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Student Foundation presents $15,000 check to Office of Undergraduate Research

FSU's Student Foundation was the first organization of its kind in Florida.

At a time of reduced state funding for Florida's public universities, a student group at Florida State University is demonstrating the value of philanthropy by giving a boost to FSU's undergraduate research programs.

Florida State Student Foundation Chairman David Ward presented a $15,000 check to the Office of Undergraduate Research at the Student Foundation Spring Reception, held at the outdoor amphitheater of the Kuersteiner Music Building on March 15.

"Giving back to the university is something we all should do not out of a sense of obligation but as a sense of passion and desire to make our university a better place," said Ward, a creative writing major.

Created just two years ago, the Student Foundation was the first organization of its kind to be established at a Florida university. The Spring Reception also provided an opportunity to showcase the contributions the foundation has made to support Florida State in the past academic year, including a $100,000 donation to the Garnet and Gold Scholar Society in October 2011.

Ward said that among the various initiatives the money will go toward, he is most excited about two of them: one that will provide a financial stipend for professors to work with undergraduate students, and a second to provide a group stipend for students who want to come together from different disciplines to work on a single research project.

"I think a lot of times when we think about research, we think about beakers and test tubes, and that's great, but there's a whole other side of research," Ward said. "(With this money) the Department of Dance and the creative writing program can work with departments such as Chemistry and Biomedical Research and create some really interesting stuff that is ultimately going to be an excellent product of the university."

During the reception, members of the Student Foundation presented flowers to those who attended. Janie Hoffman, co-founder of the group, said the flowers symbolized the growth of student philanthropy, which has flourished over the past year.

"It's like we've planted the seed of student philanthropy and we are watching it grow this year," said Hoffman, a senior studying media and communication studies.

In addition to the $15,000 check for the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Student Foundation also presented a $1,000 check that will go toward the construction of a new honors house that will be built on campus.

"They haven't had a private donation yet, so the students wanted to be the first ones to say, 'We are supportive of this cause,'" Hoffman said.

Joe O'Shea, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said that the money will help to engage younger students in research, as well as provide incentives for students and faculty members to develop relationships that will generate research.

"We're trying to get the culture to really support undergraduate research, and what's nice about this donation is that it will encourage undergraduate research on all levels," O'Shea said.

He said that the money means infinitely more to the Office of Undergraduate Research because its own students are providing it.

"To have students step up and say this is something we're willing to put money behind — that shows that they really care about this and that this is something they're willing to invest in," O'Shea said. "This is going to elevate the academic reputation of our university, and I think it's really important that the students recognize that."

Dean of Undergraduate Studies Karen Laughlin said that the student-funded check is a wonderful gift in light of recent statewide budget cuts to higher education.

Laughlin added that because of those cuts, the students' donation means even more to the program.

"As we are trying to raise funds for the university, we need this more and more now that state funding keeps getting cut," she said. "When we can say to alumni, 'Look, the students are out there, they're giving their money, their time,' I think it sends a very powerful message about how the university is united."

By Kayla Becker
16 March 2012

"We're trying to get the culture to really support undergraduate research, and what's nice about this donation is that it will encourage undergraduate research on all levels."

Joe O'Shea
Florida State University Office of Undergraduate Research