Explained: What is the UWL Foundation?


UWL Foundation logo.

Julia Wille, General Assignment Reporter

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse funds most of the scholarships rewarded to students through the UWL Foundation and has been doing so for 50 years. Every student at UWL can apply for different scholarships each year. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of individuals at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

The foundation is separate from the university and the government but still supports UWL. It is called an institutionally related foundation. By being a separate entity, it is easier for the foundation to have control and say over where the donations go. They are categorized as a philanthropic foundation, this means that they are able to take donations and transfer them into the university as they see fit, typically in the form of scholarships for students.  

The foundation has a board of directors made up of community members, alumni, and emeriti. There are 22 individuals on the board that oversees the operations of the foundation. There is also a team that runs the everyday operations of the foundation. These individuals are made up of professionals that operate out of buildings on campus.   

The way that the foundation receives its funds is solely through donations. The Vice-Chancellor of Advancement and Foundation President Gregory Reichert said, “It’s usually at the discretion of the donors, so we’re not the ones saying the money goes here or money goes there.” He also said that over the past few years the foundation has averaged about $4.2 million in donations coming in each year and that about 50% of those donations go towards student scholarships.  

Currently, the foundation is in the process of giving out about $1.35 million in scholarships to students and the campus. Students can visit the UWL Foundation website and fill out applications to apply for scholarships. The applications are open in the fall and again at the beginning of the spring semester. Reichert said, “I hope students realize that there are people out there that believe in this institution and believe in them as the next generation of leaders, and it’s sincere, they wouldn’t be writing it a check if they didn’t.”  

The foundation has many scholarships that individuals can apply for, but there are a variety of scholarships that the foundation supports. Some of the money also goes towards students’ undergraduate research.

Also, many donors choose to donate money to athletic teams or specific academic programs. Reichert said that the foundation has roughly 900 funds and about 500 of those funds are designated for specific scholarships. The rest go towards athletic teams, academic departments, and various programs.  

The foundation relies on donations to distribute scholarships. Over half of the donors in the foundation are UWL alumni. The majority of the donors are UWL faculty, staff, emeriti, or retirees.

“They are very very generous, usually back to their own programs where they used to work or teach,” said Reichert. Other community members and parents make donations as well.

Recently the foundation received a large donation in 2021 of $1.3 million that an individual left for the foundation in his will. This donation is going into the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. Reichert said, “Eventually, that will be $50,000 going right into the hands of students each year.”  

The foundation exists to provide students with scholarships, but they are also looking to expand support to UWL’s faculty and programs. Reichert discussed being able to pay professors to continue work and research in the summer. Many professors are on 9-month contracts. He wants to be able to use the foundation to support the faculty and program development and use it to retain good faculty.  

Reichert said, “Donors are realizing that if they give a gift to support a faculty member, it supports 30 kids in that classroom times five classes that they’re teaching, so maybe there’s a greater impact from my gift.” While the individual scholarships will remain, the foundation plans to continue to expand its area of impact across the campus.