational experience. The Beyond Brilliant initiative seeks to raise $50 million over the next five years for scholarships and graduate fellowships, experiential learning opportunities, and health and wellness resources.
Kicking off the initiative is a $5 million matching gift from UCR Foundation board of trustees member Erik Anderson, through Anderson Community Partners. Anderson’s gift has created UCR’s first-ever Trustee Student Support Challenge Fund, which invites other trustees to join him in raising an overall $10 million pool of funding to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for all new donations in support of students. The match will double the impact of new gifts and commitments to the initiative, enabling UCR to expand access and opportunity, empower innovative learning and teaching opportunities, and enhance health, wellness, and a sense of belonging.
“UC Riverside has built a reputation for student success through intentional action and programming designed around students’ needs. Yet, we know we can do more,” Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox said. “With the backing of generous donors like Erik Anderson, we are excited about this next phase of support for students.”
The Beyond Brilliant funding initiative comes on the heels of UCR’s Living the Promise comprehensive campaign, which was launched in October 2016 and surpassed its $300 million fundraising goal in September 2020. The successful completion of that campaign, as well as heightened awareness of food and housing insecurity issues faced by students across the UC system, presented an opportunity to pivot the fundraising focus to student success, said Susan Atherton, a UCR board of trustees member and co-chair of the Beyond Brilliant initiative.
“This initiative is UCR’s recognition of issues such as food and housing insecurity faced by many students, and a commitment to make sure students have the best and healthiest experience going forward,” she said. “It’s completely about students, and I think that will be exciting and inspiring to donors.”
UCR is committed to the success of low-income and first-generation students, as well as students of color. More than half of UCR’s 26,000 students are the first in their family to attend college, and 47% receive a federal Pell Grant, typically offered to undergraduates from households earning less than $65,000 per year. For three consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named UCR the top university in the nation for social mobility.
“With a graduation rate that’s in parity between students of color and their white counterparts, UCR truly deserves its recognition as the top school for social mobility in America,” said Wally Bakare, a UCR board of trustees member and co-chair of the Beyond Brilliant initiative. “The students’ commitment to excellence and community, and the entire administration and faculty’s commitment to experiential teaching and mentorship, is what makes being a student at UCR truly unique.”
UCR’s board of trustees is leading the fundraising effort, with gifts from Anderson and other trustees creating the match designed to inspire future contributors by increasing the impact of their gifts. Atherton said supporting Beyond Brilliant is an offer of real-world, tangible support for undergraduate and graduate students across campus so they can successfully complete their studies. It will provide resources needed to meet students’ basic needs and provide the environment and experiences that enable them to thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
“UCR students are the best,” Atherton said. “Many of them are first-generation college students and I admire them for coming as far as they have on their own. They got here without us and now we need to be there for them so that they and their families can benefit from the world-class education offered at UCR.”
Bakare said the initiative will provide UCR with the resources needed to sustain its record of advancing students’ social mobility, which will in turn benefit the socioeconomic growth of the Inland Empire region.
“Susan and I are so excited to be co-chairing this initiative,” he said. “We encourage everyone to join us in raising the bar of student success at UCR. There are several ways to participate and help us ensure that our students have what it takes to excel in every aspect of life above and beyond their educational achievements.”
To learn more about the initiative and get involved, visit giving.ucr.edu/beyond-brilliant.