Leslie Brown, a leader in higher education with a rich background spanning 25 years, has left an indelible mark on institutions such as New York University and the American Museum of Natural History. In her current VCU role as a special assistant for special projects to the Senior VP & CFO, Brown continues to showcase her dedication to making a difference in students’ lives. 

Her support during the upcoming VCU Giving Day 2024 offers a compelling incentive for donors to contribute to the Advancing Affordable Course Content initiative. The initiative helps VCU instructors transition from costly textbooks to free and low-cost course materials. By pledging an additional $5,000 if the initiative receives 25 gifts between March 24 and April 24, Brown underscores her commitment to driving meaningful change in education.

Brown says that most people have time to reflect and let ideas come to them when they’re in the shower or when they’re driving. For her, that moment of clarity comes when she’s practicing her hobby: lap swimming. It was during one of her swimming moments of reflection that Brown had a profound epiphany about the role of libraries in providing low-cost course content. 

As she glided through the water, the synergy between VCU’s mission of accessibility and the Libraries’ commitment to empowered learning became clear to her. “When you think about VCU and its mission for access and when you think about the Libraries and their mission for empowered learning and you put them both in the blender, what you get is low-cost course content. It is a perfect bridge.” she reflects.

By donating to support low/no cost course materials, people initiate a cycle of empowerment that continues to expand with each passing semester. This exponential growth, Brown emphasizes, is what makes this form of philanthropy particularly impactful and unique.

Every time professors utilize the low/no cost course materials made possible by donations, the impact of each gift doubles. This continuous cycle of empowerment ensures that the benefits of philanthropic contributions are not fleeting but rather enduring. With each passing semester, the reach of the investment expands exponentially, creating a ripple effect of positive change throughout the university community.

“This is the only giving opportunity that I know of in the university where you make a donation and the rate of return just keeps going up. Every time a professor teaches, the impact of your gift doubles,” says Brown. 

Looking forward, her hope for the initiative is that more people will see it as an opportunity to become difference-makers for students, igniting a passion for learning and opening doors to new opportunities. “People remember the teacher who was the difference maker. We could, each individually, be a spark for students through this initiative,” Brown  reflects.

By contributing to the initiative, individuals become agents of change, fostering an environment where every student has the opportunity to thrive.

“The fact that I can be the spark in this initiative and my spark gets doubled the next semester and then doubled again—how cool is that?” Indeed, it’s a testament to the transformative potential of strategic giving in higher education.

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To make a gift and meet the challenge of Leslie Brown’s generosity, please give here.

Categories Community, Donors, Faculty/Staff