News Alumni: Echoes of impact: Students, donors bond over brunch at Scholar Day

News Alumni: Echoes of impact: Students, donors bond over brunch at Scholar Day
Echoes of impact: Students, donors bond over brunch at Scholar Day

Students and donors gathered in the Marketplace on campus to acknowledge the undeniable impact of scholarships on academic and professional success.

Lai speak to students and donors
Donor Shaunna Lai '05 addressed a packed room of students and donors who were eager to celebrate the impact of scholarships.

At UMass Dartmouth, 80% of our students’ financial needs are met, nurtured, and supported by the entire Corsair community throughout their collegiate careers. While financial aid packages cushion the blow of rising tuition costs, students are directed to apply for scholarships that will provide them with critical funds they need to secure the future of their dreams.

On April 6, UMass Dartmouth hosted Scholar Day, an annual event that demonstrates how students are impacted by endowed scholarships in ways that empower them to achieve new heights of academic success. It serves as recognition that our donors plant the seeds of success for students so they can bloom into who they are destined to be.

As donors arrived, they mingled with current UMassD scholars who were presenting exhibitions on their best work made possible by the support of scholarships. Students with exhibitions included:

  • Leandro Neves ’25 (SMAST research)
  • Marshall MacDonald ’25 & Aaliyah Encarnacion ’25 (Pre-Law Society)
  • Monika Janina Kristjánsdóttir ’25 (Graphic design)
  • Cameron Fitton ’24, Andrew Boardman ’24, & Joshua Rego ’25 (BAJA car)
  • Nicole Kach ’24, Daniel Flores ’25, & Christopher Castro ’26 (Model UN)
  • Chelsea Martinez ’26 (CNHS research)
  • Tiffany Igwe, JD ’24 & Sean Perrine, JD ’24 (Black Law Students Association)

In a video message to guests, Chancellor Mark Fuller welcomed students and donors, “Scholar Day is a special celebration because we’re recognizing the hard work of our students and a group of people who believe in their ability to succeed. Students, thank you for choosing to share your talent with UMass Dartmouth. You’re a testament to why an investment in our students is an investment that pays dividends.

“And to our donors, thank you for choosing UMass Dartmouth,” he continued. “I know there are many worthy causes and institutions that you could share your generosity with, and we are so grateful for your support.”

Students exhibit work at Scholar Day
Scholar Day was the perfect opportunity for these College of Engineering students to explain how they custom-built a BAJA car that will race in future competitions.

Naomi Mwangi ’25, a psychology major who hopes to become a clinical psychologist one day, was the first of three student speakers to discuss the personal impact scholarships have had on her academic career and personal life.

“Receiving scholarships has made it possible for me to learn and grow here. It has given me the chance to stay and work towards my degree,” said Mwangi, who recently won a spot in the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program. “And with scholarships, it's bestowed upon me many miracles and life changing opportunities from this very institution.”

Alongside Mwangi, fellow scholarship recipients Nathan Upchurch ’24, JD Cand. ’26 and Ruby Louro ’25 also expressed their gratitude to donors for their outpouring of generosity and their unrelenting belief in UMass Dartmouth students.

“I have had opportunities I would have never imagined at UMass Dartmouth,” said Louro. “Some of my classes have granted me chances to engage in community projects and work with local organizations. I have completed community art projects like electrical box projects in downtown New Bedford, and I’ve worked with non-profits such as DATMA, the Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute.”

While brunch was served, students and donors sat at several roundtables and built meaningful connections with one another that will extend far beyond this event. It was a chance for donors to fully immerse themselves in the UMass Dartmouth community and learn about the many opportunities for growth and prosperity that the university offers its students, straight from the source.

Donors speak with student at Scholar Day
Donors John ('81) & Judy Murphy enjoyed learning about the UMass Dartmouth experience from students at their roundtable.

“When I went to UMass Dartmouth, I had gotten scholarships, both merit and need-based. For me, giving back is important because it's like coming full circle,” said endowed scholarship donor Shaunna Lai ’05 in a speech about the importance of scholarship giving. Along with her husband, Christopher Lai, Shaunna established the Lai Family Nursing Endowment and the Lai Family Scholarship Fund, inspired to give back after her stellar academic and personal experiences while a scholar in the nursing program. “I personally wanted to help a student in financial need because I was one of those people at one point.”

“Coming to UMass Dartmouth changed my life. We want to give that same opportunity to current students and make it easier to get an education,” said donor Celeste Dufresne ’90, MS ’97 with her mother, Eileen, beside her. Celeste established a scholarship in Eileen’s name to honor her desire to attend college when she was a youngster in the 1950s, an opportunity was not afforded to her as a female. “You can change somebody’s life. The world is a good place for the most part, but you can make it better and have a larger impact on others.”

Other donors in attendance like Tracy Green ’21 and Carl Andreassen ’76 echo similar sentiments. Green said, “I was a foster kid and never had a chance to get back to school until I was 44 years-old. Someone took a chance on me when I needed it, and because of that, I just had to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am without the degree I got from UMassD and the scholarships that supported me during my studies.”

“I love this place. I got so much out of going to school here,” said Andreassen. “I always knew it was the right thing to do, to establish a scholarship. Seeing these students do amazing work only confirms that belief. Coupled with the rising cost of education, I’m motivated to find a way to make life easier for students.”

“Thank you everyone for giving to scholarships at UMass Dartmouth,” Mwangi said to conclude Scholar Day, a time to celebrate the promise of a brighter tomorrow pioneered by current students and supported by donors who nurture their flourishing dreams. “And most importantly, thank you for making dreams a reality like mine.”