A Transformational Investment
Summer 2021 | By Laura J. Cole
Philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, donated $40 million to UCF that will strengthen the university’s focus on fostering social mobility while developing the skilled talent needed to advance industry across our state and beyond. This is the largest gift to UCF in its 58-year history.
“We are honored by Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett’s trust and confidence in the University of Central Florida,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “Their transformational gift validates the work our faculty and staff do to foster student success, and we are thankful these funds will enable us to increase our impact for generations of students. This unrestricted investment will accelerate our trajectory toward becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan research university and inspire others to invest in building a better future for our students and society.”
In 2019, Scott — one of the world’s wealthiest women — pledged to give away the majority of her wealth. She gathered a group of nonprofit investors to help her identify and assess organizations that have a major impact on a number of causes, including economic mobility, positive social change and equity. Through her donations, she has taken a “data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results.”
“We chose to make relatively large gifts to [286 organizations], both to enable their work, and as a signal of trust and encouragement, to them and to others,” Scott wrote in a blog post on Medium. “Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose.”
“This unrestricted investment will accelerate our trajectory toward becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan research university and inspire others to invest in building a better future for our students and society.” — President Alexander N. Cartwright
A History of Fostering Social Mobility for All
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity,” Scott wrote.
Since its founding, UCF has been committed to helping students earn a college degree. Eliminating achievement gaps and reducing barriers for students of all backgrounds and incomes has been a decadelong focus for UCF. As a result, the university has made significant strides in reducing achievement gaps among student populations, dramatically outperforming the national average in key areas.
“I am proud of our entire community at UCF whose commitment to student success contributes to a better world for everyone,” says Michael D. Johnson, UCF interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Our programs — such as DirectConnect to UCF, the McNair Scholars Program and the First Generation Program — are among the best in the country. Through research and scholarship, our faculty provide one-on-one mentorship that sets their students up for success. And our partnerships, especially through the University Innovation Alliance, empower us to find innovative solutions that help students overcome barriers to earning their degree.”
When it comes to academic success, UCF has outpaced the national average in key academic achievement gaps. In 10 years, UCF has increased the 6-year graduation rate to 74.1% across all students, closing the gap between key populations. UCF has also worked to improve the retention rate to 92.1% — making sure students have the resources they need to succeed at the university level.
This achievement demonstrates that students who are provided access to a college education, work hard and are supported by their university can graduate without disparity. As a result of the university’s success in its social mobility efforts, UCF was ranked No. 2 in the nation for social mobility impact by Education Reform Now and among the top 50 public universities for social mobility, graduate indebtedness, and graduation and retention by U.S. News & World Report.
An Investment in Our Future
This transformational $40 million investment will fund new programs that foster student success, provide faculty funds to conduct groundbreaking scholarship and research, and amplify the impact of established and future partnerships.
“While our resources are finite, our impact can be amplified with the help of others. I hope our alumni and friends will join Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett in helping to provide a foundation for UCF’s future,” says Cartwright. “Because every new dollar allows us to make new discoveries on distant planets and to solve problems here on Earth. Because every new investment creates opportunities for students to be the first in their families to earn a degree, creating generational change for their families and their communities. And because every gift helps create an impact that can only be rivaled by our dreams of what we can achieve together.”