July 25, 2019

Focused STEM Scholarships Propel Students Toward Careers

Darla Martin Tucker, La Sierra University News

News media have frequently reported industry groups and others as saying that the United States is in dire need of qualified workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM fields, and will face an even greater need in the future.

According to an article published by U.S. News and World Report in summer 2018, the country’s manufacturing industry alone is projected to create about 3.5 million STEM positions by 2025. Nearly two million may go unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants, the report states. As such, universities and colleges are tasked with supporting students who are interested in STEM careers toward helping fill the current and anticipated gap.

At La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Riverside, California, United States, an important facet of that support consists of scholarships that help students stay in school and pursue their dream careers.

On May 23, the Office of Advancement held its annual scholarship awards event, during which a total of $565,473 was formally presented to 258 students. These funds included a total of $15,000 from Edison International for seven Edison STEM scholars and $40,000 in science scholarship awards from Victor and Alina Tolan, awarded to 20 students in STEM majors.

Edison STEM scholarships went to two students in mathematics and five students in computer science: Bowen Xiao, Hana Assefa, Shaanan Curtis, Christopher Friedrichsen, Cody Johnson, Ethan Morales-Vierna, and Mia Laurea.

It is the fifth grant Edison International has awarded to La Sierra students since the 2014-15 school year for scholarships benefiting students in STEM majors. In total, the energy conglomerate has given La Sierra University $90,000 in scholarship awards.

“We are grateful to Edison [International] for the continued support for our students working toward their degrees in much-needed STEM fields,” said Marvin Payne, associate professor of biochemistry and chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department. “The scholarships they receive help them focus more on their studies and encourage them to continue to pursue their dreams.”

In 2018, Edison International awarded a total of $2.8 million in scholarships to students and has given out more than $9.9 million to 640 students through the Edison Scholars program since 2006. Its website states that funds for Edison STEM scholarships are derived from shareholder dollars.

In the case of the Tolans, the couple began offering scholarships in recent years, inspired by the ubiquitous need for graduates schooled in the sciences and by the career opportunities available to students who pursue STEM majors. Victor Tolan, an engineer who is also president and chief executive officer of B&K Precision in Yorba Linda, California, has difficulty finding qualified applicants in engineering and computer science, his wife, Alina, said. She said she has also noticed a decline in qualified high school science teachers. Alina Tolan, a retired clinical pharmacist, is a La Sierra University trustee and also sits on the personnel committee for the local Orangewood Academy.

“Also, with so many opportunities in technology, we felt that more of our students could earn a degree that would give them a better opportunity in life,” she said. “Education is very important to us, and with the costs of education rising, it has become harder for so many young men and women to be able to go to college. We decided that it is important for us to give back to our community and help students achieve an education that will enhance their future career.”

The original version of this story was posted on the La Sierra University news site.