November 2015

Students and Donors Celebrate the Impact of Scholarships

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

Private Philanthropy Honored at first Transform Lives Event

Scholarship winners and donors came together to celebrate the power of scholarships to transform lives during a scholarship brunch at the UConn Alumni Center last week in Storrs.

As a student jazz trio played in the background, nearly 100 student-scholars and donors got to know each other over omelets and French toast. It was the first Transform Lives event held to thank donors and celebrate the achievements of the scholarship winners selected through the University’s enrollment management office.

Javante Danvers ’20, a freshman from Hartford, said UConn has always been her dream school and her scholarship was critical in allowing her to come here.

“Without my scholarship, UConn probably wouldn’t have been an option for me,” she said. “I would probably be going to community college. It’s really a key.”

Danvers, who is in UConn’s Honors Program, is happy with her choice. “I love it, every experience. The teachers are passionate. There’s a million clubs and so many things to do,” she said.

Many other students had similar stories of how their scholarships opened doors.

“It means I can actually attend college without having to sacrifice a large part of my future to pay back debt,” said Daimon Medina-Lopez ’18, a sophomore who is studying digital media and design.

Medina-Lopez was the class valedictorian at New Britain High School, which qualified him for UConn’s four-year, full-ride Presidential Scholarship. “It’s really the only reason I’m at school,” he said.

Camille Van Allen '17
Camille Van Allen ’17 (Credit: Defining Photo)

Student speaker Camille Van Allen ’17 told the crowd that her scholarship will allow her to study abroad in Capetown, South Africa, next fall in a unique program for nursing students.

“I’m an out-of-state student and my parents are sacrificing a lot to allow me to go here. This scholarship offers me a life-changing opportunity that I may not have been able to take otherwise,” said Van Allen, who is from Milton, Mass.

Wayne Locust, vice president for Enrollment Planning and Management, thanked the donors.

“We are extremely grateful to our alumni and our donors, who, as important members of our UConn family, are helping to make a difference in the lives of our students,” Locust said.

“To our scholarship recipients, we say to whom much is given much is required. You are required to ensure a return on investment,” he said.

He urged the students to be productive and successful in their chosen fields and to give back to the university for the next generation of scholars.

Dan Toscano '87
UConn Foundation Board Chair Dan Toscano ’87

Dan Toscano ’87, the new chairman of the UConn Foundation’s board of directors, spoke about his experience as both as a scholarship donor and student struggling to pay his tuition bill.

“I was shut out of my room for a month as a sophomore,” he said. “The door was slammed in my face and I was told, ‘You’re welcome back as soon as you pay your bill.’ I know what the struggle is like. I know it’s worth it. I’ve had an opportunity to take what I got here and put it into a career and a life that I’m proud of.”

Toscano, a successful executive at Morgan Stanley, thanked the students for choosing to come to UConn and for helping to make it a better school. He urged them to tell other promising students about UConn and the scholarships it offers.

The brunch comes as the UConn Foundation is in the midst of its Transform Lives initiative to raise $150 million for student scholarships.

Toscano said a scholarship is the best gift one can give to the University because it not only helps students, but helps the university by recruiting better students.

“Recruiting great students is one of the things that is really necessary for a great university,” he said.

“This is the number-one priority that we have. The university is only as good as its student body. Transforming lives is really what we set out to do,” he said.

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Celebrating 100 Years With Goal of 100 Scholarships

Barbara Moss
Barbara Moss

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UConn’s School of Engineering is celebrating its centennial in a big way. The school, together with the UConn Foundation, has set a fundraising goal to establish 100 new scholarships.

The need for more scholarship support is driven by a sharp rise in enrollment. Over the past decade, the number of engineering students has increased 100 percent—now at 4,255 students—and the next decade will see further growth.

Amy Hernandez '16 (ENG)
Amy Hernandez ’16 (ENG) will graduate with a degree in materials science and engineering. (Credit: UConn Foundation)

With eight applicants vying for every space, all admitted are worthy of merit-based scholarship and most also have financial need. Scholarships from private donors currently provide partial or full support for only 183 students a year. For that reason, the School of Engineering is encouraging all alumni and friends to consider creating a permanently endowed scholarship in their own name–a commitment of $50,000 over five years.

Amy Hernandez is one of those talented students. She had no thought of becoming an engineer until her junior year in high school when a chemistry teacher encouraged her to try something totally new.

“My parents don’t make enough to pay for my education so there were worries that I would be working while studying, and that would be a huge distraction,” said Hernandez. “Having scholarships didn’t just take a financial weight off my shoulders, it also helped me decide where I was going to go to school.”

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UConn Players Work Hard—On and Off the Court

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Jack Kramer

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Rodney Purvis ’17 rolls his eyes when he’s asked how he juggles the dual responsibilities of being a student and one of the best basketball players on one of the top Division I teams in the country.

“Everybody thinks because we are UConn basketball players that we are taken care of academically. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said the 21-year-old junior shooting guard, who is a Communications major.

