Like many professors, kinesiologist Dr. Jennifer Copeland fulfills many roles at the University of Lethbridge. Educator, supervisor, mentor and colleague represent a portion of her contribution to the University community. But for the past nine years, she's also taken on another title, that of donor.
Every year, Copeland contributes money to the Supporting Our Students (SOS) campaign, which allows faculty and staff to give money directly to support student scholarships and bursaries. Since 2005, the initiative has raised more than $1.5 million.
Having contributed to the U of L community in such a tangible way through teaching and interacting with students, Copeland certainly doesn't need to prove her support and yet she still feels a responsibility to give to SOS.
"I feel strongly that now that I'm in a position to be of help to students who need financial assistance, I want to make the most of that opportunity," says Copeland.
Copeland understands how long and difficult a road it can be to realize your educational goals. In earning her bachelor's, master's and PhD designations, she put in more than her share of hours as a student.
"I was in school for a long time, so I'm familiar with the financial challenges of being a student," she says.
One element of the SOS campaign that is even more meaningful to Copeland is the fact that she typically hears directly from the students she's supported through her contributions.
"I usually get a card from the student who got the bursary, thanking me – that's always really fun. You always know the money is going to do good, but to put a name to where your money went is quite nice," she says.
Copeland contributes to the SOS campaign through a direct payroll deduction that accumulates over the year. The campaign also allows her to direct her contributions to particular funds and scholarships. While she has sent her donation in different directions over the years, at the moment Copeland's money goes to a women scholars' bursary fund.
"Helping women who are potentially struggling financially to finish their education is something close to my heart," she says simply.
It can be easy to forget about what it actually costs to pursue a post-secondary education, but Copeland is aware of the barriers that many students confront and looks to ease that financial burden.
"I'm aware of the financial challenges they face, the cost of textbooks and other struggles," she says. "We support the students in a lot of ways through our jobs, but to assist students financially is yet another way to show how much we care in a really concrete way."