By Rebecca Riordon, with files from Angela Barrett-Jewers, Allison Barss and Mark Campbell

The academic year has a familiar rhythm to it: students arrive on campus in the fall, classes begin and, in the blink of an eye, it’s convocation season again.

Something else also happens every year without fail: the extended campus community comes together to enhance the student experience, making gifts in support of a broad range of initiatives across the university.

The Dalhousie Fund, the university’s annual giving program, allows alumni and friends to direct support to the areas that matter most to them. These are initiatives where collective giving, no matter the size of the gift, can have a tremendous impact on the student experience.

For the good of the team

“Exhibition travel, team-building activities and other extras go a long way in helping us come together as a team to reach our goals while we compete for Dal,” says Sam Wade, a fourth-year member of the men’s basketball player who will be completing his engineering degree this spring. “The Adopt a Tiger program funds those things for us so we can focus on succeeding on the court and in the classroom, instead of funding those extras ourselves.”

Donor support of the Dalhousie Fund helps bring the Tigers together as a team.

Sam Wade says donor support helps bring the Tigers together as a team (Trevor MacMillan photo).

This year, Tigers alumni and fans supported players and teams on Dalhousie’s own crowdfunding platform, ProjectDal, where donors can see in real time just how much closer their gift brings a team to achieving their fundraising goals.

“Adopt a Tiger” funds also feed into the Black and Gold Academic Success Program, which provides tutoring, study skills workshops and other academic supports. For Wade, the generosity of donors creates access to essential resources that help student-athletes balance it all, with an eye to the future.

“Their support has really allowed me to focus on school, basketball and making the most of my co-op placements to get my career started on the right foot,” he says.

Dalhousie Fund forging paths to bright futures

Wade is not the only one who acknowledges the importance of the Dalhousie Fund in terms of setting students up for success down the line. For Grace Ashworth, an International Food Business student at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture, a donor-supported initiative has been a catalyst for imagining where her education will take her.

Agriculture student Grace Ashworth

Agriculture students such as Grace Ashworth address real world issues through the Sustain by Cultiv8 project. (Nick Pearce photo)

Over the past two years, agriculture alumni have been encouraged to direct their gifts to the Sustain by Cultiv8 sandbox project, a working vegetable farm and food stand where students can confront real world issues such as food security and climate responsibility through experimental horticulture. Opportunities like this allow students to get their hands dirty — both figuratively and literally.

“I got to learn about primary agriculture through a new perspective and in a team-oriented, engaging work environment,” says Ashworth, reflecting on her summer internship with the project. She says working with Cultiv8 sparked her interest in consumer-producer relationships and gave her a sense of what she’d like to do in the future. “It was so new to me, and so interesting. I know now that that’s what I want to be a part of — that’s the direction I want to take.”

Stepping up to the plate for student food security

The Food Security Project has become another hallmark campaign of Dalhousie’s annual giving program, in partnership with the J & W Murphy Foundation. First launched on Giving Tuesday in 2020, it has been supported by hundreds of members of the Dalhousie community over the last three years, helping to ensure student access to nutritious and filling meals. This call to action has only become more urgent as inflation rates and food prices continue to surge.

The Food Security Project helps to make food more accessible to students. (Danny Abriel photo)

On Giving Tuesday in 2022, it wasn’t just individuals who rallied for the cause — several local restaurants and hospitality industry businesses saw the Food Security Project as a meaningful opportunity to pay it forward. Given the major presence of post-secondary students in Nova Scotia, giving back during this time of need represented a full-circle moment for many businesses who themselves have received loyal patronage from students throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As an industry hit hard by the pandemic, we can appreciate the challenges students are facing as they continue to navigate some of its more lasting effects, like food inflation,” says Robert Risley (DEng’63, BEng’65), Chairman of the RCR Hospitality Group. “If there’s anything we’ve all learned over the past few years, it’s that a little help goes a long way in hard times.”

Together, Food Security Project donors — local businesses, alumni and friends — raised more than $70,000 in support of student food security at Dalhousie, and more than $200,000 provincewide. Prior to this show of support, the Dalhousie Student Union Food Bank had been faced with scaling back their operations, but it will now continue to meet students’ needs.

Gifts that keep on giving

Every Dalhousie Fund initiative has one thing in common: they all contribute to creating an environment where students are supported, motivated and well-equipped to thrive, whether that’s by enabling essential programming, creating unforgettable learning opportunities or extending a lifeline when it’s most needed.

“I’m confident that through this continued generosity, others will be offered similar experiences, helping to build and shape successful futures,” says Ashworth.

Wade agrees: “I hope to be able to be in a position very soon to pay it forward.”

For more on Grace Ashworth and the Cultiv8 project, read the feature story in this issue of Giving Power.

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