In July 2014, the A. James Clark School of Engineering set an ambitious goal for the University of Maryland’s multi-year giving campaign, Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland.
What happened next was unprecedented: Nearly 10,000 donors raised over $571.4 million for Maryland Engineering, eclipsing the college’s initial fundraising goal by more than $200 million.
The impact of that philanthropy is impossible to miss.
It’s embodied in new student scholarships, endowed professorships, and graduate fellowships; in pioneering new programs and outside-the-classroom experiences like unforgettable study abroad programs; and in massive capital improvements, from smarter labs to entire new buildings that transform the campus landscape.
Fearless Ideas, by the Numbers
The Faces of Fearless Ideas
But the best way to quantify the impact of those who gave is cumulative—how dollars and cents add up to impact a student’s experience and, ultimately, their success. Personified in their dreams, ideas, and achievements, Fearless Ideas supports them in times of impossible victory and through unexpected hardships; it gives them the freedom to seize opportunity and make the most of their time at Maryland.
Time and again—in the campus communities they create and in the careers they will forge—Maryland Engineering students pay it forward. In their own words, eight students share how Fearless Ideas made a difference in their education, fortified their future, and inspired them to be engineers who create impact.
When not on campus, chemical and biomolecular engineering major Deborah Essumang has been devising new technology for space application as a NASA Pathways Intern since 2019. It’s a job she’ll resume full-time following graduation, and an opportunity she nearly missed: it required an extra year of study, a delay she couldn’t afford. Maryland Engineering provided her with the education, counsel, and—thanks to her Fearless Ideas donors—the financial freedom to grab it. “Worrying about how to pay for the next semester of classes is one of the most terrible feelings,” Essumang says. “Mr. and Mrs. Lehrer’s scholarship lifted that burden for me. Not a little—a lot.”
A mentorship mishap landed Sofia Braddock—then a mechanical engineering student at Howard Community College—with a fire protection engineering mentor. “I told my stepfather, ‘this is what I want to do,’” she recalls. “He said later that it was the first time I talked about something with a sparkle in my eyes.” The James P. Shearman TerpStart Endowed Scholarship fanned that spark, funding her transfer to Maryland Engineering and offering her financial freedom to become vice president of Tau Beta Pi, an undergraduate research and teaching assistant, and active in department events. She hopes to apply her skills in her home country of Vietnam, where traditional slash-and-burn agriculture is a major cause of wildfires.
Vincent Lan has an eye-popping resume. But for the materials science and engineering major, there's an important distinction: He seized opportunities because he wanted them, not because he needed them. “I cherish the donors who fund my scholarship, because that financial freedom allows me to be in the lab: not to make a paycheck, but for the experience,” he says. Lan founded Flower STEM, a student organization that promotes creativity and artistry in STEM fields through real-world applications. This fall, an experiment on planetary formation developed by Lan and his classmates will make its way to the International Space Station as part of the Terps in Space undergrad research program.
If asked about joining Maryland as a Clark Scholar, Lauren Losin will gush unapologetically. “Best decision I ever made,” she says. “Being a part of the Clark Scholars program gave me a community of students and so much support right off the bat.” Despite the rigors of a bioengineering major, she dabbled in different coursework, from AI to global leadership, and attended regular social and networking events. She showed new students how to maximize their engineering experience, serving as a Clark School Ambassador and a mentor for new Clark Scholars. Internships with Merck and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases prepared Losin for what’s next: developing medical devices for W.L. Gore.
There's a fact that buoys Madelyne Rossmann when she walks into a big exam. It’s not the subject matter she’s mastered, or the books she’s read on space—it’s the knowledge that people are betting on her success. That confidence pushes Rossmann (recipient of four named scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year) through the arduous coursework of an aerospace engineering degree, fuels her work with Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and challenges her to intern at powerhouses like Northrop Grumman. Two of her benefactors, Mary and Tom Snitch, see those efforts first-hand, having become close mentors and friends. As she finishes her junior year, they are counseling her on graduate school. “They are pushing me to be a better me,” says Rossmann.
One of the most enduring takeaways Kelvin Quacoe-Dameshie gained from the Maryland Promise Scholarship Program was what he discovered when he flipped his mindset. “People concentrate on their weaknesses when they should be growing their strengths. Don’t neglect what you’re good at—use that to make yourself stand out.” It was this ‘ah-ha’ moment that led Quacoe-Dameshie to the Embedded Systems and Internet of Things (ESIOT) program at the Universities at Shady Grove. The program allows him to combine his degree with his extroverted personality, natural-born leadership, and affinity for people. After graduation, he’ll bring product visions to life for the digital consulting company Publicis Sapient.
Kenneth Stargel had his sights set on Maryland Engineering, but opted for two years of community college to soften the cost. He cobbled together funds for his first semester at UMD, and Stargel lived at home—until he was invited to join the Clark Opportunity Transfer Scholars Program, which would cover the mechanical engineering major's full tuition. With additional scholarship money, he was able to live near campus, a quick walk to a lab experiment or to meet friends. “I never expected to get a full ride, and I also never expected to have that real college experience," says Stargel. The scholarship gave him the time to nurture a new startup idea: Perseids, an advertising company that flies drones equipped with holographic billboards.
When Nick Webb started biking to campus, he noticed the perils of the 10-minute route to school. The civil and environmental engineering major launched Terps for Bike Lanes to lobby for better bike infrastructure at UMD and in College Park. His other favorite Maryland Engineering experiences include serving as a Clark School Ambassador, Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge club team leader, and departmental peer tutor. “It’s nice helping people gain an understanding of the material, and to see that moment when it finally clicks,” he says. Scholarships give him the freedom to give back, and in 2021, Webb was honored with the Department Chair’s Award for his contributions.
What's your fearless idea?
Join Maryland Engineering's next effort to build opportunity and access for our students and the many lives they will touch.
Director of Development
Story by Maggie Maslam
Photography by John T. Consoli