A Wealth of Talent: Faculty and Staff Fundraise for Students

Cinema and Television Arts Associate Professor and Interim Chair Eric Scholl performs as part of a Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative event.
The Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative (FSSI) group volunteers their time and talents to support the next generation of creative professionals.

In 2009, faculty and staff at Columbia decided to take action and build their own initiative to support student scholarships. Since then, the group has helped raised nearly $300,000 through special events and fundraising initiatives, including a college match, toward Scholarship Columbia. Now, with the help of new members and partnerships, the Faculty and Staff Scholarship Initiative (FSSI) is expanding its membership, while keeping the same central goal: fundraising for future graduates.

A Grassroots Beginning
Associate Dean of Global Education Pattie Mackenzie has been at the center of FSSI since its formation. Mackenzie had experience establishing scholarships, so she took the lead and quickly found other Columbia faculty and staff who were interested. “Wayne Tukes in Academic Advising, who’s now retired, first posed the question: How are students coping, especially since the recession?” says Mackenzie. “Mark Sramek started talking to other staff members, and they embraced the initial idea.” Sramek, a musician who works on the college’s Facilities and Operations team, pulled a band together for a fundraising performance.

In April of the following year, Mackenzie assisted in planning the group’s first big event, the Loft Party. “It was definitely a party,” she says. “We had somebody from the English Department playing guitar alongside someone in Facilities and Operations. We found a way to connect meaningfully, and it’s brought joy to our lives. 

Over the years, the group has found ways to connect with one another and raise scholarship dollars. In between teaching classes and working in various departments, FSSI gives back through silent auctions, talent shows, and parties. “At Columbia, faculty and staff have a long tradition of working together to support our students,” says Norman Alexandroff ’84, communications coordinator for the Library. “We’re all committed to students in a way that allows us to give time and energy beyond our day-to-day work.”

Pattie Mackenzie and Kim Livingstone
Assistant Dean of Global Education Pattie Mackenzie with Strategic Marketing and Communications Executive Assistant Kim Livingstone '92 at an FSSI performance event.

The Greater Good
“When you’re an alum you take a lot of pride in your alma mater,” says Kim Livingstone ’92, executive assistant in Strategic Marketing and Communications. Livingstone has been with FSSI since 2010. “I know the struggles I went through. But now I think students struggle ten times the amount of what I experienced.”

Livingstone has seen FSSI evolve from its humble beginnings to a place where friendships and fulfillment go hand-in-hand. “My heart goes to helping students,” she says. “FSSI is about being with my colleagues, getting to know the people I work with, knowing that we do great work together, and sharing that in these efforts.” Livingstone, who is also a vocalist active in her church choir, shares her talents for the good of Columbia students. “I’m a creative so I want to use the skills that I have to help the cause in any way I can.”

Andrew Causey, an associate professor in Humanities, History, and Social Sciences (HHSS) who has been with the college since 2001, recently joined the group after he saw the work they were doing. “It’s important that students know faculty and staff are in support of them in this financial way,” he says.

Causey is one of many contributing to an upcoming FSSI event, which will feature a silent auction and performance. “I’m an artist so I’ll donate a painting or a number of my ceramic sculptures,” he says. Faculty can donate books they’ve written and published, their musical or artistic talents, or any other number of services. 

Version 2.0
Entering its ninth year, FSSI is developing new ways to fundraise for students. All faculty and staff are invited to their planning sessions–the next one on February 26–which serves as a time for Columbia’s large community to get to know each other, break down department silos, and give back.

“People here want to give,” says Mackenzie. “It feels like a new frontier. We’ve been around since 2009 but we haven’t had this kind of people power.” FSSI is now partnering with the college’s Development and Alumni Relations Department, growing its influence and resources to invite more faculty and staff to give back. The group has a new level of enthusiasm stemming from the partnership, working together to create opportunities for dynamic programming. “[Shawn Wax] has an infectious quality to his leadership,” says Alexandroff of Columbia’s Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations. “We’ve been inspired by some great ideas he has and his past experiences. It opens all sorts of doors for us.”

Next up for FSSI is the upcoming performance and silent auction event on April 19: an evening the group knows will have a big impact on the college and its students. “It’s turned into something much bigger,” says Mackenzie. “It’s brought people from across the college together. It’s been an enriching part of working at Columbia.”


Additional information:

Contact Pattie Mackenzie or Kim Livingstone for more details on upcoming FSSI events. 

FSSI Planning Meeting  
Monday, February 26
12-1 p.m.
600 S. Michigan Ave., Room 401
**Please bring your lunch and your ideas

FSSI Event
Thursday, April 19
5-8 p.m.
618 S. Michigan Ave., Stage Two