H. Mäkelä

University of Colorado Denver (UNITED STATES)
As state funding for higher education continues to decline globally, where do public institutions turn to make up for budget shortfalls? External funding by private donors is an increasingly important life line. This paper presents a case study of the generous donation from Don and Maria Johnson to establish the Finnish Initiatives program in the Department of Architecture at the University of Colorado Denver.
The most highly ranked and respected universities in the world tend to be private ones in the United States with massive multi-billion dollar endowments sustained by extensive donor networks. The more selective a program is, the more valued and attractive it is perceived to be for donors. But what about the rest? What about public institutions such as the University of Colorado with modest funding reserves? External funding from donors with specific interests is even more critical at such universities for any new educational programs.

Through a donation from Don and Maria Johnson, the Finnish Initiatives project was founded in September 2013. The donation supports scholarships, a director position, student mentorship, scholarly exchanges, guest lectures, exhibitions and other opportunities for educational exchange for students and faculty members between Finland and University of Colorado Denver. Mr. Johnson, a University of Colorado alumnus and architect, wanted to create a connection between Finland - a paradigm of design excellence - and the University of Colorado. As Mr. Johnson has explained: "Their culture is ahead of ours in many ways," Johnson said of his wife's native country. "They have a lot of very talented architects, and I think they're doing something that many others are not, which is an emphasis on humanism." With their generosity, commitment, and specific interests, the Johnsons have enabled life changing educational experiences.

Why is it so important to provide students with international educational exchange opportunities such as those offered by Finnish Initiatives? Today’s professional designers – architects, landscape architects, urban designers – practice in an ever-expanding global marketplace. To succeed, graduates need to be global citizens and global professionals. Moreover, they need to distinguish themselves from all the other graduates in any given discipline entering the job market. International educational exchange experiences provide graduates with just such an advantage.

How does any university attract donors such as the Johnsons? This question needs to be asked by public institutions of all ranks committed to developing distinct educational experiences for their students and faculty members. Conventional state funding sources for public institutions need to be complimented by identifying and cultivating new funding sources including private ones.