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Bemidji State supporters urged to ‘Imagine Tomorrow’

Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson encourages university supporters to contribute toward BSU’s first-ever capital campaign. Imagine Tomorrow aims to gather $35 million in financial support for scholarships and academic excellence. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Bethany Wesley

BEMIDJI — A senior at Bemidji State University addressed a room full of university supporters Thursday, describing the impact of their financial support on her education.

“As a scholarship recipient, I didn’t have to deal with the financial stress; I didn’t have to focus on how I was going to have to pay for books or tuition,” said Samantha Fairbanks, a senior social work major who also is minoring in Indian studies. “Having the scholarship allowed me to focus on what is really important and that is a quality education.”

BSU hosted a luncheon at the Sanford Center as the university enters the next phase of its Imagine Tomorrow campaign, its first-ever capital campaign that aims to bring in $35 million in gifts, pledges and planned gifts through the next five years.

Since the campaign was announced in September, the university already has received $27 million in commitments, reported BSU President Richard Hanson.

“These kind of efforts take two kinds of things … vision and imagination. With those two words we can create a pathway to something new, something different, something better,” said Hanson, addressing a room of about 120, encouraging them to contribute toward the campaign.

The campaign is designed to “create a pathway to tomorrow,” he said.

The goal of Imagine Tomorrow is earmark $20 million toward scholarships, $8 million toward academic excellence and $7 million toward annual support.

“There’s never been a time in higher education where distinctiveness and uniqueness are (more) important … this is it,” Hanson said.

He said the university this year has given out $2.5 million in scholarships, through which 856 students received an average of $2,800 each.

That represents a 45 percent increase in scholarships from the year before.

If BSU meets its Imagine Tomorrow goals, that would allocate $5.25 million in annual scholarships, which would be an 118 percent increase from before, and, if the goal is surpassed and BSU brings in $50 million, Hanson said that would allocate $7.5 million in scholarships, a 212 percent increase.

“There isn’t any doubt that Imagine Tomorrow is going to make a huge difference,” Hanson said, “In so many things, sustaining enrollment, quality of student, and of course maintaining our role here in the community.”

In a video shown at the luncheon, Anton Treuer, director of the American Indian Resource Center on campus, said it used to be that the state provided 80 percent of the costs to operate the university whereas now that figure has dipped to about 30 percent.

“That’s unsustainable,” Treuer said. “Students in this country are graduating $30,000-$40,000 dollars in debt, sometimes more. If we really want to make this a high-quality education at an affordable cost, we have to change what we’re doing.”

Those who opt to join on to support the campaign may do so through several ways, from endowments to annual giving.

“It’s all about optimism. It’s all about the potential for growth and change,” said Hanson, speaking in the video.