WSU Foundation launches COVID-19 student emergency fund

Wichita+State%27s+campus+has+been+largely+empty+since+it+shut+down+to+slow+the+spread+of+the+coronavirus+in+March.+The+university+will+start+Phase+II+of+its+reopening+plan+Tuesday.+

FILE PHOTO/SELENA FAVELA

Wichita State's campus has been largely empty since it shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus in March. The university will start Phase II of its reopening plan Tuesday.

Inspired by the rallying cry that rings throughout Charles Koch Arena on game days, the Wichita State University Foundation introduced an emergency fund — called Shockers Up — that will benefit students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to be responsive to the needs that we were hearing with our students,” said President & CEO of the Wichita State University Foundation Elizabeth King. “Anywhere from basic personal essentials and food, to paying for rent, to covering their monthly tuition payments, and for some students not having a computer or the technology.”

The campaign started with $25,000 in seed money that is now earmarked specifically for emergency funds for students.

“When we started the campaign for this, we were able to transition some monies that already existed, that had already been donated to the university for students for a wide range of purposes,” Foundation Vice President Keith Pickus said. “There’s a couple of different funds that we have that the Foundation manages and the people who are responsible for distributing those funds — I approached them and they were happy to earmark some of that money for seed money.”

That was about $20,000 Pickus said. He then reached out to a donor who was willing to use about $5,000 he had in a fund for this initiative. 

“At the end of the day yesterday, there was a little bit over $5,000 in donations made in addition to that $25,000,” Pickus said. “We are over $30,000 at the moment.

The fund is administered through Director of Financial Aid Sheelu Surender. 

Pickus and King agreed that there likely won’t be enough money to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Due to this concern, each student is being limited to $500 each.

WSU students who need help may request an application from the Office of Financial Aid by emailing [email protected]

“The first priority is being given to students who had on-campus jobs and they’ve lost their jobs,” King said. “It can help students just get over a hump or be encouraging to take care of short term needs. We want to do anything that we can.”

King said this initiative is the Foundation’s number one priority.

Pickus said that students essentially have to provide documentation that they’ve lost their jobs. 

“We know that it will not cover all the needs that are occurring in Shocker Nation,” King said. 

Pickus said the campaign has come together quickly. 

“I’ve been busy,” he said. “It was the middle of last week. An email was forwarded to me about an international student who was in desperate straits. And, you know, an international student can’t go home, doesn’t have a job, couldn’t pay his rent, and just asking what could we do to help?”

Pickus said the email came to him from someone in Student Affairs.

“Relatively quickly, we started thinking about, ‘Well, what could we do?’ We decided to do this campaign, and in very short order, our team and the foundation got the giving page up and running,” Pickus said. “The impetus was definitely that email that I got. I just thought, ‘Boy, we need to do something.’

“There’s always need for students. And this was particularly poignant, given the world we’re living in right now.”

Pickus said the Foundation recognizes that people are dealing with more important things right now, and has shut down most of its fundraising efforts.

Calls for donations to this relief fund have gone out to more than 80,000 donors in the university database. Word has also been spread widely on social media.

“We want to get the word out,” Pickus said. “We just feel very strongly that this is the right thing to do.”

Donations can be made online at foundation.wichita.edu/shockersup.