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We See Tomorrow campaign wraps after highly successful 7-year run

The remarkable impact funds will have on YSU students and the Mahoning Valley
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Youngstown State University President, Jim Tressel and Jocelyne Kollay Linsalata (supplied photo)

The Youngstown State University Foundation shattered a record this summer. 

Their original goal of the We See Tomorrow campaign was to raise $100 million in seven years. “That would have been the largest fundraising effort ever for Youngstown State University,” says campaign chair Jocelyne Kollay Linsalata.

On July 31st, they wrapped the campaign, having completed—and far surpassing—that original, ambitious goal. The final total? A remarkable $126,187,126 dollars raised.

One of the foundation’s biggest priorities is to help students graduate with little or no debt. They’re also committed to providing enhancements to the university for current and future generations to enjoy.

YSU President Jim Tressel, the YSU Foundation and several of the deans worked together to establish the pillars of the campaign. These reflect the school’s greatest priorities—some continuing, others new or evolving—and give a good sense of the overall direction being taken. Based on that initial goal of $100 million, the following are the campaign priorities and funds raised accordingly.

Pillars of the campaign and funds raised

Scholarships: $70, 387,448

Youngstown State University is an access institution; many students would not have the opportunity to pursue higher education if YSU was not available to them. Having financial assistance available is essential, especially since an estimated 70 per cent of students receive at least some financial support to help pay for school.

Endowed chairs and professorships: $13,117,336 

When the campaign started, there were only three endowed faculty positions at YSU.  The We See Tomorrow Campaign created 14 additional endowed faculty positions.  These endowments recognise and reward outstanding faculty for their impact on YSU students.  They also raise the academic stature and reputation of YSU. “More endowed chairs attract better students and better faculty. The quality of the curriculum increases with more experienced and scholarly people,” says Linsalata.

The Excellence Training Center: $6,793,889

The goal of the Excellence Training Center is job and career success. Linsalata likens the center to a consortium of job training, job enhancement and workforce development programs. “Youngstown has received a fair amount of recognition through additive manufacturing, based on 3D printing. They’ve really made a mark for themselves,” she says. Within the center there is a physical facility which is a beautiful space with large loading docks and lots of room to house equipment. Students can study robotics, industrial maintenance and additive manufacturing. They can also receive basic job training and learn how to enhance their skills. The program is wide-ranging: students can build robots or learn about plumbing, electricity and building maintenance, achieving valuable certifications. 

Campus beautification: $4,429,822

Parts of Youngstown are quite depressed and in need of attention and care. “Historically a steel town, about 50 years ago we had a population somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000. That number is now somewhere in the 100,000s. When steel left and then the auto plant closed it was just a terrible ripple effect,” says Linsalata. “As a result, there are parts of town that really need a facelift and the university was one.” Much-needed work included repairing some roads and sidewalks, general landscaping and replacing streetlights. 

The Rich Center for Autism: $4,112,601

The Paula and Anthony Rich Center for the Study and Treatment of Autism looked to renovate Fedor Hall on campus, home to the Center. The center’s mission is to improve the lives of individuals with autism through research and innovative educational programs. The center is tied to The Beeghly College of Liberal Arts Social Sciences and Education.   YSU Special Education students learn specialised skills if providing instruction and techniques to better serve students on the autism spectrum.   

Classrooms of the Future: $3,830,000 

The Classrooms of the Future are located throughout YSU’s campus. The rooms house state-of-the-art equipment such as Cisco Spark Stations and touch-based collaboration devices. The timing for these classrooms, clearly, could not have been better, given the restrictions put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. “They actually saved a number of curriculums,” explains Linsalata. “Faculty were able to go into these classrooms and teach from there while the students were working remotely.” 

Annual Fund: $22,240,081

The annual fund is critical to provide funding that is designated by the donor directly to specific colleges, departments and programs. These funds prove the edge of excellence and directly impact students through providing enhanced and greater opportunities.  

Success

The foundation met their goal of $100 million early, about five and a half years into their seven-year campaign. “We could have just said, ‘Success! We’re done.’ But several of us—myself included—said, ‘No, we have momentum here. Let’s see how far we can take this’,” says Linsalata, “so we set a new goal of $125 million.”

That decision, made at the end of 2019, was announced in January of 2020. “We were very excited, thinking we will just roll right through this and then everything came to a screeching halt at the end of February. I kept reminding the team, we had already achieved our goal, so anything beyond that is a super success,” she says. “We have remarkable development officers at the YSU Foundation, they just soldiered on and did a lot of research, provided excellent stewardship of current donors and kept telling our story.” 

Credit is also due to YSU Foundation President Paul McFadden. He is exceptional, says Linsalata, who describes him as an eternal optimist, a strong leader and a tireless worker. He also happened to be leading a really strong team that have a great synergy. 

YSU President Jim Tressel was also key to this campaign’s smashing success. “He’s extraordinary,” says Linsalata. “As campaign chair, I felt excitement and optimism throughout the campaign because people are so enthused about the president.” Tressel, a former football coach at YSU in the 1980s, is known for his great personality. He is gentle, humble and kind; he also attracts people, she says. “There was just always a great love for him all through the town. That certainly made the job easier, because he was so good at articulating what the need was and what the goal was. People could see his vision.” 

Looking ahead

The rewards of this collective hard work will be felt for years to come—and shared by many. In the academic year 2020-2021, for example, 6,630 students received financial support from the foundation, which translates to $9 million in assistance. These funds are solely from private, philanthropic endowments, not state or federal dollars. Enrolment for Fall 2021 is just under 12,000 students.

“The We See Tomorrow campaign’s success is because of YSU alumni and friends who believed in our University and our great city. Legacy is a word that reflects the results of the campaign. Students benefit from the immediate impact these gifts had. The journey, however, is not over. We are continuing on the path of making sure thousands of students and future generations are met with the best education and opportunities possible,” says Tressel.

As funds were received, they were able to start work on projects, which they could later point to. That means you can already see several of the successes born of the campaign. Money has been given to support recreational fields, to create the Don Constantini Multimedia Center and to endow a chair in actuarial science, to name just a few examples.

One of the largest successes came in the form of scholarship funds. This particular campaign goal, originally set at $20 million, seemed to resonate the most, with the foundation raising over $70 million for scholarships and student work opportunities. 

“Most of the donors, though not all, are YSU alumni. Many people look back and say, ‘I got my first start because of my YSU education and I want to make sure that someone else can go’,” says Linsalata. “With the cost of education now, by having even more scholarship money to give to students it really helps alleviate all or some of their debt upon graduation.”

Education and opportunity should never be out of reach. Says Linsalata, “We all hear how expensive college is in the US but virtually every student has some level of support, be it private scholarships or public money. Yes, the price looks enormous, but very few students pay that full amount. Most of it is philanthropy, which is a tradition I’m very proud of.”

To learn more, visit the YSU Foundation

As the sole fundraising arm of Youngstown State University, the foundation works with the university in establishing goals and with potential donors in raising funds. The YSU foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and an independent entity.

Campaign facts

32,581 people made donations 

Of those, 6,000 people had never given a dollar to YSU before 

40 of these gifts were worth $1 million or more 

57 people who gave gifts of $100,000 or more were graduates who do not live in northeast Ohio. This truly was a national campaign.