Since its creation by physicist Larry Shaw in 1988, Pi Day has been an opportunity for math nerds to cut loose: Throw pies at professors. Compete in a "digits of pi" recitation contest. Engage in a heated argument about tau's superiority. One institution is using the quirky March 14 holiday to celebrate the mathematical constant π (often presented as the circumference of a circle at 3.14) and recruit new students.
The annual Pi Day Mathematics Competition at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar attracts students from local independent high schools. Participation has doubled from 200 to 400 attendees since math professors Hasan Demirkoparan and Zelealem Yilma started the event in 2016. "The students are interested and excited. They start their own study groups before coming to the competition," Demirkoparan says. "We thought we should provide an opportunity to show off their skills and let them learn math for themselves."
Students compete for two rounds in teams of four. In the first round, they must answer 40 written questions, with English and Arabic translations, in 90 minutes. In the second round, teams have one minute to solve equations and answer them in English. Absolutely no calculators are allowed.
CMU Qatar has partnered with local sponsors to provide tablets and university swag as prizes for the winners. The competition has been a great way to get students interested in the university and in studying math at a university level. Several former contestants, including a finalist, now attend CMU Qatar. "We have been able to recruit some good students to CMU from the competition," says Yilma, who hands out informational brochures with Demirkoparan during the event. "As we keep doing the competition, it'll get better and better."
PHOTO CREDIT: CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY IN QATAR
How do you turn $5,000 into $125,000? Michael Westfall, vice president for university advancement at Oakland University, explains how he grew a modest annual fund gift into a six-figure commitment through gift matching while working at the Eastern Washington University Foundation.
"I learned that a donor who routinely gave to the annual fund not only worked for an organization that matched donations 2:1, he was also a board director at a different company that matched 2:1," Westfall says. "As a result, I was able to secure a five-year pledge of $25,000 that turned into $125,000 through both companies' gift-matching policies. I call matching gifts ‘money in the couch'—it's found money in which all the hard work of raising it has already been done."
Westfall offers these strategies for maximizing matching gifts:
1. Maintain good data.
Use external services such as HEPData to identify who in your database is eligible for a gift match. Analyzing information on alumni with available employer data can help identify the top 10 companies that offer a gift match and employ a critical mass of your institution's graduates. Approach these companies for targeted matching-gift campaigns.
2. Create awareness.
Many donors don't know that their employers will match charitable gifts. Include matching-gift marketing information in all appeals and acknowledgments to donors, and feature success stories whenever possible in newsletters, emails, magazines, and website content.
3. Appeal to donors.
Send out personalized letters to donors who made a gift and are eligible for but did not take advantage of matching. Outline the steps they can take to make sure their next gift is matched. Make the process as easy as possible for them by providing either a link to the matching-gift form or a paper copy. EL
From conducting waste audits to hosting campus festivals, universities around the world use Earth Day to engage and teach students about protecting the planet. At North Carolina A&T State University, the journalism department’s annual fashion show and food drive features costumes students create from cardboard, leaves, and other reusable materials. Donated food goes to the Greensboro Urban Ministry.
Boston University’s Earth Week+ lasts nearly a month and includes a tour of energy companies in the Boston area. “There’s a lot more out there than just a clean-up day,” says Lisa Tornatore, BU’s assistant director for sustainability. For more Earth Day ideas, check out the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s photo gallery. EL
For many colleges and universities, April Fools' Day never gets old. That's because people love a good laugh, and the payoff lasts longer than the lark.
Every year, universities around the world prank their students and alumni with inspired tricks. The University of Nottingham, for example, in 2016 announced plans to construct a jungle gym for the #FatSquirrels on campus. On April 1, 2014, Michigan's Oakland University promoted a new course in "Post-Apocalyptic Survival Studies."
"April Fools' Day gives us a chance to reach an audience beyond the people who currently get our content. It's such lighthearted and shareable content, so it gets people instantly engaged," says Stephen Baxter-Crawford, social media manager at the Queen's University Belfast.
The key to a successful gag is to ground it in institutional history or an area of ongoing academic inquiry. Queen's University Belfast reached more than 60,000 people and garnered 3,578 online click-thrus when it announced a dragon egg hatching timed around the release of the latest season of Game of Thrones (the show is mostly filmed in Northern Ireland).
"The pranks are still coming up on our social media years on. People are coming back to the story again and again," Baxter-Crawford says. "A lot of prospective students remark on it when they visit campus. It's a great way to showcase our sense of humor and personality before they even step on campus." EL
PHOTO CREDIT: QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST
1. Which generation of parents is most likely to research charities before giving?
A) The Silent Generation (1928-45)
B) Baby Boomers (1946-64)
C) Gen X (1965-80)
D) Millennials (1981-98)
2. Which charitable subsector, based on the latest data, receives the highest percentage of charitable dollars?
D) Arts, Culture,and Humanities
3. When it comes to life satisfaction and charitable giving:
A) A majority of people see giving as a burden.
B) The impact of giving is greatest in high-income households.
C) Giving makes all people happy.
D) Satisfaction with giving depends on the charitable cause.
4. Charities and institutions are seeing an increase in surprise gifts from:
A) Religious Gen X-ers
B) Childless baby boomers
C) Millennial women
D) High-income Gen Y-ers
5. When reaching out to today's LGBT+ donors, it's important to:
A) Focus on single-person bequests.
B) Use family-friendly messaging.
C) Stick to LGBT+ issues.
D) Ignore marital status.