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The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: How Faculty and Staff Support Students Through Them All

A group of students participating in a GIS field experience stand on, around and sit on a log.

Office of Alumni RelationsOffice of Alumni Relations
September 11, 2023

As the school year kicks off, faculty and staff are gearing up to support our University of Northern Colorado (UNC) students. Faculty and staff support students every day through their roles at UNC, but some choose to go above and beyond by donating their time, expertise and funding. A popular method of giving is through payroll deductions, which make it easy to support the various areas in need across campus. At UNC, there are seemingly endless causes to support depending on a donor’s passions and aspirations. And so we take a deep dive into just a few of the donor-funded causes that UNC faculty and staff support. All are welcome to support these vital scholarships and services (and many alumni employers offer matches for employee donations!). 

Asian Pacific American Student Services Lei Campaign 

The Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS) center helps Asian and Pacific Islander students connect with their community and celebrate and honor their cultural heritage. 

The center promotes emotional, cultural and academic success for students in a variety of ways, including the annual Lei Giving campaign, which provides graduating students from Hawai’i with a lei during commencement.  

“Receiving a lei during graduation made walking the line extra special. It felt like I had a piece of home with me as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. In all the craziness of graduation season, people took the time to make a handful of students from a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean feel special. I am so grateful to have received this kind of Aloha from the UNC community.” 

          - Kaori Nishioka ’23, an Elementary Education graduate and native Hawaiian from Hilo, Hawai’i. 

The Lei Giving campaign is a way to honor the cultural traditions of Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands here on campus and celebrate the accomplishments of UNC students—something they’ll surely never forget. Give to the 2023-24 Lei Campaign 

Performing and Visual Arts Travel Fund 

The Performing and Visual Arts Travel Fund (PVA Travel Fund) has empowered more than 100 students this year alone to take their craft to the next level. UNC Choir students were able to travel to New York City in May 2023 to perform at Carnegie Hall without financial worries thanks to the donors who contributed to the PVA Travel Fund. 

“When we found out the trip’s costs would be covered by the PVA travel fund, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was able to focus on the music we'd be performing at Carnegie, instead of worrying about if I would have enough money to go in the first place. The incredible experience I had in New York reignited my passion for music.” 

          - Emma Larson, a class of 2025 Music Education major 

Beyond the classroom opportunities like this trip to Carnegie Hall wouldn’t be possible without donor support. 

Real-world opportunities not only reinvigorate students and remind them what they’re working so hard for but also allow them to gain valuable experiences that will give them an edge when starting their career after graduation. Part of what makes UNC’s Performing and Visual Arts programs so highly sought-after is its dedication to giving students the experience necessary to succeed in their field.  Give to the PVA Travel Fund 

Geographic Information Science Field Experience  

For students pursuing a degree in Geography, GIS and Sustainability, field experiences are crucial for preparing them for their careers. In the past year alone, Geography students have gone to the Mississippi River to see restoration efforts first-hand while learning from the individuals spearheading them, as well as attended regional conferences to learn about professions, employers and projects in their field. 

Participating in these types of experiences can transform the way students look at the field they’re entering and inspire them to go down a path they might not have considered. For Ryan, who attended the GIS in the Rockies regional conference held in Denver, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. 

“We were able to meet a variety of different GIS outfits and see what they were working on, apply to jobs, and see some of the new technologies that were being implemented in the field. The greatest part of the conference was getting to see all the different presenters, and the wide range of projects that they had worked on.” 

          - Ryan Peiffer ’23, a Geography with a GIS concentration graduate 

Thanks to donor support for “beyond the classroom” experiences, UNC students are discovering new passions and broadening their horizons, and some might even land jobs from the connections they make. Give to the Geography Program 

Student Emergency Support Fund  

 The Student Emergency Support Fund is fundamental to supporting UNC students across departments, class years and personal circumstances. In the 2022-2023 academic year, the Fund awarded 52 awards to students in need, totaling $37,525. These awards were made possible entirely through donations from UNC employees, parents, and alumni. 

Awards from the fund are applied toward emergency rent payments, car repairs and transportation, travel to see family after an emergency, and unexpected medical bills and services. Being awarded these funds can make the difference in whether a student stays enrolled at UNC.  

"I was two months away from graduation, and I was living with a family member off-campus who was at high risk for COVID. I needed to stay living in the area to continue classes, stay employed and access mental health care, but I could not continue risking my family member’s health. I was able to secure safe housing with the money I received from the Emergency Support Fund. I don’t think I would have gotten to graduation without this assistance. It emphasized for me how much the UNC community cares." 
A recent alumna and Emergency Support Fund recipient 

Marty Somero, director for the Office of Financial Aid, is among the many who are grateful for this resource and the incredible donors who fund it. 

“Our donors have been incredible! Time and time again they have come through for fellow Bears," expresses Somero. “These funds have been a true blessing in helping students overcome life's roadblocks and being able to stay the course to graduation.” Give to the Emergency Support Fund 

When you choose to give to UNC scholarships or funds, your impact is felt directly by the students who need it most. Whether your contribution allows students to stay enrolled during times of turmoil, travel to practice their craft or gain insight and experience relevant to their career, it empowers students and reassures them that their Bear network is there to support them through their best and worst moments. 

If you feel inspired to give to any of the above causes, or you have another cause that aligns with your philanthropic vision, please visit our giving page. And if you are a UNC employee and would like to increase or add a payroll deduction gift, please visit our UNC employee giving page.