National Science Foundation Grant Helps Students Strike a Better Work-Study-Life Balance
National Science Foundation Grant Helps Students Strike a Better Work-Study-Life Balance

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

Frank Pellicano ’14, an electrical engineering major, is a member of the UNH wrestling and lacrosse club teams. He happily refers to himself not as a gym rat but a library rat. He loves the intricacies of electrical engineering and how the content in one course relates entirely to another.

“I feel so accomplished being able to struggle my way through problems and figuring them out,” he said. “Then, the following week, I see how the math is used in real-life electrical engineering problems. Maybe it’s because I’m a math nerd, but I find that so exciting every week.”

Students who are benefiting from ASPIRE scholarships report they are able to pursue internships and additional co-curricular opportunities.

Pellicano is one of eight engineering students benefiting from A Scholarship Program to Increase Retention in Engineering (ASPIRE), an initiative that provides scholarships to sophomores and juniors who have financial need and demonstrated merit, as well as to community college transfer students. As part of the program, UNH provides the students with engineering tutors and mentors in their field. The scholarship support was made possible by a $600,000, five-year grant awarded by the National Science Foundation last year to help boost engineering student retention rates.

The scholarship, Pellicano said, allowed him to explore summer internship opportunities and alleviated some of his parents’ financial pressures. “It helped to relieve the tension and pressure I would put on myself, helping me to be more relaxed and focused,” said Pellicano, an engineering teaching assistant who tutors students in physics and calculus. “It has been both an honor and privilege to be a recipient.”

In addition to Pellicano, the first ASPIRE scholarship recipients are Eric S. Brundage ’14, Courtney Collins ’13, Jessica Glade ’13, Douglas O’Shea ’14, James Pearson ’14, Syed Razvi ’14 and Christian Ruiz ’14. 

Collins, an electrical engineering major, said she was grateful and humbled to receive the scholarship. “Since I already work about 30 hours a week just to get by on top of my full-time school schedule, the scholarship helps in alleviating the pressure to pick up extra hours,” she said. “That leaves time for studying, which is important in my chosen field of electrical engineering.”

Collins transferred from a community college to UNH, a decision she said she is very happy she made. “I like that I am breaking into a male-dominated field and that I might give another female student the inspiration to do so as well,” she said.

Brundage, a mechanical engineering major, said the scholarship validated his abilities and spurred him on to better manage his time.

“There were a few courses that were particularly difficult due to the amount of work and the material that I needed to understand,” he said. “When I read the email saying I received the ASPIRE scholarship, I knew I was a capable mechanical engineering student. I felt I could, with hard work and lots of patience, achieve a lot academically.”

The focus paid off, Brundage said. He made the Dean’s List in the fall with a 3.79 GPA. He is a member of UNH chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and plays alto sax in the marching band.

Ronald Harichandran, dean of the Tagliatela College, said he was pleased ASPIRE has had such an immediate impact on students.

“It is good to hear the objectives are already being met so quickly,” he said. “Helping to retain students who are passionate about engineering fulfills a national need because of the critical shortage of engineering talent in the U.S. These students will help the U.S. maintain its global competitiveness in the future.”

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