Guest Column: Lifting others so that together, we continue

As Colorado State University employees surpass the two-month anniversary of working from home, I’ve been reflecting on the springs of inspiration and motivation that have sustained our campus community.

For many of us at CSU, these past several weeks have been a time of uncertainty, adaptability and discovery about ourselves and our teammates as we norm to a workday of telecommuting. While much of how we accomplish our work has changed dramatically, one thing has remained constant — why we do it.

Advancing CSU by connecting alumni and donors to their passions is the mission of University Advancement, and for our team members, it’s more than a statement — it’s a uniting force that powers our collective effort to move forward in the face of unprecedented challenges. Like many at CSU and in communities across the globe, we now juggle a workday of Zoom meetings with caring for children finishing their school year at home through online classes, worrying about the health of older family members, and connecting with friends across the miles, reassuring all that we will get through this together.

Yet, a fundamental aspect of our togetherness transformed overnight. In-person events were canceled. Travel to meet with donors and alumni in person was suspended. The ways we communicate with and accept gifts from donors changed. Students and faculty rapidly adjusted to completing the semester through online learning and teaching, and some research activities have been temporarily suspended.

Kim Tobin

Kim Tobin, Vice President for University Advancement

Through each of these shifts, the resilience and innovative mindset of the CSU community has lifted my spirits on more than one occasion. It’s a resiliency fueled by the very nature of the work we do and the people we serve. In response, many of our alumni and donors have raised their hands to ask, “How can I be of help to others?”

Rams do take care of Rams

For CSU, the answer has been to provide immediate support for the most vulnerable members of our community — emergency aid to students who have lost jobs and housing, expanded food pantry operations to meet the challenge of increasing food insecurity, and funding for critical research on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

As we sent out the call, our alumni and friends responded with compassion and generosity, proving again and again that Rams take care of Rams is more than a tagline; it’s a credo. One that motivates selfless actions like those of the hundreds who gave to CSU, gifts both large and small, as part of #GivingTuesdayNow. It’s what inspired one parent of a CSU employee to donate $50,000 to Rams Against Hunger in the early days of the pandemic, and what led one longtime donor to make a new commitment of $1 million to support students in crisis through Ram Aid.

That same philosophy fueled our faculty and administrators as they led CSU’s transition to online learning and operations. It’s a spirit reflected in the essential personnel of Facilities Management who continue working to keep our campus safe for everyone’s return and those who are volunteering to staff the mobile food pantry. And it’s the fire within our students who endured extraordinary times to celebrate their transition to alumni this past weekend, without the traditional pomp and circumstance.

The Greek translation of philanthropy is “love of humankind.” Amidst even the darkest of times, philanthropy, and those who practice it, serve as a beacon of hope. Hope is alive in our students, faculty and staff who persevere. And it burns brightly within our alumni and donors who give generously in order to share that hope with our community and with the world.

For CSU, philanthropy is more important than ever to fulfilling our commitment to a 150-year-old mission of providing access and opportunity to higher education. It is what sustains hope as we face an uncertain future, together. For the University Advancement team, it is an honor to forge these connections that sustain us.

In the end, philanthropy represents a choice to do more than what is required of us, a choice to lift others around us so that we may continue, together. To all who make the choice, we are forever grateful.

Kim Tobin is Vice President for University Advancement for Colorado State University.