UT-Austin launches What Starts Here $6 billion fundraising campaign

Riese Yates, News Reporter

President Jay Hartzell announced the launch of a $6 billion campaign, the largest fundraising initiative in Texas history, at an event Friday which featured choir and band performances and a concert from the Black Pumas. 

The What Starts Here campaign hopes to secure the $6 billion through investments from alumni, donors and other philanthropic partners, Hartzell said at the event. As of March 4, the campaign has already reached an investment figure upwards of $3.4 billion. The campaign highlights four areas of priority for funding: the recruitment and retention of faculty, healthcare innovation, creating a brighter future in Texas and unlocking the potential of students. 

Scott Rabenold, the University’s vice president for development, said he has been working closely with President Hartzell, the provost and deans across campus to identify the campaign’s priorities since September 2016. 

Kara Hawley

“Then we are going out to our alumni and friends to say, ‘These are things that we really think are important. Which ones are you interested in funding?’” Rabenold said.

The What Starts Here Steering and Executive Committees were created due to the crucial need for collaborative input, according to Rabenold. The committees are made up of entirely university alumni, Rabenold said. 

“They provide strategic counsel to the university president and myself on the fundraising strategies, the priorities that will resonate with our alumni and friends, and they are some of our largest investors in the campaign to date,” Rabenold said.     

UT alum and donor Mario Espinoza said he feels compelled to give back to students and families facing financial hardship because no parent should ever have to deny their child the education of their choosing. 

“Being able to give back becomes a no brainer. I feel that it is a responsibility, it’s my responsibility to be able to give so that others can continue to be educated,” Espinoza said.   

Bilingual education senior Laura Orozco said she hopes the University will keep in mind the needs students have expressed for themselves in the past, including more scholarships and better wages for teaching assistants.  

Hartzell said $1 billion will be specifically dedicated to various student scholarships and initiatives. 

“(Student) initiatives are the only set we really put a number on, we will make sure we communicate that the students are going to be front and center here,” Hartzell said.