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You’re likely to run into Cheryl Crounse at the Starbucks on campus, talking to the students or alumni in her midst and eagerly listening to their stories.
The newly appointed vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director for the Salem State Foundation, Inc. thrives on connecting with people. In fact, when asked, “What would you like the Salem State community to know about you?”, a broad smile crossed her face. “I want to get to know you,” she enthused. “I love people. Whether it’s coffee, giving you a tour of campus or meeting up at your office – this is the reason I do what I do.”
Cheryl explained that the power of these connections and the community she is always building are the foundation of a network that ultimately benefits Salem State University students.
The Need for Philanthropy at Salem State
“Our students are so hungry to build their own networks and integrate into their careers,” Cheryl explained. “And many of them have more grit than your average college student. Financially speaking, many are working two or three jobs to pay their way through school, and that makes them great and hard working.”
“Higher education isn’t funded the way it used to be,” she continued. “In the 1980s, college was 76 percent funded by the state; today that’s more like 37 percent. Salem State has always been a university that delivers excellent education at an affordable cost. I want to ensure that continues. Philanthropy is the key to make that happen for our students.
An Early Passion for Fundraising and Public Education
Cheryl’s college experience at the State University of New York at Oswego shaped her early devotion to public higher education. It was also where she first discovered her passion for fundraising when she was a student employee working a phone-a-thon for Oswego’s advancement department.
Now, with 23 years of fundraising experience under her belt, Cheryl has leapt into her new role with both feet.
“Our goals for the 10,000 Reasons campaign were ambitious and I am very proud of all we achieved. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to meet the substantial needs of this campus and our goals for the future,” she explained about the recent 10,000 Reasons campaign completed in 2016 and her role as the campaign manager. “We are in the planning stages now for a future campaign that will help fill the gaps that remain.”
Where Are Those Gaps?
“I hate hearing stories about students who are deciding whether to eat or to buy books,” Cheryl said. “As a university, we’re concerned about how many students sacrifice study time to work multiple jobs to pay the bills. While it’s great that students work while in school – it helps prepare them for their career and makes them really good employees -- more scholarships are needed to create a better balance, so that academics remain central to their focus.”
The university has plans underway to bring its science classrooms and lab facilities up to cutting-edge standards. “Believe it or not, some students are coming from high schools that have better labs than we do right now. So that’s a significant project that we’ll be building support for.”
The way she sees it, all these challenges are perfect opportunities to make a difference for the students and people who care about Salem State. But more than anything else, Cheryl’s overarching goals are to strengthen relationships across our alumni community, build on the pride they feel in their alma mater and fuel the network that connects and supports everyone.
Putting it All Out on the Field
“As someone who was the captain of her high school volleyball, softball and bowling teams, I’m going to put everything I’ve got out on the field,” she said. “And I hope I can inspire our alumni to put everything they’ve got out on the field too so we can bring Salem State to the next level of excellence.”
“We have no choice but to be successful because our students, faculty and this campus are so incredible and so deserving of the benefits that come from support and philanthropy.”