Entre Nous with Marc Weinstein

Entre Nous with Marc Weinstein McGill University

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McGill Reporter
October 11, 2007 - Volume 40 Number 04
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 40: 2007-2008 > October 11, 2007 > Entre Nous with Marc Weinstein


with Marc Weinstein, Assistant Vice-Principal Development, Alumni and University Relations and Director of University Campaigns

Investing in people, programs and progress

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Marc Weinstein's first job was washing cars at the age of 14. "I can't say that it put me on track for this job," he laughs, "but it certainly taught me the value of a dollar."

On October 18, McGill will launch the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history. Despite the fact that Marc Weinstein is at the helm of such a crucial undertaking—one that will have a huge impact on the very future of the university—he was surprisingly calm during a sit-down with the McGill Reporter. Having begun laying the groundwork for the campaign three years ago, the focused but always friendly Assistant Vice-Principal Development, Alumni and University Relations and Director of University Campaigns, sounds like a man raring to go as he discusses everything from the minutiae of the campaign's nuts and bolts to its sweeping big picture.

To people unfamiliar with fundraising campaigns, it's easy to assume it's all a bottom-line exercise. Is this the case?

This is not just about the bottom line. It's about the future of McGill. It's about building on our traditions and fulfilling our potential by investing in people, programs and progress. This campaign will ensure we continue to move forward by providing the resources we require to remain competitive with our peers among the world's best public universities.

What are the campaign's priorities?

Student support is one of our main priorities in this campaign. We've always been able to attract brilliant students to McGill because of the university's international reputation, but we need to offer more substantial financial assistance to our students once they get here–and especially to our graduate students, where our funding packages lag behind other universities by a considerable margin. We also want to be able to assure more undergraduate students that they will be able to study here regardless of their financial circumstances, so we need to secure substantial financial support from our donors.

The Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning has raised the bar high for the campaign, and we are focusing on raising funds to improve academic advising and student orientation and enhance the overall student experience at McGill.

We are also seeking support for academic renewal and retention. Since 2000, McGill has recruited close to 800 new professors and there is a strong sense of momentum across the university. We need chairs and program support to provide the resources we need to nurture and retain our faculty members and add new faculty in areas where they are required. Our focus is to build McGill's human capital from both the student and faculty perspectives.

I hear this will be a comprehensive campaign. How does that differ from a capital campaign?

This is a comprehensive campaign in that it is about people and programs and for the most part not about bricks and mortar. It is comprehensive on multiple levels. This campaign will reach out to every facet of the McGill community and it is seeking support for every faculty across the university.

This will be a very ambitious and large campaign and, as such, we've designed it to reflect what McGill is all about. McGill is a Quebec university that has international connections. Because our alumni base is so broad—at 200,000 across the globe—the most logical way to divide this campaign is to have regional representations. Given the work of the McGill Alumni Association and its branches, the loyal alumni in Quebec, Canada and the world, we felt that the best way to proceed was to have regional campaign cabinets in key cities.

As a McGill employee, I'm thinking of donating $100. What difference will my gift make compared to some of the multimillion dollar donations the university gets?

Everything makes a difference because we are all in this together. So much of this campaign is about faculty, staff and students supporting and building the place where we spend so much of our time, be it teaching, learning, doing research, working at our jobs, or taking part in cultural or recreational activities.

The financial aspect is important but it is the participation that really counts. We want every staff and faculty member to contribute—not necessarily just money, but also their time, energy and enthusiasm. Students, faculty and staff are in the best position to tell McGill's story, and to be McGill's ambassadors.

What would you say to staff and faculty who say "I give to McGill every day: I go to work"?

Absolutely. That goes without saying. It's the hard work of everyone in this place that has made McGill one of the world's most remarkable universities. But now we are asking that people take their commitment to the university one step further. While different people will donate different amounts, we ask that everyone make a gift that is significant to them.

People tend to give to causes that have personal significance to them or for which they can see a benefit—AIDS or cancer research, humanitarian relief, human rights causes. How does a university compete with all the other worthy causes out there?

I think part of it has to do with the changing role of universities and part of it has to do with McGill's particular level of engagement in the world. We have some of the best AIDS and cancer researchers in the world here, as well as some of the best diabetes, autism, Altzheimer's, genetics and epigenetics researchers, among hundreds of other fields. We have social work students in the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building working in the poorest neighbourhoods in the Middle East to help people access their rights and end the cycle of poverty. We have Jody Heymann finding ways to solve the secondary epidemic of 20 million AIDS orphans in Africa. We have law students working in Indonesia helping with post-tsunami reconstruction and democratization. We have intellectual property experts working with governments in Kenya to teach innovators how to harness their own inventions for economic growth and prosperity. We have researchers helping Indian farmers deal with harvest and food-processing problems to better secure and manage the food supply and their own incomes.

Here in Quebec, the Faculty of Dentistry runs a clinic to provide treatment for people with low incomes so that the care people need isn't prohibitively expensive. We are part of the invaluable Reseau Universitaire Intégré de Santé network providing medical care to the province's outlying regions. We train social workers and teachers from and to serve our First Nations and Inuit communities. The money we give to McGill goes to all these things and more in ways whose impact is felt beyond the university's boundaries. That's a big part of the campaign's message.

What else can people do aside from donating money?

Students, faculty and staff are really our best advocates—these are the people donors want to connect with and engage. We all spend a significant chunk of our lives here, whether as administrative assistants, undergraduate students, or professors, or whether we work with information technology or the physical plant. We are all part of McGill and I can tell you that I know that from what I hear and see all day long.

What do you do to relax when you're not on the campaign trail, so to speak?

Family time is really important for me. We especially like to travel together. It is the best time to reconnect and recharge. I also bought an elliptical machine and, since March, I get up at six in the morning and go for 45 minutes four to five times a week. That's my downtime. Other than that, it's McGill time [laughing].

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