Universities need support

New Zealand universities will struggle to maintain their international standing without greater financial support from alumni, says a Massey graduate who runs a multi-million dollar global business based in San Francisco.

Linda Jenkinson, a board member for the Massey University Foundation, was back at the Turitea campus this week to talk about growing support from former students.

Ms Jenkinson said giving back to your alma mater was part of the culture in America and that expectation was clear while she studied for her MBA at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. "The concept of giving back to your university isn't really in the culture here."

Massey University Foundation director Mitch Murdoch said universities needed the support of alumni - they would not be able to maintain their position in international rankings from Government funding alone.

The foundation was established several years ago with the aim of raising $100 million "to enable excellence in scholarship, teaching and research at the university".

Ms Jenkinson said three New Zealand universities, including Massey, were ranked in the top 200 in the world but they would not stay there without greater support.

Studying at a highly regarded university opened doors, she said. It was after studying at Massey that she was accepted in Wharton.

After Wharton she joined AT Kearney where, after being made partner, she left to start her own company DMS Corp. DMS was listed on the Nasdaq in 1998 making Ms Jenkinson the first New Zealand woman to take a company public in New York.

Not one to rest, Ms Jenkinson then bought LesConcierges, turning the company, which organises rewards for its clients' staff and customers, into a global business.

Ms Jenkinson is also involved in philanthropic work including not-for-profit WOW for Africa which provides support for women in Africa to start their own businesses.

What brought her back to Palmerston North this week was the Massey University Foundation, and how to encourage donations.

Ms Jenkinson said she was an alumna of Massey for 30 years before she was ever asked for money by the university.

She thought more people would donate if they were asked. "They want to be part of something that makes a difference."

They needed to be kept informed of what was happening at the university, including research and how it was being applied in the real world.

That was something Wharton did well, she said. "[Massey] is starting to do that with students, to reach out, starting that conversation, but it's very much in its infancy."

Manawatu Standard