Celebrating Growth, Student Success

Photo by Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications

SCE scholars, donors honored at luncheon

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering celebrated growth in enrollment and the number of students receiving scholarships at the annual SCE Donor and Student Scholarship Recognition Luncheon.

According to the State of Missouri, 16,300 new STEM-educated people (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) will be needed to join the workforce in the next five years. And STEM careers account for eight out of 10 most difficult to fill positions due to the lack of supply. The need for graduates from the SCE has never been greater – but there is one barrier many students cannot overcome: How to pay for the education.

Although 92 percent of SCE students receive some kind of financial aid and 85 percent participate in paid internships their junior and senior years, the need for financial aid is still high. That is where scholarship donors come in.

“The generosity of the companies and individuals help to make the dreams of these students come true with the gift to support scholarships,” said Dean Kevin Truman, Ph.D., F.ASCE. “Without donor contributions, students would graduate with more debt and many of them would not be able to succeed at the level which they do today.”

Christian Derra is a junior mechanical engineering student. He addressed the luncheon attendees by giving thanks to all the donors. Scholarships made it possible for him to focus on his studies. Instead of spending 20 hours a week at a job, he had 20 extra hours a week to be a better engineer.

“We can study harder,” Derra said of himself and other scholarship recipients. “We can join student teams. All these things make us better engineers. You’ve given us a competitive edge over other students. A better engineer today means a better tomorrow.”

Tiara Gibson, sophomore mechanical engineering student, is also grateful for her scholarship because it helps her achieve her dream of becoming an engineer.

“Scholarships make it possible for us to focus on the reasons why we’re in school,” Gibson said. “We are the future. The sky is the limit for us.”

Kiran Chelluri (M.S. ’01) knows about financial struggles. Chelluri is from India. He told attendees about taking out a loan to come to the United States. Money was tight as a student, but he’ll always remember receiving his scholarship and the generosity of the donor.

“I can’t forget that day,” Chelluri said. “It was a happy day.”

Chelluri now owns a business, with a company philosophy to help people and make happy families. He was among the scholarship donors at the luncheon.

“I wanted to give back to the university I came from. It just feels good.”

Truman addressed additional growth areas within SCE. Through community relationships, SCE is playing a part in making Kansas City one of the most entrepreneurial communities, strengthening the pre-K-to-college educational pipeline, expanding research that addresses community-wide needs and playing a role in efforts to create a vibrant downtown hub for creativity.

“We are committed to creating opportunities and driving growth in research, the economy and for our students,” Truman said.

In addition to growing the Kansas City community, UMKC is growing. Enrollment for this year reached well above 16,000. SCE enrollment is also at an all-time high with more than 1,800 students, making it the fastest-growing school at UMKC.

Through the School of Computing and Engineering’s continued partnership with the Bloch School of Management, the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center – now under construction at the corner of Volker and Brookside Boulevards – will become the new gateway to the UMKC campus. The center will be open to UMKC students and faculty as well as STEM businesses, area high school and middle school students and the general public.

“Technology unlike any seen at other similar spaces throughout the metro will be at our fingertips as we will offer rapid prototyping, virtualization, business counsel and more,” Truman said. “We are thrilled to be offering an inspiring new home for pursuing new businesses and exploring new ways to learn.”

As Truman addressed scholars at the Nov. 6 luncheon, he reminded them their scholarships were not free.

“They were earned through your hard work and commitment to an education that not everyone at your point in their life is able to make. Trust me when I say, your dedication will pay off. The faculty, staff, and donors in this room believe in you and if you continue to work hard, you have a bright future ahead. You will succeed.”

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