UNL College of Arts and Sciences receives $1M gift for student success initiative

Thatcher and Shannon Davis are supporting UNL students through the College of Arts and Sciences and its plans for an Experiential Learning and Career Development Center (photo courtesy of Jack Looney Photography).

Thatcher and Shannon Davis have made a gift commitment of $1 million to the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln’s College of Arts and Sciences and its plans for an Experiential Learning and Career Development Center. Aims for the new center come from the college’s strategic plan, with goals that include improving graduation rates and career readiness at the university and within the college.

Over a period of five years, expendable support from the gift will enable the college to start on phases of the center, including recruitment of staff and hiring additional full-time career coaches. The center will serve as the college’s central hub for experiential learning, career counseling, internship placement and more while providing a gathering place for students.

In addition, $50,000 of the Davises’ gift will permanently endow the College of Arts and Sciences Cares Fund, which provides critical support to students who face unexpected financial challenges.

“Thatcher and Shannon Davis are inspiring business leaders who love Nebraska and believe firmly in maintaining college access and facilitating career success for all students,” said Mark Button, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We are immensely grateful for their commitment to, and inspiring investment in, the academic and career success of students in the College of Arts and Sciences. We are excited to build upon the momentum their investment has made possible to help deliver on the critical workforce needs of the state of Nebraska.”

Thatcher Davis, an alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences and a seventh-generation Nebraskan, said the college’s strategic focus on experiential learning and career development and its impact on the future of students is the reason they are investing.

“It’s wonderful to know that Dean Button and his excellent team have a clear plan, and that’s why we’re investing in this,” Thatcher Davis said. “We’re in a position where we can help people pursue their dreams through education and learning, with the ultimate goal being that somehow this investment comes back and benefits the state of Nebraska in the end. I’ve felt this way since I was at the University of Nebraska, and, if I could, I wanted to help the university and the college develop its curriculum as part of a well-rounded educational program.”

Shannon Davis said the College of Arts and Sciences and its dean have a compelling strategic plan in place.

“They have a plan that’s thoughtful, it’s comprehensive, and I think it’s all achievable,” she said. “Not one thing in the plan is so hard that it can’t be achieved. From my perspective, there’s absolutely no reason all the goals can’t be accomplished. We’re glad we can help support a part of this plan and the students who will benefit from it.”

Thatcher Davis grew up in Omaha and graduated from Central High School. He attended college in St. Louis before transferring to Nebraska and graduating in 1990. He then moved to Seattle and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Washington.

Shannon Davis was born on Oahu, Hawaii, and attended high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from Dickinson College in 1996, then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where she earned a Master of Public Policy from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.

Shannon and Thatcher Davis met in Seattle. After both worked for a time in the banking industry, they decided to purchase Selamat Designs, a business-to-business natural materials home décor design and development company based in San Francisco, where they currently reside.

Nebraska remains an important place for the Davises, and they have enjoyed sharing the state with their children.

“We love Nebraska and its university,” Shannon Davis said. “I’m so happy we’re working with it to help spread the gospel of the University of Nebraska and to continue to move it forward, both in highlighting things it does really well and helping it to build muscle in new areas.”

Thatcher Davis said, “My feeling has always been — in my experience in living around the country and hiring people around the country — no one’s ever going to outwork a Nebraskan, so let’s give them the tools they need to advance themselves even further than what their hard work will do on its own.”

The College of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation, seeks additional support for the Experiential Learning and Career Development Center and other strategic initiatives. For more information, contact Joanna Nordhues at the University of Nebraska Foundation at 402-458-1178.

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