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Verizon Foundation Grant Makes Dreams Come True

With the fiscal crisis at UMass Amherst, the budget for the Diversity Programs Office (DPO) has become tighter and tighter and, therefore, private support has become more and more critical. That’s why a $10,000 grant from Verizon Foundation is such a vital cog in the DPO. The grant, which specifically supports the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) in the DPO, goes toward the annual WEP Career Day Conference, staff project management, scholarships, supplies, support materials, training, professional development, and sending students to conferences. DPO Director Shelly Perdomo’s response to Verizon Foundation is simply, “I love you. Thank you.”

A big chunk of the Verizon Foundation grant, $3,800, supports the crucial but very expensive WEP Career Day, designed to inspire middle and high school students to study engineering and attend the college.

“The fiscal situation across the board is really difficult,” says Perdomo, “and to put on a program like this takes a lot of money. This program has been going on since 1983. This year, for the first time since then, we were talking about the possibility of cancelling it. If not for the Verizon grant and a contribution from Raytheon, we just wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”

A good portion of that Verizon money is used to pay for the campus center auditorium and also provides the students with a continental breakfast and lunch. In addition, it pays for materials for the interactive instructional exercises, as well as the printed brochures sent to the high schools and middle schools throughout the Commonwealth.

“It’s one of the largest outreach and recruitment programs put on by the College of Engineering,” says Perdomo, “and is certainly one reason why our percentage of women at the college is up to 15.25 percent."

Another component of the Verizon support is assisting our students in attending the Society of Women Engineers national conferences. Not only do they get to network with other engineering undergraduate students, graduate students, and professionals, but they get to attend a number of very productive workshops.    

“Verizon is funding a number of WEP programs that help our women engineering students really shape their characters,” says Perdomo, “and make them more well-rounded students because the competition is tough. In that respect, the $10,000 grant is invaluable.”

Verizon is one of the three lead sponsors of the DPO, along with Raytheon and The Shaw Group Inc. Event sponsors include Abbott, Chubb, Robert M. Gorman '63, Millipore, and PTC. The program sponsors are: Ellen J. Ferraro '89, '94 Ph.D. and Paul B. Ferraro '89, '92 M.S.; Cesar A. Gamez '86; Barbara C. Howard '78; ISO New England; David J. McLaughlin '84, '89 Ph.D. and Ann F. McLaughlin '90 M.A.; and James  L. Milton '70 M.S., '73 Ph.D. and Martha S. Milton '74.  Other supporters include Paul J. Hohenberger, Jr. '87, Elizabeth S. Ivy '76 Ph.D. and Robert L. Klein '58, and Norman G. Phillibert '85 M.S. (September 2010)