Strengthening structures of strong foundations

 Financial delegations of resources at Blakely Island Field Station

After a fulfilling day of labs, lectures, hikes, and outdoor adventures, a group of Seattle Pacific University students gather in the Blakely Island Field Station dining room—sharing laughter, stories, and the strum of a guitar, while enjoying their dinner. This vibrant atmosphere, brimming with joy and tranquility, fosters the creation of lasting friendships and connections that transcend the boundaries of the classroom, leaving an undeniable mark on the students’ lives.

For the Field Station to continue offering these unique, hands-on educational experiences and fostering deep connections among students, it is crucial that we address the financial aspect. Like any institution, the Field Station relies on funding and income to operate effectively and provide students with the best possible experience on Blakely Island. The bulk of our income is derived from university endowments, which are funds dedicated to ensuring the Field Station’s financial sustainability and are typically earmarked for specific purposes, and donations from external sources, which can be utilized for any pressing need upon receipt.

The Field Station has five active endowments: The Operational Endowment, The Friends of Blakely Endowment, The Ross and Barbara Shaw Endowment, The Zinza Endowment and the Ronald C. Phillips Endowment. Only two are used as an income source: The Operational Endowment, which keeps the facility open and running smoothly, and the Ronald C. Phillips Endowment, which helps support undergraduate research activities on Blakely Island. The other three are used to provide scholarships for students at SPU and other institutions. For the most part, endowments give the station a more significant sum than general donations because donors can directly decide where their money goes and how it will be used.

According to the Giving Day website, the Field Station plans to use these funds to rebuild the bridge that connects the dining hall and lab to the dormitories, which has visible signs of deterioration and rotting wood. It will also provide student fee reductions for summer classes, support undergraduate research projects, and address any other facility and repair needs around the campus.

The remainder of the Field Station’s income is from course fees and tuition from summer classes. Course fees are described in the SPU Course Catalog for any class venturing to Blakely Island during the summer or traditional school year.

For example, SPU biology professor Dr. Ferrer’s “Environmental Science” class has a non-refundable $300 fee to cover the cost of a Blakely Island trip. The price varies on the time the class spends on the island, ranging from $200 to $400.

The Field Station does not receive funds from tuition during the regular school year, but it does for any summer courses on the island. Seventy percent of students’ summer tuition for the courses they are enrolled in goes directly to the Field Station.

Money is gained and spent to run an educational and research facility such as the Field Station. From July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, the cost totaled about $310,000.

The largest expense is the salaries and benefits of those who run the station. While this is a large sum of money, the cost is worth the quality of care that the caretakers and all other employees provide for students who journey to Blakely Island.

Many of the expenses paid by the Field Station involve improving the students’ experience, such as food, student aid, utilities, and maintenance and supplies.

The other four sources include operational costs that keep the actual facility functioning, which include insurance, taxes, utility bills and other miscellaneous expenses.

To pay off these expenses, the Field Station relies on the money it gets from donations, endowments, summer course tuition, and course fees. If these expenses are not paid, it will become difficult for them to provide impactful, safe, comfortable, and life-changing experiences for students, whether through their learning or their connections with nature and classmates. Students will continue to reap the benefits as long as money continues to flow into the beautiful, serene, and community-driven campus of the Blakely Island Field Station.

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