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University of Washington (Photo via Flickr user sea-turtle. )
University of Washington’s Quad. The university is well known for its engineering prowess and medical school, one of the best in the country.  Photo via Flickr user sea-turtle.

The University of Washington announced today an ambitious effort to raise $5 billion in philanthropic donations by 2020, with much of the money going to expand the university’s strengths in science, technology, engineering and math. The campaign — called Be Boundless — For Washington, For the World — marks one of the biggest fundraising campaigns ever by the 155-year-old public university.

“Some specific areas of emphasis for the campaign include strengthening the UW’s new 25-year vision for improving population health; expanding the capacity of computer science, engineering, and other areas to meet pressing student demand; and advancing UW Medicine’s education, patient care and research,” according to a release from the UW.

“This campaign is about expanding our commitment to serve Washington and the Puget Sound region and to making a difference that is felt far beyond our own backyard,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in the release.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce.

The UW’s computer science and engineering program currently graduates about 230 undergraduate students every year, and 125 graduate students. In comparison, there are thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — of unfilled jobs in Washington state that require a computer science degree. The computer science and engineering department is in the midst of its own fundraising effort, trying to raise money for a new building. Amazon.com and Microsoft have recently stepped up to donate $10 million each to the building, which is expected to cost $110 million.

In addition, empowering innovation and driving public good are a few of the campaign’s overall priorities.

The project has been operating under the radar since 2010, and has already raised $3 billion. Now, as it launches publicly, it wants to add a further $2 billion to that pot.

Philanthropic campaigns like this one have become more and more important to helping universities excel over the past few decades, as state funding for higher education has eroded.

“While fundraising does not replace state funding, it allows the UW to offer scholarships and unique programs and research opportunities for students, recruit and retain world-class faculty, build and maintain buildings around campus to expand capacity and increase the lifespan of existing structures, and much more,” the release said.

The campaign’s general chairs include Jeff and Susan Brotman; Jodi Green and Mike Halperin; Bob and Micki Flowers and Janet and Orin Smith. Bill and Mimi Gates serve as honorary chairs. A public launch will kick off Friday at 7 p.m. in the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

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