By: Eryn Pinksen

NAIT’s Essential Campaign raised $125 million in donations with $5 million given by students through the largest donation in NAITSA’s history.

Half of this went to the Centre for Applied Technology, the remainder will be paid over 5 years.

Jason Roth is The Director of Advocacy at NAITSA and he explained that in return for this donation, NAITSA will help decide the allocation of this money through the Student Enhancement Fund.

The periodic $600,000 a year from NAITSA is primarily going to the Student Enhancement Fund. The distribution of these funds will be re-evaluated every year by a committee of representatives from NAIT and NAITSA.

In 2016, a referendum was held to ask students if they approved of the $5 million gift to the Essential Campaign. 93% of students said yes. Roth estimates the voter turnout to be around 25% for that vote and he believes students’ voted in favour because they see the future value for the funds.

“As great as an institution that NAIT is, some of it is getting old,” said Roth. “There are washrooms on campus that don’t have any ventilation, there are student spaces that students don’t really want to hang out in. And we want to see those things get improved over time.”

Currently student study spaces are the focus of the Student Enhancement Fund, which completed the renovation of the Naitrium.

“For our members it allows them to have a Naitrium that isn’t disgusting,” said Roth. “It allows them to have student spaces on campus now and in the future that we can enhance so that they’re getting the study spaces that they deserve and that are up to today’s technological standards.”

Another way that students can see an immediate benefit is the One Card program, which is part of the plan to prioritize convenience for students.

The long-term plan with the One Card is a hope to have it integrated with the City of Edmonton’s upcoming Smart Fare program for transit, which would eliminate U-Pass sticker lines entirely.

The total $125 million dollars collected in donations for the Essential Campaign is also primarily from “gifts-in-kind”. A large number of these gifts include equipment and software with the monetary value of the items being included in the fund total.

“Gift-in-kind is when, usually a company, gives some of their products or services to NAIT,” explained Mike Meldrum, the Associate Vice President of Advancement at NAIT . “Sometimes they’re giving software that’s integrated into our programs and other times their giving a bunch of vehicles to the automotive program.”

Fundraising was a relatively small portion of this campaign as these gifts-in-kind were the majority of the donations.

Meldrum explains that the fund allocation was divided into four categories: 11% in facilities, 58% in programs, 26% in student success and 5% in applied research. And that the first three all, arguably, have a direct impact on students.

“When we talk about program support that can be… the support of a power engineering program that allowed them to buy a specific piece of equipment that’s going to enhance our ability to teach particularly on the water side within a processing plant and power engineering,” said Meldrum.

Another example of these equipment gifts includes simulation mannequins with a technician from a company called CAE to the health programs.

To accept a gift in kind, Meldrum explains that it must first be approved by the program dean with a plan for its incorporation into the program to ensure it will be used.

“If we’re just accepting everything then we would get gifts that are not meaningful to the institution, some institutions have made this mistake of trying to take everything in because they want to count everything and have a big number and then it’s not used in a meaningful way,” said Meldrum.

There were also cash gifts from companies like DOW and Spartan Technology. The majority of DOW’s employees are NAIT grads and they give back to the departments that they primarily hire from. Meldrum estimates the gift from Spartan Technology may be the largest corporate donation in NAIT’s history, which was both monetary and equipment gifts-in-kind. This donation went to multiple programs, such as instrumentation, wastewater and millwright.

“Showing a great corporate relationship that was expanded through the campaign and is now benefitting more students,” said Meldrum.

Many of the benefits from these funds won’t be seen by every student on campus, especially those that are program specific gifts.

“But if we were talking to a health student about the health simulation centre and talked about the mannequins and the technician they would find it quite meaningful, but no one is trades knows about that and no one in Applied Sciences and Technology knows it,” said Meldrum.

The areas where all students can see benefits from the Essential Campaign is in the NAIT Fund, which divided into scholarships and bursaries and campus life priority needs.

“At the beginning of the campaign we wouldn’t have earmarked mental health supports, we wouldn’t have known [to do] that,” said Meldrum. “And here we have a fund that has more flexibility and we see now it is a top need and we can use it.”

The NAIT Fund and the Student Enhancement Fund received some of the donations from the Essential Campaign and Meldrum explains that these funds provide flexibility to account for unexpected future student needs.

“So I would say that’s where the secrets lie,” said Meldrum. “I think a lot of students will use these things without really thinking where they came from.”

Photo Source: NAIT