More personally, McKay donates to every school she has ever attended, starting with high school and including NSU and three other universities. (She only handwrites checks she sends to NSU, however, because those gifts are “extra special.”)
When she considers how donors can help transform more lives through NSU, McKay first considers how she would proceed:
With $1 million, I would increase student scholarships so that money is not a barrier to attending NSU or finishing a degree. It is personally important to me to donate money that can help students finish their program.
With $5 million, I would make it possible for faculty members to do more research and community-based projects. I would also fund undergraduate and graduate students so they can work 10-20 hours a week on projects with us. A real passion of mine is violence prevention and intervention, so I would love to provide a “wrap-around” program that goes beyond hosting a few training workshops.
With $10 million, I would look to fund projects across the university. I might also recreate a program we once performed with young people aged 18-23. We helped them with conflict resolution, resume writing, and role playing for job interviews, and invited them to tour NSU. I remember several saying ‘I've never been on a college campus before. I can now picture going to college.’ To me it is all about opening up possibilities.
NSU's new academic structure is designed to maximize and leverage NSU's graduate and profressional degree programs to attract even more best and brightest undergraduates to the university.
One of the things that I'm excited about is that in the Fall term the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences will have undergraduates, which will make collaboration much easier.
I'm an alumna of the university so I am very connected to NSU on multiple levels. When I look at the whole integration and the way the university is changing, I see it from an alumni level, and from a faculty viewpoint. My first question is how is this going to benefit our students? Then, how is it going to situate our university?
NSU is one of my academic homes, and I care about its future. How our university is seen is very important to me. As the university gains prestige, degrees go up in value.
I don't think people know as much about our university as I wish they would. NSU is an amazing place. That is why I donate to the university.
I think for undergraduate students, the vertical realignment will be exciting because they will have the opportunity to come on board with what we are doing. Some students may be interested in the specific programs we do with the community. Some students may be interested in a research project.
For example, I am going to be presenting in Orlando towards the end of July at the Dispute Resolution Center's annual conference, and I have already opened it up to some of the students in Community Resolution Services. If they do some of the research with me, then they will be able to co-present. Undergraduates would be welcome to work with me as well.
Undergraduates will have more opportunities to really get to know us and for us to get to know them, because it's not easy as an undergraduate student to get to know graduate faculty.
Opportunities like research and community outreach are not only about working on projects, they also are important to the whole socialization process of students.
In Community Resolution Services, we meet nearly every week during the term. It’s not always easy for students to find the time and the space to sit and talk amongst themselves, let alone among faculty members. But part of my job is to talk with students about their goals. When we start chatting, I find out that in three years, one student is going to be working on a dissertation, in two semesters another is planning to be out there as a practitioner. We talk about what that looks like, and then they ask if I have tips, and I get to share with them what I wish I had known at that point.
We have wonderful resources here at the university in terms of the Office of Career Development and so many things, but not everybody uses these resources the way that they could. So I always also tell students to take advantage of those resources, and take advantage of being a student. I think too frequently, we all are so busy focusing on the future that we don't necessarily focus on the now, too.
People come in thinking in one direction, then suddenly the blinders open and they are exposed to all of these different courses and ideas. You see it in graduate school as well. Suddenly they realize that what they were interested in is bigger than they thought. So they take a class, and find their true passion.
NSU has the most unique master's program in the country for college student affairs (CSA) because we include conflict resolution so students learn to mediate, facilitate, and better communicate. It also is a much different career path than it was years ago. There are so many different areas to look at. Look at the collaboration universities are having with universities in other countries. You may be sent to work with a collaborating partner in another country. That's a whole different thing that years ago in CSA, you would not have thought about.
We have our national security affairs program. At what other time in the world have we not needed more national security affairs professionals? And when we designed our program, we designed it talking to the people who are in the field. We asked: What is it that you would like to see these students learn in a master's program, FBI? What would you like to see, Homeland Security?
Then of course, we have our masters of arts cross-disciplinary studies program, “MACS”, which enables students to co-create their program. Students take core classes, but then they can take classes from our other colleges. They can take some oceanography classes in coastal zone management, connect that to health with a few classes over in HPD, add a couple of classes in criminal justice, and combine that with a little bit of conflict resolution and maybe a little bit of family therapy because they determine a need to have a broader understanding. So that’s really exciting.
The cliché that education is the greatest gift you can give yourself is really true. Education helps open your mind to different things, and it helps you form not only who am I and who have I been, but who do I want to be?
I think the vertical realignment is a wonderful opportunity for graduate faculty and graduate students to also be able to mentor undergraduate students.
For undergraduate students it is going to open up additional possibilities. The president has been talking about providing undergraduates with more internships and practicums, and the university is working to make that happen. Most of our programs at the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences already include this as part of the curriculum. So we are excited to see how that will play out, too.
It also will be nice for faculty members to cross-pollinate as well. It will be nice to hear more about the work they are doing, and for them to hear more about who we are.
Chair, NSU's Department of Multidisciplinary Studies
Director, NSU's Community Resolution Services