Crowdfunding campaign to bring African students to the UI

A crowdfunding partnership between International Programs and the Center for Advancement has raised over $6,500 to support African students coming to study at the UI.


Sid Peterson

The University of Iowa International Programs office is seen at the University Capitol Centre on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

A crowdfunding campaign sponsored by International Programs and the Center for Advancement to bring African students to study at the University of Iowa has raised more than $6,500.

The fund is intended to help cover transitional expenses such as visa applications, acceptance fees, and airfare, which can add up to thousands of dollars before a student ever steps on campus. The program would support graduate students coming to the UI in the fall of 2019.

Students from sub-Saharan Africa make up only 0.5 percent of the international students at the UI, with just 57 students from Africa attending the UI in the fall of 2017.

Associate Provost Downing Thomas, the dean of International Programs, said the UI has the potential to form more connections with African students through scholarship programs.

“[In] sub-Saharan Africa, where I think we have a good deal of potential in the future for connection, it’s extremely challenging for many African families to fund studies abroad for their students,” Thomas said. “This was an opportunity to create an opening and a connection to Iowa for an African student.”

Thomas said the UI connects to prospective students in Africa in a variety of ways, from U.S embassy programs to connections from alumni living abroad. The university also hosts students from Africa on a temporary basis through the Mandela Washington Fellows Program, which can serve as a connection for future students.

“We’ve hosted three groups [of fellows] so far,” Thomas said. “Those fellows, even though they’re here for a short period of time, in just six weeks they become ambassadors for the U.S. and for Iowa when they go back to their home countries.”

RELATED: 116 flags raised for international students at a time when the population’s enrollment is on a decline 

Theresa Jubert, a digital-fundraising strategist at the Center for Advancement, said in an email to *The Daily Iowan* that this is the first time International Programs has partnered with GOLDrush, the UI’s crowdfunding service. Most donations come from personal connections to those running the campaign.

“What actually drives crowdfunding campaigns are personal connections and contacts, so we encourage the project leaders to reach out to their friends, family members, and colleagues for donations,” Jubert said.

Thomas said the farthest-away donation came from Singapore.

The average donation is around $75, but donations range from $10 to $1000, said Joan Kjaer, the director of communications and relations for International Programs.

“We have had such a wide range of donors, from people who are currently students, alumni, people who live outside the U.S., faculty, staff on campus — just a wide range of people have been donors,” Kjaer said. “I think it has spoken to the heart of people who donate. It’s been a terrific experience for us here in international programs.”

This type of crowdfunding program could continue into the future, she said.

“Because we’re so heartened by the kind of exceptional support we got, it may be once a year we’ll try to raise money for a student from another underrepresented area,” Kjaer said. “We’re really pleased to see people can appreciate the value of international students coming to our campus.”