Every student attending MSU can expect to hear from the Montana State University Alumni Foundation (MSUAF) after graduating. In fact, according to 2015 data from VAESE (Voluntary Alumni Engagement in Support of Education), 49 percent of alumni foundations send 16 or more emails a year to “most or all of their alumni.” MSUAF’s mission is stated on their website: “We cultivate lifelong relationships and secure private support to advance Montana State University.” A small fee ($45 for a single and $55 for a dual membership) allows members access to an alumni directory, discounts on everything MSU — gear, game tickets, Museum of the Rockies admission, even Bozeman hotels and restaurants — and regular updates about campus news and events. There are even alumni chapters around Montana, Idaho and Washington to provide social events and networking opportunities for MSU graduates. However, for current MSU students who cannot yet join MSU’s Alumni Association, MSUAF is by no means irrelevant. In fact, the effect of MSUAF’s work can be seen all over campus.
Their current campaign, “What it Takes,” launched on Sep. 25, 2015 and has surpassed its $300 million goal by over $17 million. The money is dispersed over several areas. It goes toward scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students, leadership programs for MSU’s fraternities and sororities and research grants. This campaign is also responsible for securing various visiting professors such as author Rick Bass last spring, and hiring new professors and chairs in departments throughout campus.
Alumni foundations are nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations which operate independently of the university, but also collaborate closely with the campus in order to ensure that funds are going towards areas of need. However, donors can choose where their funds are going: campaign priorities, academics, athletics, campus needs. Especially with large donations for new buildings, such as Jake Jabs $25 million donation in 2011 or Norm Asbjornson’s $50 million donation in 2014, MSUAF facilitates the funds and collaborates with the donor and architecture firms to ensure that the donor’s vision for MSU is being met. In the press conference announcing Jabs’ donation, his expressed desire for a Starbucks in the Jake Jabs College of Business was met — almost. Sola Cafe opened its second local branch in the College of Business building. Small touches like this are due in part to MSUAF’s collaboration. MSUAF’s most recent achievement was an $8 million donation pledged by business mogul Greg Gianforte which will support the newly renamed Gianforte School of Computing.
When asked about MSUAF moving forward into 2017, Communications Director Drew VanFossen said “The campaign has been really successful. But even though the total [amount raised] is large, there are still a number of areas of the campaign that have unmet needs. So there are areas that require some specific concentration so that’s what we’re working on this year and next year until the campaign ends is those areas of specific need. We’re optimistic and really looking forward to a great year ahead. And we hear all the time from alumni and donors that they’re really excited about what’s happening at MSU.”