“Yes, we do get some tutoring help,” added Purvis, 6′ 4″ and 205 pounds. “But the responsibilities of being both a student and an athlete are challenging, time-wise. We aren’t spoiled. We work hard—on the basketball court and in the classroom.”

Purvis, whose liberal arts education is supported by scholarship money from former UConn center Peter Lind ’50 and his wife, Carolyn, said the role of student can be particularly tough during the season, “when the travelling we do can really take a toll.”

“It (being a student-athlete) definitely has its pros and cons,” reiterated Purvis, who comes from Raleigh, N. C. “But, it’s a challenge I’m up to.”

“Rodney is doing a phenomenal job handling what you have to do as a student and athlete, and that means being a student first,” said UConn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Ollie. “His time management has been excellent, always on time, whether it’s at a class, or for a workout, or at a meeting. He enjoys the interaction with his teammates, but also with the campus community.

“We of course want elite players in our program,” Ollie continued, “but we also want elite people and that’s exactly what Rodney has been.”

As the cost of tuition continues to rise, private support is more essential than ever for the success of UConn’s 24 varsity sports and more than 700 student-athletes. What also sometimes is forgotten is that UConn student-athletes continue to excel, as more than 50% earned a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

In the 2014-15 academic year, $12 million was paid by the Athletic Department in tuition costs, as 216 athletes received partial scholarships and 196 received full scholarships. That cost will be going up this year.

UConn’s championship success has been achieved in large part due to the continued generosity of donors, season ticket holders, alumni and friends who annually support UConn Athletics.

This year, the Drive to 5K fundraising initiative is being launched with a goal of increasing the number of contributors from 4,400 to 5,000.

Peter Lind said he and his wife are glad to support athletes such as Rodney with scholarship money.

“UConn basketball has been an important part of my life,” Lind said. “I am more than happy to do whatever I can to help maintain the excellence that the program has become known for.”

Peter and Carolyn Lind with men's basketball player Rodney Purvis
Peter Lind ’50, Carolyn Lind, and Rodney Purvis ’17. (Credit: UConn Athletics)

Lind was a center for the UConn Huskies from 1948-1950 and his name was on the UConn Basketball All-Century Ballot. He was an All-Yankee Conference First Team selection in 1949-1950, when he was the team’s top rebounder. Peter was also the top scorer in his junior year, and co-captain of the team coached by Hugh Greer, his senior year.

“Playing for Coach Greer and UConn was one of the highlights of my life,” Lind said. “The (basketball) program back then wasn’t quite what it is today, but we were kind of planting the seeds.”

 

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Freshman Sensation Dreamed of Being a Husky

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Jack Kramer

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Growing up, Katie Lou Samuelson ’19 would go to Stanford University every year to watch her older sisters play the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

“When I watched UConn play, I saw how great of a team they were and how hard they played every time they were on the court no matter who the opponent was,” says Samuelson, a shooting guard from Huntington Beach, Calif.

She dreamed of someday playing for the Huskies. When she visited campus and saw how close and family-oriented the team was, she just knew UConn was the place for her.

“It’s just a great basketball program, the best basketball program there is. I just felt so comfortable here and felt I would really fit in,” she says.

The 6′ 3″ freshman says she hopes to bring some outside shooting help to the team and contribute as another hardworking player.

In high school, Samuelson was Gatorade’s National Player of the Year and won four gold medals in international competition. Samuelson graduated from Mater Dei High School, the same high school that produced former UConn forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Samuelson, 18, comes from a basketball family. In addition to her sisters, Karlie and Bonnie, playing for Stanford, her father, Jon, played as a student at Cal State Fullerton and professionally in England. Her mother, Karen, played professional Netball, a game played in England that is similar to basketball but without the backboard.

Coach Geno Auriemma is still getting to know Samuelson’s strengths on the court.

“If her game matches her personality type and presence, she is going to have a great career at UConn,” he says.

Samuelson, who is considering majoring in allied health sciences, says she is appreciative of the endowed scholarship provided by ShopRite Supermarkets of Connecticut.

“I’m just very grateful and thankful that there are people who would donate so I would be able to come here. I don’t think I would be able to come without that,” Samuelson says.

Private support is more important than ever for the success of our 24 variety sports and more than 700 student-athletes. Student-athletes continue to excel with more than 50 percent earning a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

In the 2014-15 academic year, the Athletics Department paid $14 million in tuition costs, giving partial scholarships to 216 athletes and full scholarships to 196.

UConn’s championship success is due in large part to the success of the continued generosity of donors, season ticket holders, alumni and friends who support UConn Athletics each year.

Auriemma says the endowed scholarships help keep his team competitive.

“Usually it’s individuals that endow scholarships so for an organization like ShopRite to do it is a great commitment on their part,” Auriemma says.

