The State Employees Charitable Campaign (SECC) has been part of the fabric of Texas Woman’s for decades. For the past three years, the same trio has led the university’s charge to raise funds to help those in need.
Co-chairs Nora Sierra (Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Improvement), Scott Martin (Office of the Executive Vice Provost) and David Rylander (College of Business) led the 2020 campaign that saw some events canceled and others moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Committee members are approaching this year’s campaign – which is scheduled to contain a mix of in-person and online activities – with cautious optimism.
“We’re all very aware we have to prepare for being able to shift at any moment,” Martin said.
TWU’s theme for this year’s campaign is Gold Medal Giving: Champions in Challenging Times. Traditional SECC events such as the Chancellor’s Kickoff Luncheon, the TriBALLathon, the Chili Cook-Off and Basket Auction, and a 1K/5K Fun Run/Walk will return alongside online games that were popular last year. Keeping the virtual events is a strategic move that will allow committee members to pivot to strictly online events should the need arise, but also gives those who don’t yet feel comfortable with in-person events an opportunity to participate.
“By having virtual activities, we’re also able to be more inclusive of our Dallas and Houston communities,” Martin said.
Prior to the 2020 campaign, the Houston and Dallas campuses each were under a different SECC liaison organization and had to fundraise independently. Last year marked the first time all three campuses were able to fully collaborate on the fundraising campaign.
Sierra noted that while the funds collected on each campus are counted toward the university’s total, the money goes to organizations within the county where it is collected, i.e., money collected on the Houston campus goes to organizations within Harris County. It’s the same for the Dallas and Denton campuses.
More than fundraising
While the SECC events raise less than 10% of the money for the campaign – most of the money comes from direct donations and payroll deductions – Rylander said the events are a great social opportunity for the campus.
“It’s really about bringing people together, getting them excited about giving back, and keeping the awareness high so hopefully more people will make those pledges,” he said.
Getting in on the fun
Rylander, Sierra and Martin aren’t just co-chairs – they’re active participants in the SECC events.
“I’m a volleyballer,” Rylander said. “I’ve always played volleyball.” He’s also been known to bid on items at the Silent Auction and eat chili at the Chili Cook-off.
“I like to participate when I can,” he said. “Usually there’s a subcommittee running it, so I’m not involved in that aspect of it.”
Sierra also plays in the TriBALLthon. She and Rylander have been on the same team for several years.
“We get out there and do our best,” she said with a grin.
Martin prefers to show off his culinary skills.
“The Chili Cook-Off is my baby,” Martin said. “I make sure not to be on that (planning) committee so I can participate in that one.” He cooked three different types of chili for the 2019 event (the last one held in person) and is excited to see the event return this year.
Years of service
The three co-chairs each have their own reasons for their years of service on the SECC committee.
Sierra first became involved with the committee in 1999 while a student at TWU. “Judy Elias was chairing the committee at the time and pulled me in,” she said. “I never left.”
Rylander said Sierra was his student in his first few years at TWU, and she and Elias got him involved around 2004.
“I’m always looking for ways to give back, and I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’ve been on the committee every year since,” he said.
Martin became involved in SECC around 2015. For him, the reason is deeply personal.
“I’ve been through some challenging times in my life that required me to seek assistance from nonprofit agencies,” he said. “I would not be where I am today without that support, so this is my way of giving back.”
TWU Community support
The SECC committee is comprised of faculty and staff volunteers, but support for the campaign comes from all corners of the university.
“The footprint of participation is much larger than the SECC committee,” Martin said. “It’s individuals within all components supporting the process as well.” Those individuals, known as Torchbearers, are recruited from each academic component to help distribute and collect donation forms as well as coordinate event sign-up within their component.
Support comes from the top as well.
“One of the biggest things that helps make us successful is the fact that our chancellor supports us,” Sierra said. Martin added that support from university component leaders from all areas and from across all three campuses also contributes to the campaign’s success.
“They all believe in and are committed to the cause of raising money for the charities,” he said.
Texas Woman’s 2021 SECC campaign will kick off in October. Watch for more information in future issues of Inside TWU.