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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 26 · Number 4 · Summer 2009


Student Support

Photos: Graduate student David McCollum and undegraduate Yahaira Martinez

Top, David McCollum, graduate student: Philanthropic support enables McCollum to conduct innovative research in transportation technology and policy. (Neil Michel/Axiom Photo

Yahaira Martinez ’12: Gifts of all amounts help students like Martinez realize their dreams of a college education. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Donors helping students
weather the financial storm.

Whether to attend college was never an issue for Yahaira Martinez ’12 — the question was how. So when a letter arrived announcing her selection for a Chancellor Achievement Award, the Galt native realized her dreams would come true.

“When I was accepted to UC Davis, the first thing my parents and I thought about was how could we possibly pay for everything,” said Martinez, now a second-year student majoring in managerial economics and psychology. “When I received this award, we knew that college was going to be a reachable goal and that I would be the first in my family to have this educational opportunity. My family and I are so grateful to the donors who made that possible.”

Having the financial support of a scholarship or fellowship can make the difference for students in these challenging economic times and much of the funding for those sources comes from private gifts to the university. For example, the Chancellor Achievement Awards are supported by gifts from the UC Davis Annual Fund.

“There’s never been a better time for our friends and alumni to give back in terms of scholarships and fellowships — there’s a real need now,” said Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs.

Wood added that financial support goes beyond paying the bills; it also encourages students on an emotional level. Wood said he has heard from many students how grateful they are to have “someone believe in me.”

For graduate student David McCollum, a second year Ph.D. student in the interdisciplinary Transportation Technology and Policy Graduate group, fellowships have enabled him to pursue additional research opportunities as he discovers new ways to power our future.

He has twice received fellowship support from the ARCS Foundation (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for financial assistance to gifted and deserving students in the physical sciences and engineering.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” McCollum said. “This funding allows me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”

In 2007, McCollum participated in a three-month program with Argonne National Lab in Washington, D.C., and will travel to Vienna this summer to participate in a fellowship program for young scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

He said the experiences provide knowledge that he brings back to share with colleagues at UC Davis and allow him to network with other scientists worldwide. They have also given him a leg up in securing other sources of funding such as Eisenhower and Chevron Fellowships.

Graduate student fellowships also provide the funds necessary to pursue transformational research. Margaret Lloyd, a second-year international agricultural development and plant pathology graduate student, is on a mission to bring fresh food to a global community with positive environmental impacts.

“It’s hard to stay focused on the research when you are so worried about having the funds to keep going,” Lloyd said. “Every little bit helps.”

She receives funding through a Graduate Student Researcher position, comprised of funds from various sources including philanthropic gifts to the university. She also benefits from the Milton E. and Mary M. Miller Plant Science Award and a Jastro Shields Graduate Research Scholarship.

The additional funds allowed Lloyd to attend an international workshop last February in Mali that helped teach rural farmers in West Africa sustainable farming techniques.

Jeffery Gibeling, dean of Graduate Studies, says that by supporting graduate education, donors can meet their own philanthropic goals and have a lasting impact.

“Our graduate students ask new questions, find solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges and enrich our lives through the arts and humanities. As dean, I am deeply grateful to the many donors who have made it possible for UC Davis graduate students to achieve their goals and truly make a difference in the world.”