UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND Alumni Foundation raises $160,000, delivers more than 55 Giving Hearts Day Scholarships

The funds directly support students, providing help in a global pandemic that has strained the finances of many

Courtesy of UND Alumni Association & Foundation

“No way!”

That was Coby Kison’s response to a call from the UND Alumni & Foundation last week, informing him that he had won a Giving Hearts Day scholarship.

The fourth-year University of North Dakota student, double majoring in geological engineering and Spanish, had been applying for the scholarship every year.

“You just fill out an application online and it doesn’t take very much time – so, why not,” Kison said. “I was shocked that I won this time.”

This year, after a banner Giving Hearts Day campaign in February, Kison joined more than 55 other students who received scholarships. This is above the AA&F’s goal of 50 scholarships, and is 20 scholarships more than were given last year.

“It is wonderful to see an increase in the number of scholarships,” said Sarah Prout, associate vice president of engagement at AA&F.

That increase was possible due to the record amount raised – over $160,000, or 8 percent more than in 2020. This year also saw a 25 percent spike in the number of donors. Some 377 donors gave to AA&F to support student education.

“It was exciting to have our best year yet in terms of donors and students and the engagement that we saw,” Prout said.

Giving Hearts Day is the largest philanthropic event in the Upper Midwest, spearheaded by the Dakota Medical Foundation. This year, across the region, the event raised a little more than $22 million from roughly 40,000 donors, supporting a variety of organizations and nonprofits.

“The fact that donors have chosen the University of North Dakota to help support student scholarships really brings back that One UND, that loyalty to UND as a whole, and the impact that can be made,” Prout said.

And, the positive impact in 2021 is substantial, she said, as the pandemic has worsened the financial picture for many families, amplifying the need for assistance.

In Kison’s case, the Giving Hearts Day scholarship will help him at last attain his dream of studying abroad. COVID ruined his plan last fall to attend Andrés Bello National University in Santiago, Chile.  The city is “the mecca of the mining industry” and a place where he could polish his Spanish, Kison said.

However, after his car broke down recently – necessitating the purchase of a new vehicle – Kison found himself financially strapped, unsure if he could afford to travel to the Latin American country in the fall of this year.

“With the scholarship, I think I will definitely be able to make the money work,” he said. “So, I am going to go ahead and study abroad in Santiago.”

Before he heads to Chile, though, Kison will intern at a gold mine in Nevada, where he will apply his geological knowledge to tasks such as monitoring the groundwater levels and looking for gold. This experience will follow Kison’s previous work in a coal mine in central North Dakota and a sand mine near his hometown of Eau Claire, Wis.

Different engagement

For the first time this year, AA&F used social media to let students boost their chances of winning a Giving Hearts Day scholarship. In previous years, students had to register on AA&F’s website for a randomized draw of winners. This February, they could also engage on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in order to earn additional entries through the registration software.

The social campaign also enabled AA&F to show students the merits of philanthropy and give them the chance to interact with one another as well as donors.

“Some of the videos that were sent in by students were really moving,” Prout said. “This scholarship really means a lot to them, and it helps alleviate some of that financial distress that they are experiencing right now. That wouldn’t be possible without the friends and family of the University of North Dakota, who are choosing to give back financially.”