Raising funds for UTeach
Origins of UTeach
I have watched preparation of teachers of mathematics, science, and computer science grow in the College of Natural Sciences from a small pilot in the fall of 1997 to a highly regarded program today called UTeach with over 480 students and 70-75 graduates per year. The goal of these remarks is to lay out the role of external fundraising in achieving this goal.
Prior to the founding of UTeach, the University of Texas at Austin was putting out 15-20 math teachers and 10-15 science teachers per year. The math department had worked hard to create special courses for future teachers, which helped explain why more teachers came out of math than all the sciences put together. In all cases it was up to students complete their degree and take largely unconnected coursework in the College of Education in order to be recommended to the State for certification to teach.
Private funding played an essential role in the founding and development of UTeach. In 1997 Jeff Kodosky, who came to Austin originally as a graduate student in Physics and went on to become the co-founder of National Instruments, had a discussion with Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences , about the need for more and better teachers. Kodosky offered a small initial gift that made it possible to bring together a small group of award-winning secondary teachers, and they spent several weeks in the summer of 1997 outlining a program in which students would be attracted to teaching through early field experience, and would be able to complete a degree in their discipline and teaching certification together in 4 years. To the partial astonishment of those who had drawn up the plan, the Dean decided to start the program right away, and hired Mary Long, a member of the planning team, to get it going. Midway through the semester, she looked for a faculty member to assume leadership, and I became involved at that point. Over the remainder of the year we developed a close partnership with the College of Education , and settled many of the final details to create UTeach.
Private donors continued to play a major role as UTeach developed. Their significance was even greater than the funds they contributed might indicate. Faculty are usually so busy conducting research and teaching that they rarely conceive of a new university function. Donors and friends of the university are not trapped within a sense of inevitability about what the university accomplishes, and as individuals who may have founded companies they know what it is like to create organizations from scratch. UTeach benefited greatly from such influence. In addition to Jeff Kodosky, we received early gifts from Harry Lucas, who heads the Educational Advancement Foundation. The goal of this foundation is to promote the use of active learning techniques, and the fact that UTeach students in their first class were using kits to teach inquiry lessons to elementary school kids made us an attractive seed project for Lucas to support.
Groups managing fundraising
As time went on, UTeach obtained support from more and more individuals and public and private foundations; the list of contributors currently numbers over 50. There were two groups of people largely responsible for soliciting and managing the donations. The first was the Development Office in the College of Natural Sciences . Early in the development of UTeach, Dean Rankin made clear that raising funds for UTeach was to be one of their highest priorities. The amount of assistance they have provided has varied from time to time, but there have been periods when UTeach has had a professional fund-raiser working for us half time or more. They made contact with individuals, provided first drafts of applications to private foundations, and gently nudged us to provide personalized letters of thanks after funds arrived. In contrast to federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, private foundations and individuals usually ask for much less paperwork but more personal contact. It is not uncommon for the process to involve the prospective donor in visiting classes, interviewing students, and trying to obtain an honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the program on a first-hand basis. UTeach students have always been the best possible advocates for us; we have never given them directives of any type on what or what not to say, and have never regretted having the chance to introduce them to prospective donors.
In addition to the Development Office, we established a UTeach Task Force, composed of members of the College of Natural Sciences Advisory Board who heard about UTeach and were interested in supporting it. All of the members had experience in the business world, and had contacts in Austin and across Texas that no professors could match. They also were able to provide advice on matters ranging from branding to the presentation of our accounts on spreadsheets that continues to be invaluable. Dean Rankin is a member of the Task Force, and personally always has been very engaged in raising funds for UTeach as well.
Categories of funds
The funds we raised for UTeach can be divided roughly into four groups: Individual and private foundation seed funding, federal grants, contributions to endowment, and institutional funds.
