New benefit the result of a $200,000 gift from long-time University benefactor and Board of Trustees member
One day after the nation marked the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, William Woods University (WWU) strengthened its own commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion with the establishment of a diversity and inclusion scholarship for underserved students.
The new scholarship, the first of its kind at WWU, is being funded by Theresa Vonderschmitt, a highly successful businesswoman, long-time University benefactor and member of the William Woods Board of Trustees since 2004. Ms. Vonderschmitt’s latest gift follows her groundbreaking endowment of $1.7 million for the WWU Center for Equine Medicine, which was announced last month.
“The mission statement of William Woods University expresses commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus, and forming an endowed diversity/inclusion scholarship strongly demonstrates that commitment by easing some of the economic barriers of achieving a college education,” said Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, President of William Woods University. “We are once again deeply appreciative of Theresa Vonderschmitt’s steadfast support of William Woods, her shared vision and generous gift.”
The WWU diversity/inclusion scholarship is designed to enhance recruitment and retention of academically talented undergraduate students from ethnic groups typically under-represented in higher education degree programs. Applicants from such groups must attend their first semester at William Woods after high school graduation and be enrolled continuously as a full-time student. Students are eligible for up to $2,500 per academic year, and the scholarship is renewable for up to three additional academic years if guidelines, such as consecutive full-time status and minimum 2.5 grade point average, are met.
The first recipients of the diversity/inclusion scholarship will be welcomed to WWU in the Fall 2021 Semester.
“At the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, our Diversity and Inclusion Committee set several tangible goals, including increasing scholarship opportunities for underrepresented students,” said Elizabeth Wilson, Chair of the campus Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “This scholarship will offer significant opportunities for students to achieve their higher education goals and contribute to our campus and in the workforce in numerous ways.”
“Having the ability to offer diversity/inclusion scholarships significantly assists William Woods University with the opportunity to develop actionable strategies to act on the University’s mission statement in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Thomas Trice, Associate Professor of Business and Technology and committee member. “In doing so, it sends a clear signal to marginalized groups and individuals that we are a campus community, at every level of the institution, that has open minds, humble hearts and attentive ears.”
The new scholarship is the latest example of William Woods’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. At WWU, students benefit from an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a resource that fosters understanding and appreciation for our differences through programming, presentations, film series, and awareness workshops; a large and influential Diversity and Inclusion Committee, consisting of student, faculty, and staff; and “Bridging Differences,” an annual Diversity and Inclusion symposium that focusses on the intersectionality of gender and race through informative presentations from outside speakers.
“A scholarship for this demographic is action taking the place of words,” said Charles Belt, Men’s Head Basketball Coach, and Diversity and Inclusion Committee member. “Very often minority students hear about what “can” be done, but often never see action or opportunity in their favor. This is a huge step in showing you are not being ignored, and we value you here at William Woods University.”