Rich Cohen, Katie Samuelson '19, and Alex Cohen '06
Rich Cohen, Katie Samuelson ’19, and Alex Cohen ’06. (Credit: UConn Athletics)

ShopRite is a cooperative owned by 50 families, eight of which are from CT, set up the endowed scholarship in 2000. ShopRite was impressed by the caliber of the women’s basketball program and believes the fans represent its customer base, says Richard Cohen, who owns two ShopRite stores in Connecticut.

“I think it’s important to help fund student-athletes,” Cohen says. “To me, it’s supporting the institution of the state which we’re all very proud of. That program, with Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, and their staff, turns out not just great athletes, but great people. And once the players leave, they don’t just go to WNBA and never return. They come back and support UConn.”

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Four Internships, Three Research Jobs, and Two Majors

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

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Katie Cavanaugh ’17 only just started her junior year, but she has already done four internships and held three research positions. Oh, and she’s double majoring in political science and management information systems.

Cavanaugh has never held back academically. She is grateful for the scholarships she has gotten from UConn because they have allowed her to stretch.

“What the scholarships say to me is ‘we want you to focus 100 percent on yourself as a student and, really, as a professional,’ ” she says.

Cavanaugh, who won UConn’s Presidential Scholars Award for being a high school valedictorian, along with several other scholarships, says the aid has eased the financial burden on her family.

“For me, that’s really made UConn a gift,” Cavanaugh says. “It’s really allowed me to go to Stamford last summer for an internship. It paid for my housing and allowed me to engage in research and other opportunities. I love UConn and having that funding is really a gift for me for my family and has taken a lot of the burden off them.”

Cavanaugh, a driven, effervescent 20-year-old from South Windsor, started out as a political science major. But while working on a research project on the presidential election in Argentina, she had to use databases and realized that she wanted to gain a more practical understanding of them. She decided to double major in management information systems along with political science and has found the two majors dovetail nicely.

This overlap was useful for her internship with Capital Consulting Group, a political consulting group in Hartford, and at her internship over the summer at McLagan Partners, business consultants based in Stamford.

Anyone who knows Cavanaugh is not surprised by her accomplishments because she is an academic powerhouse.

“She’s smart, she’s nice, and she’s aggressive intellectually,” said her advisor, Mark Boyer, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In fact, Cavanaugh reached out to her UConn advisor even before she stepped foot on campus. As a high school senior, she asked Boyer if she could meet with him to discuss her degree and requirements for the honors program, an unusual step for a high school student.

“Katie is a pretty special individual,” Boyer said. “Frankly, she can do anything that she wants to do. You can see success emanating from her.”

The UConn Foundation’s Transform Lives scholarship initiative supports dynamic students like Cavanaugh. The Foundation’s goal is to raise $150 million, effectively doubling the amount of scholarships and student support at UConn.

Cavanaugh says she initially considered applying only to small, liberal arts colleges, but was impressed by UConn’s diverse student body and broad range of academic opportunities.

“You can’t go to just any college and say ‘I’m going to do two kind of disparate degrees and see how they somehow overlap,’” she says. “That’s something that’s done really well here. First of all, you have those opportunities and, second of all, it’s presented to you in a way that it’s possible to do it all.”

She says the lessons she learned at UConn will always be with her.

“What I love most about UConn is the positivity here on campus, the attitudes you find among students and faculty, and, really, that carries over into alumni. Both internships I found out about through alumni. The UConn community is very much can-do. You can find connections for fun, interesting things that can help you find your own path. That will continue to stick with me.”

Besides the internships and research, Cavanaugh is involved in several clubs, including the UConn Consulting Group, the CLAS Student Leadership Board, Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, and Honors Across State Borders—an alternative spring break program.

Cavanaugh plans to work as a technology consultant for several years after she graduates. Then she intends to earn an MBA in a dual program with law or another field, and, eventually, become a college professor.

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The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

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The UConn Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

UConn’s award-winning Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program helps give back just a little to our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country. A community of dedicated faculty, staff, and alumni empower veterans with entrepreneurial skills and help disabled vets work through physical limitations, psychological challenges, and social obstacles.

‘Bootcamp’ helps veteran put his life back together

Since returning from a two-year tour of duty in Iraq a decade ago, Rafael Castro has been trying to piece his life back together. Castro was introduced to Mike Zacchea, director of UConn’s entrepreneurship bootcamp for veterans with disabilities. He was accepted into the program—and after attending the bootcamp earlier this month, Castro said, he has a new perspective on life, as well as the confidence to pursue his own business venture. “I can’t say it enough, that program has given me a lot in a short period of time,” Castro said.

How veterans can sign up for entrepreneurial training through college initiatives

Army Reserves veteran Dr. Stephannie L. Addo-Zuniga also participated in UConn’s EBV program and, after participating in the intense year-long program, plans to launch a childcare center for children with autism. “Nothing is sugar-coated,” says the 31-year-old Bronx native entrepreneur, who is launching a childcare center for children with autism. “With our mentors, they continuously pushed us to be the best that we can be. Those are the same values across all branches of the Army.”

Read more in the New York Post

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