Individual and private foundation seed funding : A set of private gifts was instrumental in starting UTeach, and yet presented a problem, because if we were to use it to fund core activities such as instructor salaries, fluctuations in funding at any time could cause the enterprise to collapse. We decided that the best way to make regular use of such gifts was with program elements that could safely grow or shrink without placing basic operations at risk. The main element of this sort was the Internship Program. We pay UTeach students $12/hour to work with educational nonprofit organizations ranging from tutoring at-risk youth to helping create educational software. The future teachers benefit because they can support themselves financially in a fashion more closely tied to their career than by flipping burgers. Organizations such as Breakthrough or AVID benefit through individuals they do not have to pay. The recipients of the mentoring, tutoring, or other services have the benefit of wonderful role models. It is relatively easy to adjust the amount spent each year in fairly painless ways. Eligibility for internships can be restricted to students at earlier or later stages in the program, and one can adjust the number of summer internships made available. Foundations immediately see the benefits of their gifts to this program, and there are no adverse consequences if the gift is not renewed.
Federal grants : UTeach has been awarded 3 NSF grants, a Collaboratives for Excellence in Teacher Preparation and two rounds of Noyce Scholarships. The Collaboratives for Excellence in Teacher Preparation grant was over a million dollars, which created again the challenge of gaining maximum benefit from the funds without placing basic operations at risk when they inevitably terminated. We employed the funds mainly in two ways. The first was release time and course development support so that all courses taught in the College of Education especially for UTeach could be improved. The second was for program evaluation. The demands of the National Science Foundation for information about characteristics and numbers of students were greater than those of previous funders. Gaining the ability to gather these data was very important in the development of UTeach. The National Science Foundation also introduced us to a national community of organizations working to improve teacher preparation.
Contributions to Endowment : Five years into the development of UTeach, we had gathered enough evidence that UTeach was meeting its goals that Jeff Kodosky offered $5,000,000 as a lead gift to start a UTeach endowment. This gift followed years of personal involvement and inspection of the program from the inside. Many additional contributions have now been obtained, and the endowment currently has a value of approximately $9,000,000 yielding around $400,000/year in largely unrestricted income that can be used for program support. The significance of this source of funds is hard to overstate. There is a collection of essential activities in UTeach that cannot be paid from the university's instructional budget. These include stipends for cooperating public school teachers, tuition reimbursements for students in their first two courses, the internship program, and support for our graduates in their first two years of teaching. Endowment funds allow us to smooth over rises and falls in foundation gifts and also make it increasingly unlikely that changes in university administration could lead to a substantial scaling back of the program.
Institutional funds. The largest single donor to UTeach - although one might not normally think of things this way - is the university itself. Year after year the provost, Sheldon Ekland-Olson, agreed to allow new faculty hires, and to allocate operating funds so the program could grow in response to student demand. Permanent institutional funds are the key to making an educational program permanent, and nothing could substitute for them except for complete funding from endowment.
Universities bring together people concerned about the future of a community. When individuals or private foundations give money to an educational program, most of them are hoping for a relationship with it. University programs to improve teaching acquire the double weight of concern for the university and concern for the public school system. The risk in accepting external funds, including funds from Federal grant programs, lies in creating a great seed project that withers away when each particular source of external funding vanishes, as it always must. The great benefit lies in the possibility of creating something really new and necessary. Because of a constant awareness of the tension between these two possibilities, external donations to UTeach have been a completely positive experience, and are responsible both for the program's creation and its current strength.
Recently, a $125 million donation from ExxonMobil has created the National Math and Science Initiative, and one of the two programs this initiative will support is the replication of UTeach. At least 10 more universities will now have the chance to develop teacher preparation programs like ours. They too will need to start right away raising additional external funds, and we hope their experience will be as positive as ours has been.
Michael Marder is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Texas - Austin and Co-Director of the UTeach Program (For more information on UTeach, see http://uteach.utexas.edu ). Dr. Marder is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His primary research interest is the mechanics of solids, particularly the fracture of brittle materials.