FARGO — North Dakota State University student Sadiyo Hassan said she wouldn’t be able to study computer engineering if it wasn’t for the support of the community.

The Kenya native who came from a refugee camp to the U.S. with her family when she was 5 years old told her story Thursday, Oct. 10, in front of a crowd at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Her speech was part of the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association's announcement of the public phase of In Our Hands, the group's largest ever fundraising campaign that aims to raise $400 million for scholarships, faculty, facilities and programs.

The effort that began 3 1/2 years ago already is helping students like Hassan.

“Education is like multiplication of success,” the 20-year-old said. “If you help to educate just one person, the compound effect from that is 10 times, 100 times more than what you initially put in.”

More than 11,000 donors have given or committed a total of $308.4 million. That includes the largest single donation in NDSU’s history, $75 million from Robert and Sheila Challey, who are co-chairs of the campaign. Being able to give back to the university makes them incredibly proud, Sheila Challey said.

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“My husband’s worked so hard and done so well,” she said. “We’re very privileged to be able to help NDSU. The students are so important to us.”

Robert Challey’s family has attended the university since the 1920s, and he graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

NDSU named its music school after the couple after they pledged $2.1 million to an endowment campaign in 2014. They also donated $10 million to the Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth this year. With money dedicated to scholarships, 80 students get some financial help each year because of the Challeys.

The NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association's last campaign raised $100 million in 2007, said John Glover, association president and CEO. That campaign was the second largest after In Our Hands, which will run into December 2022, he said.

With a total goal of $400 million, the In Our Hands campaign intends to raise $165 million for scholarships, $55 million for faculty and $90 million each for facilities and programs.


Hassan is the second youngest of six siblings and grew up in Fargo. Her oldest brother had to quit college so he could work, provide for the family and let his siblings focus on school, she said.

“Education is really, really important to me because my brother practically sacrificed his whole future for himself so that we could have a better future for ourselves,” she said, adding that she's grateful to have financial aid to attend NDSU.

Hassan wants to use her education to help people in Kenya and Somalia, but she also wants to come back to Fargo because it’s home.

Fargo and North Dakota benefit when NDSU, its students and staff do well, Robert Challey said.

NDSU is making history, University President Dean Bresciani said at the event, adding that more students than ever before will have access to transformative education because of the campaign. He called on everyone at the launch to contribute to the effort.

"The future literally ... is in your hands," he said.