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Foundation Commits $15.5 Million to 'Create Life-Changing Opportunities' for Penn State Engineering Students with Financial Need

by on February 10, 2020 3:44 PM

A foundation's $15.5 million investment will create a new scholars program to support high-achieving Penn State College of Engineering students who have significant financial need.

Penn State President Eric Barron announced on Monday the commitment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, which will establish the A. James Clark Scholars Program at Penn State

The commitment will be combined with an additional $10 million from Penn State, the largest university match of a private gift in the school's history.

“Providing excellent educational opportunities and keeping those opportunities accessible to students of any financial background are two of Penn State’s most important strategic priorities,” Barron said in a news release. “This powerful partnership with the Clark Foundation will help us to achieve both of these goals, and it will allow us to create life-changing experiences for talented engineering students who might not otherwise be able to afford a first-rate college education.”

The program will provide financial and curricular support aimed at allowing engineering students to focus on education without taking on loans or outside work commitments. Clark Scholars will participate in a summer bridge program, a global experiences, a shared residential experience and community service projects.

“This program is designed so that Clark Scholars receive much more than an outstanding engi­neering education,” said Tonya Peeples, associate dean for equity and inclusion and chair of the Clark Scholars Program steering committee. “They will also touch communities beyond the university through outreach and service projects, and they will develop a worldview that is global in scope, entrepreneurial in nature and always conscious of social and environmental issues.

"We want to prepare them to really make an impact after graduation, to take on roles as socially responsible innovators and leaders in the industries in which they pursue their careers.”

It will support the college's Engineering Equity Initiative, which looks to increase the number of women earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering to 50% by 2026, as well as increasing the number of engineering students from all underrepresented groups.

Engineering Dean Justin Schwartz said while the program will help students from underrepresented populations succeed, it also will help Penn State "build a more diversified talent pool for our industry and government partners and academic institutions that recruit heavily from Penn State.” 

Ten Clark Scholars who face financial barriers will be selected each year and will be chosen based on "academic merit, extracurricular leadership and demonstrated commitment to civic improvement," according to the university

The inaugural class of Penn State Clark Scholars is currently being selected. They will begin bridge programming this summer and regular classes in the fall.

The Clark Scholars Program is the foundation's signature program in engineering education and is currently established at 10 universities.

A. James Clark created the foundation while building the Maryland-based Clark Construction Group, one of the largest construction companies in the United States. The Clark Foundation supports community and educational initiatives with a focus on "those that build practical and immediate connections between effort and opportunity."

Joe Del Guercio, president and CEO of the Clark Foundation, said the university's engineering college and the Greater Penn State fundraising campaign and its "Open Doors" focus on ensuring accessibility fit with the foundation's mission.

“We chose to partner with Penn State because of their powerhouse engineering program, but also because of where they want to go — the Open Doors imperative of the ‘Greater Penn State’ campaign closely aligns with the foundation and Mr. Clark’s beliefs that one’s financial status should not determine one’s path in life,” said Joe Del Guercio, president and CEO of the Clark Foundation.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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