20th annual tournament combines fun and fundraising for multicultural student scholarships
Out on the greens of Pine Creek Golf Course, golfers and non-golfers alike have taken a sunny summer afternoon off work to compete.
But this golf tournament — 20 years in the making — isn’t about making long putts or perfect drives. By day’s end, the biggest winners are UW-La Crosse students.
The Multicultural Student Scholarship Golf Outing, co-sponsored by UWL’s Diversity & Inclusion Division and Student Affairs, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for student scholarships over the last 20 years with organizers aiming to continue to raise $4,000 each year to support multicultural student scholarships. Over the last decade the event has grown, nearly doubling the gross amount raised from about $2,500 at the 2009 outing to nearly $5,000 in 2019, according to UWL Foundation records.
“To me it is an opportunity to contribute to the scholarship and the causes that OMSS (Office of Multicultural Student Services) is advocating for,” says Nick Nicklaus, retired director of Residence Life. “And it is a good time to reconnect with colleagues … UWL has a special place in my heart after working there 19 years.”
Longtime participants describe the tournament — a scramble — as fun, friendly and not competitive — with the winning team being the one closest to its predicted score. The event is particularly inviting to golf newcomers. “The competition is more about who is going to win a raffle than who will make the longest drive or get closest to the pin,” adds Nicklaus.
“Most participants only golf once a year and this is it,” says Karmin Van Domelen, ’84, a staff member on the organizing committee. “It’s a lot about what we do and coming together.”
Mary Beth Vahala, associate director of University Centers, has been volunteering at the event all 20 years. She moved from taking event photos to managing raffles at the holes to working at the registration desk.
“People are here for the right reason and that is that we all want to see the students that OMSS works with be successful on campus,” says Vahala. “We know funding can make a big difference.”
Funds support the Division of Student Affairs/ Multicultural Student Scholarship. A committee selects the recipient, an incoming first-year, multicultural student who receives a $1,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to three years. In addition to having a high academic rank in high school and coming from a low-income background, recipients are often first-generation college students.
The idea for the golf outing started more than 20 years ago as a discussion among several people in Student Affairs about the lack of scholarships for first-time students of color on campus.
“We were doing a lot of great things at La Crosse. But it was hard for us to move the needle in terms of diversity and multiculturalism,” recalls Mick Miyamoto, ’79 & ’85, who worked at UWL for nearly 20 years as assistant dean of students and is now interim associate dean of students at UW-Madison. “The academic standards are high, which is great, but there were no scholarship dollars to attract talented students of color from high school.”
The decision was made to host an annual golf outing on behalf of the Division of Student Affairs that would support scholarships for students of color who had a high academic standing and high financial need. At the time, Dean of Students Petra Roter, who was a golfer, helped promote the golf event to the university and the La Crosse community, making into what it is today, explains Barbara Stewart, UWL vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion.
Stewart calls it “wonderfully gratifying” to see the event continue to grow over the years. The 2019 event attracted 72 golfers on 16 teams.
The event is made possible through many who volunteer their time and talents. Bob Kramer, who worked at UWL for 36 years, has donated golf clubs to the outing to raffle off each year. Retired since 2011, Kramer has made a hobby out of building or refurbishing clubs, and he gets great joy out of seeing others put them to good use. Plus, the donation is a way to give back to campus.
“The university gave a lot to me — like job security after service in the Airforce,” he explains.
Kramer says he worked with “exceptional” staff over the years in areas including Purchasing, Administrative Computing, Continuing Education and Extension, the Alumni Association and Career Services. Returning to a few of the golf outings over the years was like a “family reunion,” he adds.
Miyamoto is another former staff member who returns for the golf outing. He calls it an opportunity to connect with great friends working in Student Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion on campus and support the work they do. “They are all champs,” he says. “I’m inspired by the work they continue to do.”
Along with the growth of the event, it has been also awesome to see the commitment and support of equity, diversity and inclusion grow on campus, says Stewart.
“To me, the Student Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion Golf Outing is a great example of UWL employees responding directly to a need on campus and that response continues to grow every year,” she says.