J. Wayne Tukes

When J. Wayne Tukes joined the staff of Columbia College Chicago, there were fewer than 4,000 students enrolled. Thirty years later, enrollment has increased 300 percent, and Tukes has gained three decades of experience to draw from as he helps each student plot the course of his or her academic journey.

We needed to come up with something that would meet the challenge at the college.In 2009, however, Tukes and his fellow advisors noticed an alarming effect of the economic downturn: more and more students were coming to the College Advising Center with concerns about financial resources, some unsure how they would stay in school. “My immediate response was that we at Columbia have risen to meet every challenge that’s faced us since 1890,” says Tukes. “So what do we do now? We stood up and said, ‘Why don’t we look at a scholarship for students that comes directly from faculty and staff?’ We wanted to do something that would cut across all areas of the college to bring people in this community together for the greater good.”


Tukes and a small group of colleagues began talking to others across campus, and soon came up with a plan: the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative. The initiative is coordinated with Scholarship Columbia, a matching-fund campaign aimed primarily at alumni. Tukes and his colleagues expanded the idea over brown-bag lunches and through viral videos and mailings. The group partnered with the Office of Institutional Advancement, but carefully kept the message peer to peer.

“The goal of the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative is to generate resources for students in a direct, creative, and innovative way,” says Tukes. “It goes far beyond job descriptions. We want to do this with people who know each other and work with students directly, in a way that people will really feel a part of it.”

By mid April 2010, less than a year into the initiative, faculty and staff had given nearly $100,000 toward student scholarships, and about 200 supporters turned out for an April Fool’s Day “loft party” fundraiser, featuring an auction of works donated by faculty and staff artists and live entertainment from a faculty and staff band. “We’re giving in the financial sense, but also creatively,” says Tukes, who is quick to acknowledge the dozens of faculty and staff members who have collaborated all year to make the initiative a success. “This initiative is driven by people first,” he says. “That’s the key to it. Everything else will follow.”