Lifting Students Beyond the Classroom

UND professor and faculty leader makes a case for supporting the UND Angel Fund. 

When Dr. Jeffrey VanLooy heard that the UND Angel Fund only had $4,000 cash on hand, he was stunned. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, $4,000 is nothing – nothing if a student needs anything significant,’” said VanLooy, Associate Professor and Graduate Director for UND’s Department of Earth System Science and Policy. “We need to do something to boost this fund if we're going to show that we care about our students.”

The UND Angel Fund, supported by the Division of Student Affairs & Diversity, provides financial help for students who are approved, up to $750. Lately, expenses are adding up for some students who continue their studies remotely while unemployment, empty cupboards and overdue bills are new realities. Some don’t know how they will be able to pay for another semester of college. While the UND Angel Fund has received a boost in funding as word spreads, it can’t keep up with the requests flowing in.

At the top of VanLooy’s mind are his graduate students who hold multiple jobs to feed their families while meeting the demands of higher education. VanLooy has taken the opportunity to help – through word and deed. As Chair of the University Senate, VanLooy presented the urgency of student needs at April’s meeting. Afterward, several faculty members committed to join him in contributing to the UND Angel Fund.

While operations have shifted and faculty teach from a distance, VanLooy is counting his blessings as someone still on UND’s payroll: “Generally speaking, we have the means, even in a time like this. I still have my job. I'm still getting paid. We're fine; we’re lucky. And I would assume most faculty are also in that same position.”

One of VanLooy’s philanthropic inspirations is Dr. Gordon Henry, the founder of the concept for the Angel Fund and former Vice President of Student Affairs. While at UND, a student approached him about needing money to travel home for a sibling’s funeral. Henry worked with his colleagues to find the funds. This spirit of generosity is not uncommon among UND faculty and staff, many of whom have reached into their own pockets to support students through difficult times when the need is made known.

“A lot of times as faculty, we don't really recognize the students out there who do need help. They take our classes, they interact with us and then they leave. We just don’t know how many needs there are or what’s going on in their personal lives, but we know they’re out there.”

That’s where the Angel Fund comes in. Applications that include heart-wrenching stories from students in desperate need are carefully vetted and funds distributed. UND faculty, staff, alumni and friends can be part of the solution for students in crisis through their donations. VanLooy suggested an easy way to make that contribution: donate a portion of the stimulus check many Americans are receiving.

“I recognize that there are lots of causes out there right now – I totally get that – so it's tough to decide which one you really want to give to. But this one is close to home. It’s right here with the students.”

We need to do something to boost this fund if we're going to show that we care about our students.Dr. Jeffrey VanLooy Associate Professor and Graduate Director
UND Department of Earth System Science and Policy

VanLooy conveyed that the UND Angel Fund’s impact goes beyond present circumstances.

“When we lift people up, then society does better,” said VanLooy. “If we can make a difference in a student's life, that student might be able to continue with their education, and then go on to do big things and become a philanthropist themselves and help out others.”

With the end goal in mind, the opportunity is there to help UND students power through in the classroom. 


The UND Angel Fund provides financial help for students overcoming challenges to completing their education. The fund is a resource for students to cover life expenses such as rent costs, medical bills, travel costs for funerals, and more.