Exceptional and Essential

NWU COVID-19 Response Fund

When Nebraska Wesleyan University’s leadership announced that students and faculty would be returning to campus in the fall of 2020, they made a bold statement: the elements of the Nebraska Wesleyan experience that make it exceptional are not optional—they are essential to the quality of education and professional preparation that set NWU apart.

To be sure experiential learning, in-person classes, personalized advising and attention to each student, intercollegiate athletics, performing arts and a vibrant campus life continued, Nebraska Wesleyan reached out to dedicated alumni and partners to support the COVID-19 Response Fund.

“When I think back to a year ago, there were so many unknowns,” reflects Chief of Staff Sara Olson ’95, who served as a vital member of NWU’s COVID Team. “What we did know was that our mission and core values are best showcased when we are together. We knew there would be challenges, especially financially. Not surprisingly, our alumni and friends were there every step of the way.”

Eleven organizations and 118 alumni and friends contributed over $500,000 to support additional scholarships and financial aid, in-person and remote learning technology upgrades and the equipment and supplies to make on-campus student life possible. These investments allowed NWU’s transformational experiences to continue, and NWU has thrived through and beyond the pandemic. In the words of Sara, “that would not have been possible without generous donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund.”

A few of those generous contributions were directed to specific areas of campus to address the outsized impact they experienced. With a grant from the Gardner Foundation directed toward NWU Athletics, student-athletes were able to travel and compete with fellow American Rivers Conference opponents. The Pace Woods Foundation’s contribution brought NYC to NWU, with opportunities for current students to work with, learn from and audition for an impressive lineup of industry professionals, including alumni Kila Packett ’99 and Emily Kinney ’06. Thanks to the Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, NWU’s Music Department could continue with instrumental and vocal lessons, rehearsals and performances.

The COVID-19 Response Fund helped students stay on campus in 2020–21. Students whose families faced unexpected financial hardship were awarded additional scholarships to meet their increased need. When COVID-19 exposure required students to quarantine or isolate, they moved to dedicated on-campus housing and were supplied with snacks, activities, personal hygiene and health items, meals and personalized care.

The flexibility of the COVID-19 Response Fund allowed NWU to provide a wide variety of necessary services, felt in every corner and on every laptop screen on campus. Staying true to our core values, students’ COVID-specific needs were met with the same personalized attention they always receive from advisors and professors. Every effort to make the 2020–21 NWU school year possible through personalized attention and financial support made a difference in the lives of individual students and the entire campus community.

As we emerge from the year that taught us to value the exceptional as an essential part of NWU, Sara Olson looks to a bright future grounded in our rich history: “Nebraska Wesleyan is at an inflection point. Our fiscal stability, student achievement, strong enrollment and active support from alumni and friends are the foundation that served us well during the pandemic. Now we begin our work on a new strategic plan that will not only affirm our commitment to our core values, but also play on our strengths and provide more experiences and opportunities for years to come.”

Thanks to the COVID-19 Response Fund’s investment in the Nebraska Wesleyan experience, we have great momentum. Sara’s words say it all: “I can’t wait to see what comes next!”

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