While the mesmerizing fireworks display on Friday, Nov. 5 served as another edition of the annual homecoming-week finale, the display on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus also marked the public commencement of UM’s $2.5 billion fundraising campaign “Ever Brighter.”
“Ever Brighter,” was quietly launched in 2015 by a freshly-inaugurated President Julio Frenk. UM has called the campaign a step forward in its goal to mold a brighter future for students, the community, the health of humanity and the health of the planet.
Of the campaign’s $2.5 billion dollar goal, the university says it has raised $1.63 billion thanks to donations from UM alumni and affiliates. University officials say that raising the money is only one part of the campaign’s multifaceted mission.
“It’s not just a large dollar amount, though it is a very large dollar amount. It’s really about how you’re using that investment to continue to breed excellence’’ said Josh Friedman, senior vice president of development and alumni relations.
Friedman says that Ever Brighter mirrors the long-term vision President Frenk has had for UM since he assumed office in 2015, a plan that necessitates community contributions to succeed.
“When the President came on board, he had a vision for where he wanted to take the University,” Friedman said. “Right from the beginning, he said that it would take us a decade to get there. Being able to get there from the start was known to require the philanthropic investment of our community.”
The campaign will effectively conclude upon the completion of UM’s Centennial Village in 2025, a new residential hall designed to replace the Hecht and Stanford freshman dormitories.
Ever Brighter has seven broad themes as a roadmap for what the campaign intends to accomplish before its completion: “Brighter Science for Bigger Discoveries,” “Brighter Education for a Changing World,” “Brighter Outcomes for Health and Wellness,” “Brighter Arts for More Vibrant Culture,” “Brighter Lights for Leaders and Champions” and “Brighter Opportunities for All.”
The university says the values espoused by Ever Brighter promote extensive enhancements across its schools and programs and will facilitate positive change through the ideas of community members like students, staff, faculty and alumni.
“The university has very large priorities that we are raising money for,” Friedman said. “A vision around improving research, improving patient clinical care, on the U Health side, improving opportunities for students to come to the university through scholarships or the experience that our students have when they’re here or when they graduate.”
Past and future developments under the Ever Brighter campaign include the addition of Lakeside Village for student housing and the construction of the Knight Recital Hall, a state-of-the-art concert hall planned for completion in 2023. According to Freidman, none would be possible without the altruism of UM’s donors.
“If you look across any of our campuses, you’ll see things that have been made better because of philanthropy: buildings that didn’t exist before or spaces that have been reinvented, programs that have been taken to the next level,” Friedman said. “All of these efforts together are part of the impact that our donors have had.”
Friedman says that one direct result of donor philanthropy has been increased student scholarships and career opportunities designed to promote a more diverse campus.
“A big part of our campaign has been raising money for scholarships to bring amazing students who might otherwise not be able to come to the University,” Friedman said.
Other initiatives planned under Ever Brighter include new art facilities within the College of Arts and Sciences, cancer research labs for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and $20 million in added funding to the UM Urology Institute.
“The University of Miami has one of the finest urology teams in the country and with this new gift, they’re going to be able to go to even greater heights, because they’ll be able to do even more cutting edge research and patient care than they had before,” Friedman said.
For faculty members, the university aims to establish 100 new endowed positions designed to maintain a quality roster of educators. Thus far, 64 of the 100 new positions have been successfully funded.
Student Cassandra Michel, a junior double majoring in psychology and community and applied psychological studies, says she appreciates the Ever Brighter scholarship initiative.
“I like the fact that the University is trying to make college more accessible to students who have historically been underrepresented in college settings because of financial status,” Michel said.
She also loved that the Ever Brighter campaign was fused with the homecoming festivities.
“Homecoming was a pivotal time to launch the campaign being that it’s our first one in a year. Alumni were present on campus and the homecoming spirit was ever present,” Michel said.
Freidman added that the homecoming celebration was a fitting day to publicly celebrate the continuation of Ever Brighter.
“That, to me, is the perfect day to celebrate a campaign like Ever Brighter, which is not an elite activity; it’s something for all of us. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting moment to be able to celebrate it moving into this next phase,” Friedman said.
The homecoming celebration acted as a return to semi-normality for a student body that sorely missed the week-long festivities canceled due to COVID-19 a year ago, but according to Friedman, COVID-19 had a positive impact on the campaign by forcing UM to connect with alumni and university affiliates through online modalities like Zoom.
“We would engage with alumni around the country and around the world, but often, only because we would go to those places, and if we didn’t go there very often, we were engaging less frequently,” Friedman said. “Now, we actually have more alumni engaging with our institution because they can do it from wherever they are.”
Now, the university will use the lessons it has learned throughout the pandemic to its advantage as the Ever Brighter campaign moves into its final stages.