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Development Update

By Mary Hicks

Preparing the Future Generation of Communicators

Mary HicksWhether you're reading this magazine in the comfort of your north woods cabin, in your hectic downtown Minneapolis office, or in your noisy cubicle in Washington, D.C. (or Chicago, or Miami, or L.A., or Des Moines...), chances are pretty good that your life and livelihood have been touched by someone with a Murphy Hall connection.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication has alumni at just about every local, regional, and national media outlet-- the Rochester Post, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, and the Fergus Falls Gazette. But not all of our alumni are journalists, and not all of our students are majoring in journalism. Let's not forget the advertising and PR agencies and communications offices across all sectors of business and society, both public and private, nonprofit and for-profit, where "J-School" alums are helping organizations craft and deliver their messages.

Think about all the "messaging" that's buzzing through cyberspace and traveling along airwaves and through fiber optic cables. Someone's got to write the copy. Someone's got to create the message that moves you to make a decision, rethink your position on an issue, or take action--to vote, buy, sell, give something away, volunteer, attend an event, or join a political or social movement. And someone's got to make it accessible and compelling. These days, that someone is often a SJMC alum.

Considering the changes in the communications landscape, it's not surprising that the number of students specializing in public relations and advertising has surged over the past several years. But this increase presents us with a challenge: to address the imbalance in our undergraduate scholarships.

The vast majority of our undergraduate support is earmarked for students who pursue the traditional journalism degree. We are, of course, most grateful for those scholarships--many budding journalists tell us that they wouldn't be here if it weren't for that very critical support. But it's also important to note that 55% of SJMC undergraduates--some 440 students--are majoring in strategic communications, i.e., public relations and advertising. I can count on one hand the number of scholarships designated for those students. We need to fill the gap, and give those students the same advantage as their classmates in journalism.

No doubt you've heard about the U's "Promise for Tomorrow" scholarship campaign. During this campaign, when someone makes a new $25,000 endowment gift for a freshman recruiting scholarship, the University will match the "payout" or spendable portion of that of gift. The current yield rate on endowments is 4.5 percent. So on a $25,000 gift, at 4.5 interest, the payout is $1,125. With the University match, the total student award is $2,250.

The same math applies to a gift of $50,000, $100,000 or $500,000 (which would yield $45,000, including the University match!). Imagine the lives transformed by such gifts. Imagine the thrill of knowing that your gift gave a promising young person a chance for a SJMC education. Imagine a scholarship bearing your name, or the name of someone you wish to honor (say, a parent or a favorite professor), helping students for generations to come. That's quite a legacy.

As the burden of budget cuts falls more and more heavily on the shoulders of students, our students need your help more than ever. I hope that you will consider a scholarship gift to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I'd welcome a chance to chat with you about how you can change the lives of students--and keep the communications profession vital--for generations to come.

Mary Hicks, Director of External Relations
College of Liberal Arts