I met Elizabeth Sproule ten years ago while she was just graduating from Chapman University with a degree in Creative Writing. She was always passionate about making a difference in the world. It was time to check-in and re-connect. After several years of teaching, she created a plan to shift into the donor/fund development arena in non-profits and has not looked back.
Elizabeth is now Assistant Director of the Chapman Fund in Orange and we met up to talk about her work, her role as an alumnus of Chapman, and what she sees changing in students today.
Sherry: Tell me about you and your work at Chapman.
Elizabeth: My job is to partner with our alumni, community members, and parents to provide them with extraordinary ways to use their impact and wealth to help change people’s lives. It is rewarding work in every way.
I am proud to raise funds for our Chapman Fund (student scholarships) and critical research at Chapman. I believe my superpower is building relationships. I love to hear the stories of people’s lives and how they want to be connected to the university in a meaningful way. Through the relationships I develop, I can connect someone’s passions with the funding opportunities available within the university.
The Chapman Fund is an unrestricted fund that allows the university to use the funds as needed. This past year, many students faced additional financial hardship due to the pandemic, and the Chapman Fund allowed the university to provide the financial support our students needed quickly.
Sherry: How do you build relationships in the community?
Elizabeth: I make a lot of introduction phone calls to find out how someone wants to be connected to Chapman.
In addition, during orientation each year, I can meet many of our new families, and some will share how they want to be involved with Chapman. It is always important to focus on relationship building and engagement first, and, in my experience, giving will follow.
Sherry: As an alumnus, what are you seeing as changes in students since you graduated ten years ago?
Elizabeth: First, the school has grown a lot in the past ten years since I graduated. Since being a student, Chapman has added additional schools and colleges—we now have our School of Pharmacy, our Fowler School of Engineering, and the School of Communication. In addition, we now have a campus in Irvine, the Hilbert Museum, and the Musco Center for the Arts. So as you can see, it has changed quite a bit since I was a student, and our sciences programs have really expanded, which is exciting to see the types of students that draw to the university.
But to answer your question, our student profile has changed a lot too. Universities around the country are starting to see changes in who is selecting to go to college, and Chapman is adapting to this changing student profile by offering additional financial assistance to those who need it. We want to engage talented students and have focused our recruiting efforts on schools in our community and our surrounding Orange County neighborhoods. And, for this reason, it is important to have funding available to support these talented students.
Sherry: I love the Chapman vision on your website, “where big ideas are born.” Can you share examples of how you see this occurring?
Elizabeth: I don’t get to work with the students as much as their parents and donors; however, from the stories I do know, I feel that the students look at the whole picture of coming here, and for that reason, we have a unique community of students. Our film students come with portfolios of fascinating projects—one student I have worked with has their own podcast, and another has over a million followers on Tik Tok. I guess what makes our students unique is that they are not just focused on one thing—many have double majors, and most join clubs and organizations across campus. I think big ideas are being born every day, whether in the classroom or while talking to a friend. These students are willing to try and fail and try again until they get something they are happy with.
Our approach to curriculum and programs integrates all functions. The student conceptualizes an idea, brings it to fruition with a group, and reaches out to external experts when needed. Project-based work leads the way at Chapman, even as a freshman.
Sherry: Are students taking more non-traditional paths after graduation? How so?
Elizabeth: I am not sure I have concrete examples to support this, but there are so many students with unique ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit, which is less traditional, in my opinion. We have a lot of collaboration across our schools and colleges that help better prepare students to jump into many different professions and industries after they graduate.
Sherry: How can the OC community get involved and learn more about Chapman?
Elizabeth: We are always looking for partnerships with companies and our community and welcome you to come to explore our campus anytime. Our Musco Center for the Arts offers a variety of performances from artists from around the world. We also host an “Ask the Experts” town hall once a month which showcases the talented research at Chapman. And on Saturdays, we invite you to stroll around the Farmers Market that takes place on our Orange campus. The vendors kindly donate their food to our students who suffer from food insecurity.
3. If you are interested in partnering to offer Chapman students internships and career opportunities? Contact us at email@example.com
Thank you, Elizabeth for these great ideas and it was wonderful to learn about your work and passion intersecting there at Chapman!