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Extraordinary Opportunities Create Life-Changing Experiences

Posted by Jenna Ray on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014


Established in 2004, the Catalyst Fund enhances the co-curricular experiences of Morris students by covering costs associated with the pursuit of life-changing opportunities. In past years, Catalyst funds have helped students attend Democratic and Republican national conventions and record original compositions in 2012, the fund sent students from three campus organizations to pertinent large-scale conferences. While Catalyst funds reach just a handful of students each year, donors and recipients trust the ramifications are more widespread.

According to David Israels-Swenson, director of student activities, conferences, and special events, the Catalyst Fund enables students to enact the University’s mission. “The mission here really impacts students,” he says, “and they embrace it at a level unlike what I’ve seen at any other institution.” By supporting the Catalyst Fund, Israels-Swenson helps these students “engage in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Israels-Swenson contributes to the fund to demonstrate his regard for those who aim to make Morris’s mission a reality. Encouraging other faculty and staff members to do the same, he claims that “if you really embrace the institution you’re at, it’s important to give back,” even if only “a little bit.”

That “little bit” makes a big difference to students like Natasha Myhal ’15, Parma Heights, Ohio. Myhal used Catalyst funding to attend the American Indian Science and Engineering Society 2012 National Conference, where her chapter accepted both the Stelvio J. Zanin Distinguished Chapter of the Year award and the Outreach & Community Service Award. For these reason and others, she is grateful for the generosity of donors like Israels-Swenson.

“These funds allow people like me to go to these conferences, and when you’re in college, it’s sometimes not easy to fund these by yourself,” says Myhal. She appreciates the opportunity “to go to great conferences, learn a lot outside of the classroom, and continue to grow and learn about her culture.”

Israels-Swenson believes Catalyst experiences have a positive impact on the campus as well. Stating that “the opportunities of one affect the opportunities of many,” he adds that students who receive this kind of support are able to share their experiences with their communities, ultimately improving the University and its reputation. With his continued support, students like Myhal can continue to do so for years to come.