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Valparaiso University’s first ever Generosity Week will take place from Nov. 14-19. Several organizations, along with Student Life, will table and host programs to raise awareness for generosity opportunities on campus.

The week is timed to coincide with National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15, a holiday created in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. 

“The whole week is really to help tell stories of generosity and think about what generosity looks like, using generosity as just one way of thinking about philanthropy. I think generosity is a more accessible way of thinking about the actions that we all do,” said Ryan Cole, the Mark and Kathleen Helge Director of Student Philanthropy. 

The first event of the week, beginning on Nov. 14, is the Generosity Awards. Recipients were selected from individuals, departments and student groups whose stories of generosity were nominated in both 2020 and 2021.

“I wanted to recognize people on campus and the stories of different ways that they're generous, help people start thinking about their own generosity and then maybe give them resources and challenge them to think about ways they can be generous in the future,” Cole said.

While the Awards have been hosted for three years, this is the first time candidates included campus groups as opposed to individuals.

“There's 12 different awards for individuals and groups. There'll be a lot of people we get to tell and throughout the week I'll be telling those stories on social media,” said Cole. “There'll be signs throughout the Union highlighting the stories of those individuals because the event itself is invitation only, but I want those stories to still be shared. Part of the idea of continuing to hear about those stories is so people can start seeing the generosity of others and seeing that they're generous as well.”

Tabling in the Union will be conducted by a committee for the senior class gift, the University Programming Council (UPC) and a partnership between Alpha Phi Omega (APO) and Student Senate. 

“The senior class gift, which I helped support, they'll be doing some tabling in the Union Monday and Tuesday to talk about what it means to be an alumni and ways to support the university as individuals graduate. I'm just getting people to start thinking about that, as we're starting to develop and kick off more of the senior class gift stuff,” Cole said. 

UPC will be tabling and utilizing the Cafe windows to encourage students to think about what they are grateful for. 

“[We are] having people write who or what they’re grateful for on the window. We’re also challenging them to, right then and there, text or write that person a letter to let them know that they’re grateful for them in their life,” said Beth Sobierajski, UPC social justice and civic engagement chair. 

UPC’s goal is to encourage students to reflect on their blessings in life and communicate their appreciation to others. 

“I’m hoping that they’re able to take some time to think about their gratefulness in life, and being able to come to college in general, and about the people who have supported them along their journey and be able to give that back to them and let them know. Sometimes you just go through life without even thinking about those people, maybe even professors or someone like that,” Sobierajski said.

Events taking place during the week include the Red Cross Blood Drive on Nov. 16 and the Social Action Leadership Team (SALT) Passion Expo on Nov. 17 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the Union. 

“Our passion groups, focusing on the environment, the foster care system, mental health and the refugee crisis, will be tabling in the Union to show what we’ve been working on throughout the semester,” said Lilly Gramza, SALT Community Liaison.  

APO and Student Senate will be collecting donations for a food drive benefiting Hilltop House.

“The hope is to have tabling both inside and some tabling and information out by the Homeless Jesus statue. So one of the things that I'm kind of tasked with is to help develop some programming around Homeless Jesus and I want to try raising awareness specifically around generosity with food insecurity,” Cole said. “With the food drive, I want to focus on food insecurity so I'll probably have some local facts out there and some information about different food resources.”

Other initiatives taking place include collecting donations for United Way from university employees.

“The United Way campaign is a payroll deduction system to get faculty and staff to help support the local United Way. This is done throughout the county at different businesses, where employers allow employees to put it in their payroll deduction to support the United Way so people can opt in to supporting the United Way which then supports many different nonprofits in the area. They have some of their own programs to support individuals, focusing on people who have many different types of needs,” Cole said. 

Generosity Week as a whole aims to provide education on different ways to be generous and how to give back to the community.

“I think students do a lot within their student orgs and within whatever they're involved in, but I don't think we're always aware of what's happening outside of our own individual involvement. So my hope is that this gets people to become a little more aware of what other individuals are doing,” Cole said. “Maybe even recognizing other ways that they can be generous or recognizing other people. So just kind of opening our eyes up to the different generous and philanthropic actions on campus and what that can look like for individuals to be involved in the future.” 

The ultimate goal of Student Philanthropy Programs is to shine a new light on how students can be involved in philanthropy both in and out of college. 

“I want students to have the opportunity to start thinking about what they're passionate about, and how not just with their career, but how they can participate in that through volunteering, other types of philanthropy, how can they do that long term. So helping them think through like, what's that connection?” Cole said. “What, what are they passionate about? Why are they passionate about it? And what generous action or philanthropic action can they take to continue to connect that passion with more of a purpose?”

Information and updates regarding Generosity Week can be found on Instagram at @valpostudentlife. 

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