Columbia Raises $700K+ for Student Scholarships

PhotoFY24 Persistence Scholarship recipient Aliayanna Francois on stage at the Unleashed 2023 Fundraiser
Columbia College Chicago honors the Efroymson Family Fund with the 2023 Philanthropic Icon Award for the family’s contributions to help create opportunities for students to pursue their passion in the arts

Columbia’s largest fundraising event returned for its second year to support Persistence Scholarships, ensuring students have the financial backing needed to graduate college. This year’s Unleashed Fundraiser—an annual immersive experience designed, curated and driven by Columbia students—raised more than $700,000, benefiting Persistence Scholarships for continuing students.  

Unleashed 2023 honored Columbia’s Philanthropic Icon Award recipient, the Efroymson Family Fund. Last year’s award honoree, Chicago actor and filmmaker Robert Townsend, was in attendance and welcomed President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, DMA, to present the 2023 Philanthropic Icon Award to the Efroymson family.

President Kim shared that Jeremy Efroymson MFA ’98, vice president of the Efroymson Family Fund and former Columbia Board of Trustees member, has been instrumental in the partnership. From a $1 million challenge grant for the Student Center to initiatives including the Efroymson Creative Writing Reading Series; The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP); Allium, a multi-genre print and online journal; and The Efroymson Editorial Assistantship, which provides a hands-on learning experience with Allium for graduate students; the Efroymson family has long had a focus on student success.

“The generosity of the Efroymson Family Fund is a major reason why we are gathered here tonight. The Efroymsons' philanthropic leadership has opened the door to new opportunities for our students and honors their creative ambitions,” said Dr. Kim. “Many of the amazing student work you see on display this evening reflects the ingenuity and spirit of our partnership.”

 Nearly 300 Unleashed attendees experienced an entirely student-produced set of activations at Columbia’s Student Center that included fashion, dance, poetry, virtual reality immersion and live sound booths with original music across five floors. Each curated space incorporated the theme of connection through the natural environment, digital world, arts and culture, and community.  

Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Miriam Smith said the college’s annual fundraising event is a great way to build community and raise money for Persistence Scholarships, which are vital to many Columbia students.  

“The individual accomplishments of our Persistence Scholarship recipients are truly inspiring,” said Smith. “Our students have persevered through roadblocks and continue to show their unwavering commitment to their personal and professional growth. This scholarship is a testament to their dedication and eagerness to be a part of the Columbia community.” 

FY24 Persistence Scholarship recipient Yvette CzehSenior Yvette Czeh, a Film and Television major, is a scholarship recipient who shared her story on stage at Unleashed 2023. “This year it was the Persistence Scholarship that allowed me to complete my senior year without having to take out any student loans. It feels great to say that,” said Czeh. “When we think of scholarships, we think of how it helps students’ financial situations. For me, receiving the Persistence Scholarship meant that I didn’t have to worry about tuition or getting a second job and allowed me time to build connections and network.”

Board chair and Unleashed 2023 corporate sponsor and co-chair John M. Holmes took the stage to speak about the significance of student involvement and introduce the scholarship recipients. 

“A group of students in the business and entrepreneurship program oversaw the planning and design of all the activations that you see tonight. This is interesting because it’s actually a part of their practicum, which students get course credit for the work they do to produce tonight’s event," said Holmes.

"You couldn't ask for a better example of the combination of conceptual and practical learning that a Columbia education offers its students."

Columbia College Chicago gratefully acknowledges the generous support of its sponsors—AAR Corp (John M. Holmes and Jenni Sorenson); Robert J. Buford; The Levin Family; Continental Painting & Decorating (Constance and Hugh Williams); Janet and Craig Duchossois; the Efroymson Family Fund; Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, Columbia College Chicago; Method Capital; Anne and Barry Sabloff; and Veradigm, among others.