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CMU reaches $100 million goal for capital campaign

Trustees discuss university enrollment, athletics at formal meeting Feb. 14


The CMU Board of Trustees hold their formal session on Feb. 14 in the Bovee University Center President's Conference Room.

Central Michigan University's "Fire Up for Excellence" capital campaign has raised $101,654,498, exceeding its initial goal. 

Trustees received a update from Campaign Chair Michael O’Donnell and Vice President for Advancement Robert Martin, during the Feb. 14 board meeting in the Bovee University Center. 

The campaign was created in July 2015. It formally launched in Fall 2018. The goal to raise  $100 million was achieved in under four years.

"When we put together this campaign goal of $100 million, everyone said we were nuts," O’Donnell said. "I said, give it seven to eight years." 

The campaign will continue until through the fall, ending with an official celebration around homecoming. At that point, a bigger campaign will be revealed, which O'Donnell said will aim for between $300-$500 million.

While part of the money is designated to go toward athletics, 82 percent of the donations raised are designated to fund CMU academics through scholarships and student research.

"We wanted our donors to give what they were passionate to give to, and that was mostly need-based and merit-based scholarships," Martin said.

Several fundraising records were broken during the campaign, including raising over $20 million each year over three consecutive years, and receiving more than 23 gifts of $1 million or more.

"This is an example of CMU believing in itself and not thinking small," said Trustee Todd Anson over the phone, who was unable to attend his first meeting in-person. "No one thought this was achievable, but we thought bigger and stretched ourselves."

Despite declining enrollment, President Robert Davies said the enthusiasm shown by alumni and other donors provides substantial financial investment as well as a vote of confidence in the direction the university is heading. 

"We talk a lot about the enrollment struggles that are ahead of us," he said. "This gives us great optimism and opportunity to move forward."

Enrollment was a key point of discussion at the board of trustees formal session and committee meetings. Last week, Davies published an open letter regarding the university's enrollment challenges. By doing so, he opened up the conversation to faculty, students and alumni to engage in a robust discussion about CMU's future and finding a right size for the institution.

"The responses (from the CMU community) I've received have been outstanding," he said. "I will be reading all the emails I've received, and responding."

CMU will increase outreach in areas like Grand Rapids and metro Detroit to combat this decline, Davies said. The university will also encourage collaborations in departments across the university.  

"This will not be an easy road," he said. "Recovery will not come over night. Our campus is prepared to achieve this quest."

The next step for the board in addressing this decline will be preparing a preliminary outline of steps to take, said Trustee Richard Studley. Next year, trustees will revise those reports and solicit feedback. 

"Everyone here is here because we love CMU," Studley said. "We're not here to do nothing — we're going to get back on the track to growth by focusing on rigor and excellence."   

Athletic Director Michael Alford spoke to trustees about intercollegiate athletics, and how CMU athletics have aligned students with the educational mission of the university. 

Alford said CMU is one of 13 schools that have never had a Level II NCAA violation, which the collegiate sports association website defines as a "significant breach of conduct" of bylaws. He also said the graduation success rate of student athletes is at 80 percent — as compared to the rest of the student body which has a 61 percent success rate.

"This is because of our constituents and fundraising," Alford said. CMU athletics is set to have another "marvelous year" for fundraising and will continue to align with nurturing student success, he said.

CMU athletics also employs more than 400 students, which is an important career training experience for students, Alford said. Additional successes Alford shared include an ongoing sweat study with each of CMU's sports teams and nutritional counseling for student athletes.

Trustees received a presentation from Erin Strang, CEO and president of CMU Research Corporation. She said CMURC wants to develop Mount Pleasant's "SmartZones." Those are locations where technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers locate in close proximity to all of the community assets that assist in their endeavors. 

Strang said that part of university land on the south end of campus is part of Mount Pleasant's SmartZone. The board of trustees is responsible for the university's land leases. As CMURC moves forward, potential growth in the area will first be brought in front of the board for review.

Davies also gave updates on several ongoing leadership searches. He said the search for the new College of Business Administration dean will be extended by four weeks. The president anticipates all of the ongoing searches will wrap up this semester, or over the summer.