April 11, 2023

Giving Day returns to take innovative UCalgary programming to next level

Sikh Studies Program one of hundreds of initiatives to benefit from annual fundraising campaign
Giving Day returns to take innovative UCalgary programming to the next level
As part of Sikh Awareness Week, the Sikh Students' Association held Langar Day outside of Science B. More than 2,200 people enjoyed the free feast. Singh and Kaur Photography

The Expanding Sikh Studies Endowment at the University of Calgary smashed records when it launched during Giving Day 2021. Then, a year later, its fundraising totals topped all other Faculty of Arts initiatives. And with Giving Day 2023 on now, the program is once again poised to turn heads.

Harjeet Grewal is a sessional instructor teaching Sikh studies classes at UCalgary

Harjeet Grewal is a sessional instructor teaching Sikh studies classes at UCalgary.

Harjeet Grewel

The appeal of the fund — and the program it supports — is no surprise. Not anymore, at least. Lifted by a diverse range of supporters who recognize the power of awareness, the reach of education, Sikh Studies is a resounding Giving Day success story.

“There is a lot of optimism,” says Dr. Harjeet Grewal, PhD, who teaches Sikh Studies classes at UCalgary. “I hope we can keep it going, keep the energy around this, and build something that is well beyond any one person’s career — something that gives back to the country and to the community and builds those bridges. It really works towards real inclusion.”

Boosters appreciate UCalgary Giving Day and its enticing philanthropic platform. For the past several years, the annual fundraising blitz has given donors the opportunity to make double the impact, with eligible donations matched by the university.

Taking Sikh Studies to the next level

Giving Day support has allowed the Faculty of Arts to not only hire Grewal as the first full-time teaching professor in Sikh Studies, but to also lay the groundwork for more classes. “Calgary is one of the only places in the world, outside of Punjab, where you can take more than one introductory-level course that’s specifically, topically, thematically based around the Sikh tradition,” he says.

Grewal is keen to increase the number of Sikh courses at UCalgary. In consultation with students and community members, he plans to spend time this summer developing classwork and content. The aim is to one day have enough courses to offer a Sikh Studies minor.

Expectations remain high for both the Sikh Studies Program and Giving Day 2023, which runs through April 27. But Grewal, rather than focusing on dollars, has embraced a broader goal — to rally enough support to ensure Sikh Studies runs in perpetuity, “to have that dedicated program contributing to Calgary, the province, the country, and to the global understanding of the Sikh tradition.”

Raymon Khera, a graduate student in Religious Studies, is sold on the potential. He throws himself into the fundraising — spreading the word, reaching out to friends and family members, cold-calling local businesses — because he grasps the importance of the program.

“Just to have the conversation of who Sikhs are, what they’ve contributed to Canadian society, where we come from,” says Khera. “Because, until recently, there wasn’t much in the way of Sikh courses.”

Turban tying

The Sikh Students' Association recently staged a turban-tying event in an effort to raise awareness. In the MacEwan Hall courtyard, 200 people donned turbans.

Singh and Kaur Photography

Giving Day impact felt far and wide, both on and off campus

Giving Day donors have created genuine impact on campus and in the community — through the Sikh Studies Program and hundreds of other initiatives at UCalgary, including student awards, research projects and faculty impact funds. Since its launch in 2017, the campaign has raised more than $8.5 million.

With Giving Day back for 2023 and donations made from April 1 to 27 once again eligible for gift matching — up to $2,500 per gift, while matching funds last — supporters are keen to make their donations go further.

In 2021, for example, the Giving Day gift match helped to channel more than $510,000 into Sikh Studies. (“We thought we might get $25,000,” says Grewal, with a chuckle.)

Based on how the fund has performed the past two years, Ed McCauley, UCalgary president and vice-chancellor, knows there is no shortage of supporters.

“It’s been wonderful to see the community rally around an emerging initiative like Sikh Studies,” says McCauley. “Not only is there an obvious passion among supporters for the program and its expansion, but also great trust in the university as the ideal place to nurture it. And to UCalgary, Sikh Studies brings something special. It’s the kind of unique program that appeals to scholars around the world and supports our institutional plan for improving global and intercultural capacity.”

Now riding a wave of momentum, Grewal is determined to further strengthen ties between the Sikh community and the university. It is a relationship worth fostering, he says.

“We want to make sure that we’re building trust and a strong bond through this endeavour rather than just trying to get to the (fundraising) goal and missing some of those meaningful human moments.”

UCalgary Giving Day is April 27. Whether you support student awards, critical research or any one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. All eligible gifts made from April 1-27 will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift, while matching funds last. Make your gift today at ucalgary.ca/givingday.

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