The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science is observing a historic moment in regards to philanthropy, with record levels of support coming from alumni, corporate partners, faculty, students and staff. In fall 2018, the school launched the public phase of Fearless 2020, a comprehensive engagement initiative aimed at raising $20 million in new gifts by 2020.
To date, the Jonsson School has already recorded $18.7 million in gifts — nearly 94 percent of the goal. Such enthusiastic support has resulted in the highest alumni participation rate in school history. With 3.5 percent of alumni making a gift in 2018, alumni giving has nearly doubled its annual number of alumni gifts compared to the previous year.
“At the end of the day, what these numbers mean is impact,” said Chris Bhatti MA’06, assistant dean for development and alumni relations at the Jonsson School. “Impact for our faculty who are performing the great research that will change our world, and impact for our students who are going to go out and create meaningful change in their communities.”
The Fearless 2020 initiative is focused on two main priorities: imparting knowledge through teaching and research to the next generation of global leaders in engineering and computer science and enabling greater access to higher education for underrepresented and non-traditional students.
Many of the effort’s most significant gifts have directly benefited these core areas. The Philip R. Jonsson Foundation has given over $750,000 to support research, fellowships and other student learning initiatives. Their most recent gift aids Dr. Robert Gregg’s development of robotic prosthetics that will enable mobility and improve quality of life for persons with disabilities. Foundation representatives Philip Jonsson, son of UT Dallas cofounder Erik Jonsson, and his wife, Diane, also serve as honorary co-chairs of the Jonsson School Executive Council.
“The work that we do in Dr. Gregg’s lab will make an incredible difference in people’s lives,” said Nikhil Divekar, a doctoral student whose research will be supported by the Jonsson Foundation’s gift. “We are so grateful to the Jonssons for making it possible.”
Gifts from numerous donors contributed to the successful opening of the new Engineering and Computer Science West building in the fall. The $110 million facility contains over 200,000 square feet of new space which will serve a student body that has doubled in size since 2008. With several new auditoriums, classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories, this new building equips the Jonsson School with resources unique among its peer institutions in order to provide a world-class learning experience for generations of Comets.
Faculty, staff and alumni, in particular, have led the way in fostering the Jonsson School’s increased accessibility. The very first scholarship designated to support undergraduate computer science students was championed by Rahul Kukreti BS’01, MS’02, co-founder of mroads and a member of the school’s Executive Council. Since more than half of UT Dallas undergraduates are computer science majors, this gift promises to make a substantial difference in students’ lives.
Jey Veerasamy PhD’99, director of the Center for Computer Science Education and Outreach, and Sridhar Alagar PhD’95, senior lecturer in computer science, joined with alumnus Chander Dhall MS’07 to create the first endowment supporting graduate computer science students. Faculty, staff and alumni in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering also came together to raise $30,000 to establish the only endowed fellowship for students in the department and have planned a continued effort to increase their endowment to $500,000 in the near future.