College of Arts and Sciences Scholarship luncheon honors donors, students

Associate Dean Kati Toivanen and UMKC Art Student Heather Burton talk during the 2017 CAS Donor-Scholar LuncheonHeather Burton was scared to death of becoming a starving artist. She dreamed of a career in graphic design, but she was a realist, not a dreamer. She knew job openings in the field were hard to come by, and the potential burden of student loan debt added more uncertainty to her future.

That was four years ago, she told an audience of scholarship donors, students, faculty and friends at the annual donor-scholar luncheon for the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, she envisions a bright future full of promise.

“I applied (to the University of Missouri-Kansas City) and received a great scholarship offer,” she said. “Because of your generosity, I was able to focus on my grades, making all A’s. Because of your generosity, I was able to take three internships instead of working full-time. Because of your generosity, I am able to graduate a semester early. Because of your generosity, I received a job offer before I graduate; I am a full-time graphic designer at Sprint.

“Because of your generosity, I am not carrying the financial burden of college debt on my shoulders as I head out into the real world,” she said. “I hope in the near future I can help students just as you have helped all of us.”

The event’s other main speaker was Tom Nelson, one of the founding principals at BNIM Architects in Kansas City and a long-time supporter of UMKC, particularly the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design. Nelson discussed why the Kansas City community should support UMKC, and UMKC students.

In the 1970s, he said, UMKC was not “sufficiently embraced” by the greater community.

“Great cities need a great university, and UMKC certainly had that potential for this community,” he said. “That was then. Today, there has been real community buy-in. There’s a sense of civic pride in this place. Various departments have become more engaged in the community and grown in stature. It really is a great university.”

In response to the university’s growth and improvement, Nelson called on the community to step up in support of students.

He and his firm have supported the Architecture, Urban Planning and Design program at UMKC, he said, because “architecture is about urban spaces and the urban experiences, and Kansas City is the perfect place for that.

“Under the leadership of (department chair) Joy Swallow, it has become a great program,” he added. “When I know donations are going directly for students’ benefit, that’s what it’s all about.”

Wayne Vaught, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said with the cost of a college education rising while state funding continues to diminish, scholarships are more critical than ever.

“We applaud our alumni and friends of the University who recognize the value of education. It is through your generosity that we are able to help our students achieve their dreams,” Vaught said. “Because of you, lives are changed, skills are cultivated, and careers are launched.”

This story was originally published on October 30, 2017, by UMKC Today