Science Advisory Board Funds New Student Opportunities Endowment The STEM-focused endowment will support internships, research opportunities, academic conference costs and other student experiences.
Classroom instruction lays the foundation for a good liberal arts education, but what takes learning to the next level are experiences in which students can apply skills in practical ways through internships, research and travel. The Science Advisory Board recently spearheaded an effort, led by former chair Dave Ellison ’05 and current chair Emily Wolfing Tunis ’05, to fund a STEM-focused endowment that promotes experiential learning opportunities for students.
The Science Advisory Board Student Opportunities Endowment will support domestic and international internships, research opportunities, academic conference costs and other student experiences in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The fact that we have surpassed our fundraising goal to endow this fund is really a testament to how great the past and present members of the Science Advisory Board are. Everyone came together to make this happen for the students,” Tunis said. “If this fund can help W&L students feel fulfilled and happy with where they are going in life, then we have been successful. That is the entire point of it for us.”
Last fall, Tunis and Ellison presented the idea to the board and have since raised more than $150,000 for the endowment. Associate Dean of the College and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Fred LaRiviere serves as the faculty liaison to the Science Advisory Board and said funds for co-curricular academic experiences are in high demand. “We always have more students who want to do research than we have either the funds or spaces available to provide them,” he said. “I am extremely grateful for the board’s efforts to expand opportunities for our students in the sciences and mathematics.”
At W&L, students talk with great enthusiasm about how transformative opportunities beyond the classroom are and how much they inform their professional interests and plans for the future. Increasingly, research and internship experiences set students apart when they enter the job market or apply to graduate programs.
“I am so proud of the board’s focus on the students and on enriching their lives. I hope the endowment continues to gain momentum, that others want to contribute, so that it funds opportunities for students for a very long time.”
~ Dave Ellison ’05
As students, both Ellison and Tunis participated in summer experiences that informed their future career choices in very different ways. Ellison traveled to New York City on the Williams School investment trip and found his passion in investment banking while Tunis completed a summer internship in astrophysics research at the University of Oklahoma after her junior year. While she gained a lot from the experience, she learned that dedicating her career to research was not what she wanted.
“I think the Science Advisory Board’s mission and all of its actions should be anchored in how we are helping students prepare for life after W&L,” Ellison said. “I am excited to see how this endowment will advance that mission and have an impact on W&L students in taking advantage of those opportunities to learn about themselves and what they want for their future.”
Ellison was a math and economics double major at W&L and he has worked in finance since he graduated in 2005. As a managing director at BDT Capital, he focuses on private equity investments in the health care industry.
Tunis majored in physics and mathematics at W&L and is president and chief operating officer of Hardwire LLC, an armor manufacturing company that specializes in protective systems for the military and government, law enforcement and more. “I actually use my physics degree every single day but in a way I never could have imagined as a 21-year-old, and I have loved every minute of it,” she said.
According to LaRiviere, the Science Advisory Board serves a number of important functions that help advance education at W&L in the STEM fields. “The board members meet with students when they come to campus and those interactions with alumni allow the students to see what people can do with a science or math degree outside of academia, and that expands options and introduces them to many possibilities,” he said. In addition, the board advocates on behalf of academic departments to the dean of the college on departmental needs and how they relate to professional demands beyond campus. It also connects alumni back to the sciences and to the university, which LaRiviere said strengthens students’ professional network.
The new endowment will allow even more students to take advantage of opportunities that are truly part of the full W&L experience. “It is exciting when students come back from these summer experiences to hear how they have been able to apply what they learned in the classroom in a real-world setting,” LaRiviere said. “They come back with an increased level of confidence in their abilities and knowledge of science, which is truly a professor’s dream.”
“Dave was really the champion of this idea and got us started on this path,” Tunis said. Ellison had contributed to a similar endowment supporting the Williams School and brought the idea to Tunis. “Dave and I both had opportunities in the summer of our junior years that set us on a course in life, and we just want to help students find and do what it is they love,” Tunis said.
“I am so proud of the board’s focus on the students and on enriching their lives,” Ellison said, who caps off his six-year term at the end of June. “I hope the endowment continues to gain momentum, that others want to contribute, so that it funds opportunities for students for a very long time.”
For more information on supporting the Science Advisory Board Student Opportunities Endowment, please contact Director of Undergraduate Academic Development Nancy McIntyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-458-8291.