Double Illumination

Twice as many scholarships mean more 'light-bulb moments' for Emory College students

Stephanie Spangler
Ann Borden

Even as a kid, Stephanie Spangler 12C always wanted things to be fair. When she came to Emory as a Dean’s Achievement Woodruff Scholar, that sense of justice naturally drove her toward prelaw and an internship in the federal public defender’s office. That’s where she had a revelation.

“It was while I was sifting through boxes of case files on death row inmates that it hit me: for them, it’s too late,” Spangler says. “I want to help people before they land in the criminal justice system. You’ve heard of light-bulb moments? My entire perspective shifted when I realized I could make an impact through education.”

Changing her major to history and anthropology, Spangler focused on understanding the systemic social problems that create inequity, and through volunteer work in an urban Atlanta preschool, she saw firsthand how those problems damage real lives. Teaching elementary school was not a career Spangler had envisioned for herself, but she began to see the difference she could make—and, she says, “the scholarship gave me the courage and financial support to do it.”

Now her fourth-graders at Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C., most of whom live in poverty and some of whom are new to English, are reading at levels 30 percent higher than the district average. And every Friday, they eagerly wait to hear which student has been named “Eagle of the Week ” and will get to wear the coveted Emory Eagles jersey.

“The children I work with every day are intelligent, curious, and resilient,” Spangler says. “It’s an incredible group of people to help empower.”

Scholarship support has been a game changer for thousands of students like Spangler, which is why building that capacity is an ongoing priority for Emory College of Arts and Sciences. The college is celebrating a milestone with the establishment of more than one hundred new or augmented endowed scholarships, thanks to numerous donors and an unprecedented anonymous $50 million matching endowment gift, which provides the seed funding that allows Emory College to maximize the impact of individual donors.

“Scholarship support contributes mightily to Emory’s ability to recruit and support top students and allows for greater investment in the faculty and programming that make Emory College such an exceptional experience,” says Emory College Interim Dean Michael Elliott. “Our students are partners for our faculty in the work of discovery and creativity, and are the means by which we have an impact on the world.”

The recent growth in student support is part of the ongoing Scholarship Endowment Initiative, which is dedicated to raising money for scholarships in all of the university’s nine schools. Before the initiative began in 2013, Emory College had 102 endowed scholarships. Pledges or gifts in the matching endowment program have almost doubled that number and added more than $10.4 million to scholarship endowment.

That’s great news, but it could be even better. The college’s current endowment for scholarships is less than $200 million, which lags behind its peers. On average, endowment support at peer institutions makes up slightly more than 30 percent of the scholarships they award, while earnings from Emory College endowment funds provide about 10 percent of scholarships extended. The college makes up the nearly $80 million difference through operating funds.

Alumni like Srini Mukundan 86C 90G 91G 96M 01FM are helping to narrow that gap. Mukundan was only nineteen when he received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he spent more time at Emory during his graduate and medical education. His wife, Nancy Bost Mukundan 94PhD, also has an Emory doctorate in chemistry.

When the couple learned about the match available for gifts to create scholarship endowments, they recognized the potential impact a gift could make.

“All of our professional success flows from what we did at Emory,” says Mukundan, now a section chief of radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an associate radiology professor at Harvard Medical School.

Justin Correa 19C sees his scholarship as donors investing directly in him. That mindset has motivated him in class, where his academic performance qualified him for the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. He’s also served as a chemistry teaching assistant, worked as a tutor, and participated in undergraduate research programs.

“The scholarship has had a profound effect on me, because I know that someone is giving their own hard-earned money to help me accomplish my dream of becoming a surgeon,” Correa says. “Emory has been an opportunity for me to become more responsible for what I want my future to be. And now that I have this chance, I plan to make the most of it.”—April Hunt

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