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NDSU fundraising campaign doubles endowment

Students are getting on average three times more money for scholarships compared to a decade ago.

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North Dakota State University nursing student Laura Biewer checks for lung sounds on a medical manikin Nov. 5 in Aldevron Tower on campus. The manikin named Walter is part of state-of-the-art technology used to help students prepare for emergency situations. Chris Flynn / The Forum

FARGO — From an early age, North Dakota State University student Laura Biewer was interested in medicine.

The sophomore from Kindred, North Dakota, said it was an easy decision to major in nursing. Because of $456 million in donations to a fundraising campaign for NDSU, she and other students have received scholarships that not only help fund their education but allow them to learn in state-of-the-art environments.

“We’re able to put our time towards our studies rather than having to worry about if we're going to be able to pay for those studies,” Biewer said.

The In Our Hands campaign launched in 2016 by the NDSU Foundation was the largest in the school’s history. It surpassed its goal of $400 million in May.

It also more than doubled the organization’s endowment.

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“It speaks to belief and confidence that our alumni, friends, business partners have in NDSU’s mission, and what it means to our community and state and the world,” Foundation President and CEO John Glover said.

At the end of 2015, NDSU’s endowment was $134 million, the foundation said. The foundation reported the endowment ballooned to $325.5 million as of Sept. 30, according to the organization.

Endowments are donations that earn interest over time. Some of the earnings are used to fund scholarships and faculty support programs.

“The idea of endowment is that it is a sustainable gift that lives long into the future,” Glover said.

The average amount of scholarships a student receives from NDSU also has increased since 2015, from $820 to $1,252, according to the foundation. In 2011, that average was $374 per student.

“That's the impact of what a campaign like this does to students and certainly the larger campus community,” he said.

More than a third of the campaign funds have gone or will go to scholarships. About a quarter is dedicated to campus programs, and the remaining funds will go to facilities and faculty support.

The campaign helped fund the $28 million Aldevron Tower, a building that houses the School of Nursing and NDSU’s public health department. The six-story tower was entirely funded by private donations, making it possible for students like Biewer to develop nursing skills on state-of-the-art equipment.

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For example, the building has replica hospital rooms with medical manikins that breathe, blink and have pulses. They can simulate scenarios nurses may encounter once they graduate. One of those manikins gives birth.

Nurses don’t know what they will encounter in the real world, and that’s how it is in the hospital rooms of Aldevron Tower, Biewer said.

“It is so real, especially when you’re practicing those emergency scenarios,” she said.

More than 14,000 donors were involved in the campaign, said Steve Swiontek, who co-chaired In Our Hands with his wife, Mary Anne Swiontek, and Robert and Sheila Challey. Those donors had a commitment to NDSU’s future and wanted to create a legacy for students and faculty, he said.

It’s possible the foundation could have raised more had the coronavirus pandemic not interfered, Robert Challey said. The campaign will continue fundraising through the end of December, ending a year early, he said.

Still, he said he was happy with the campaign’s accomplishments.

“It’s super exciting, and we are so proud that this amazing group of people all got together,” Sheila Challey said.

Donors care greatly about NDSU and want to make a difference, Glover said.

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Biewer said she was thankful for the generous donors. Because of them, she can prepare for high-risk scenarios and feel more comfortable when she enters the workforce.

“It means a lot that they're putting their trust in me, knowing that I'm going to get the best possible experience at NDSU and the best possible learning experience,” she said.

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