Scholarship philanthropy changes lives

Posted: March 29, 2020

Chicago native Diana Ulloa is the first person in her family to attend college. Set to graduate in fall 2021, the mechanical engineering major wants to work in the biomedical field where she can directly impact patients’ lives. But achieving her Buckeye dreams wouldn’t be possible without scholarship support.

Diana stands in the walkway in Scott Laboratory.
Diana Ulloa

“Scholarships are what allowed me to come here. I would never be able to afford to come to such a big university,” Ulloa said. “They’ve taken so much pressure off of my family to have to provide a lot of money towards my education. It helped me focus on my schoolwork and getting the most out of my education rather than making ends meet.”

Ulloa is far from alone. Paying for college is a challenge for many families today–and not just those in lower-income brackets.

Ohio State ranks as one of the Top 20 Best Public College Values by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and first in the nation among flagship universities for efforts to control in-state tuition costs over the last decade by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Even so, many students need financial support to achieve their dream of graduating with a Buckeye engineering degree.

While state funding cuts have placed an ever-increasing burden on students, scholarship aid for College of Engineering students is also rising. Total gift aid awarded to engineering students in 2018-19, including university and departmental scholarships and grants, surpassed $50 million. That’s a nearly $11 million increase from just four years ago. Nearly 1,600 donors made gifts to support undergraduate students in the College of Engineering in 2018-19.

Each scholarship she received has made a difference, Ulloa said. A housing scholarship provided a place to stay and a community when she first arrived on campus, which was especially meaningful since the Buckeye engineer didn’t know anyone in the state before moving to Ohio.

A new scholarship received last semester came during a particularly difficult time for Ulloa and her family after her mother was in a serious accident.

“It was really hard for my family to make ends meet. My mom was not in a place to help me that much and the scholarship took a lot of financial burden off of my family and myself,” Ulloa explained. “I was working quite a lot just to pay for my housing and my family was trying to pay for my school. The scholarship meant a lot to me.”

The financial support she received also enabled Ulloa to participate in extracurricular activities. As an Engineering Ambassador and an undergraduate teaching assistant, she enjoys addressing the concerns of new students and helping current students with their coursework.

“I want to help other people,” she said. “I see people in need and I want to do something about it.”

Ulloa has also been a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Ohio State Chapter since her freshman year. She served as its outreach chair last fall and was able to attend SHPE’s national conference in 2019 in Arizona, which was one of the highlights of her university experience.

“The whole conference focuses on Hispanic empowerment and being proud of who you are,” said Ulloa. “It was such an amazing opportunity. I got to network and learn more professional skills from people in the industry.”

Ulloa is grateful for her scholarship donors and wants them to know how life-changing their support has been. “Receiving these scholarships means so much to me. I feel inspired by their generosity and hope to one day help students achieve their goals as they have helped me.”

More than 18% of undergraduate students received scholarship support in 2018-19. Electrical and computer engineering major Nathan Platfoot is another one of the 1,548 undergraduate students who received scholarship support from the college or one of its departments last year.

As a Botkins High School valedictorian, Platfoot was guaranteed free tuition at another Ohio university, but he wanted to come to Ohio State, where he felt he would be pushed to meet his full potential.

I want to be challenged,” Platfoot explained. “Coming to Ohio State, I wasn’t going to be the top dog in my class. I was going to be average and that was going to push me.”

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Students Nathan Platfoot (second from left) and George Valcarcel (right) attended the 2019 Energy Storage North America Conference as part of their capstone project with Nexceris.

Platfoot knew he would need to pay for college directly and earning his Ohio State degree wouldn’t be possible without the scholarships he received.

“I really loved Ohio State, but I’m the youngest of nine and my parents told me, ‘we can’t support everyone for college so you’re on your own,’” he said. “Because of all the scholarships I received going into my freshman year, I saw that it was sustainable to go here. Because of scholarships, I’m going to be graduating debt-free. It’s been an absolute blessing.”

As part of the Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program, when Platfoot graduates this spring he will receive a minor in business with his engineering degree. The program helped expand his mindset beyond “just solving this technical problem into finding the best way we can approach this as a business strategy or to solve this complex problem.”

After completing multiple internships at Battelle, a private research and development company headquartered in Columbus, Platfoot plans to work in their medical devices division after graduation. He also hopes to give back and share his time and talent with other Ohio State students, just as donors did for him.

“It’s amazing how generous they are, not only with their money but also with their time,” he said. “I cannot express enough gratitude for that because, honestly, they’ve changed my life. Through their generosity and contributions, I was able to come to Ohio State and invest in many of my own ambitions while I was here.”

Ready to make a difference in the lives of talented, young people? To make an immediate impact in the lives of Buckeye engineering and architecture students, please consider making a contribution to the College of Engineering Scholarship Fund (302281) or the Knowlton School of Architecture Scholarship Fund (312560)

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu

Categories: GivingStudents