Graduating seniors give back to next generation

Students in two CSE departments lead yearlong pilot giving project

Watch out world, here they come! This spring, the College of Science and Engineering welcomed nearly 1,500 new bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. alumni to its ever-growing, global family. Among them was the undergraduate Class of 2018, one of the largest in college history with more than 1,300 graduating, and the first to introduce a class gift back to current students.

The majority of these freshly minted baccalaureate degree holders have started, or will be starting, full-time employment. In fact, based on survey responses from 936 graduating seniors, 35 percent of them received two or more job offers and nearly 75 percent have landed jobs in Minnesota!

And it’s no surprise that they’re turning heads.

Like CSE students before them, the Class of 2018 is high-achieving and deeply vested in opportunities to grow professionally and personally.

• 63 percent completed an internship

• 9 percent participated in an engineering co-op

• 37 percent collaborated with faculty on research

• 18 percent gained international experience

• 68 percent joined a student group

And recently, just weeks before graduating, seniors from two departments—Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) and Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE)—started yearlong crowdfunding campaigns to encourage their peers to think of generations that come after them.

Crowdfunding for scholarships and a lounge

Proceeds from the CEMS campaign—led by Alec Logeman, Elizabeth Nessim, and Nicholas Volkenant—will be used to upgrade the undergraduate student lounge and increase department scholarships. The graduates can donate money, or they can give time to help renovate the student lounge.

“The class gift represents our recognition of the hard work and rigor that future graduating classes will put in,” said Nessim, who earned degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry at May commencement. “I agreed to help with this project because I have experienced first-hand the rewarding challenges that come with majoring in chemical engineering at the U.”

“I wanted to support, while simultaneously give back to, the future classes,” said Nessim.

The significance of philanthropy isn’t new to her. During Nessim's years at CSE, she received three alumni-funded scholarships—the Ed and Cora Remus Scholarship, the Christie John Geankoplis Scholarship, and the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Scholarship.

The faculty in CEMS has jumped on board to help the trio reach their 100 percent participation goal. Their “match” program commits $26 per student donor. If all 160 graduates participate—either by donating money or time—that’s an additional $4,000, courtesy of their professors.

“This was an excellent motivation for donors,” reported Nessim. “We were able to inspire over 50 students from the CEMS graduating class to give back to the department already.”

Financial support for one student, per year

The CEGE class leaders, on the other hand, are striving for a 50 percent participation rate among their classmates.

Their class gift—led by Kade Kearney, Michael DeMars, Sami Kinnunen, and Lee Werner—will help establish a scholarship to financially support one deserving CEGE student each year.

“Not many students understand the importance of alumni donations, as we just assume our tuition pays for every luxury offered to us in the department,” said Kearney, who received his bachelor of environmental engineering degree.

“We believe that a crowdfunding campaign among the seniors, to be continually funded by future senior classes, will build a sense of camaraderie within the department” said Kearney.

“I think this project will bring seniors together and, hopefully, carry some weight into their futures when they will better be able to make larger contributions,” he said.

“The results of this fund can be used as an indirect measurement of how the current seniors feel about the department," added Kearney, who has joined the consulting firm Antea Group in Colorado. "Students will be more willing to donate—even if it is only a $5 contribution—if they truly appreciate everything the department gave to them. This is a great project that could become a model for other departments in the near future.”

To learn more or contribute:

Visit the CEGE Graduating Class Scholarship crowdfunding webpage.

Visit the CEMS Class of 2018 Scholarship crowdfunding webpage.

Visit the CEMS Class of 2018 Undergraduate Lounge Gift crowdfunding webpage.