07:00 AM

Scholarships help grow students and sustainability

When Sarah Male learned through a letter that she was awarded a scholarship supporting her commitment to environmental sustainability at The Ohio State University, she had one thought.

“At first I thought it was a scam,” Male said.

Male, a first-year student majoring in environmental policy and decision-making, international studies and Japanese, was surprised to learn about the ENGIE-Axium Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship because she didn’t apply for it. When she confirmed the award was legitimate, she was overwhelmed.

“I found out it wasn’t a scam and I called my mom on the phone and I was crying and I was like, ‘Mom, you won’t believe it,’” she said.

Male was one of 20 undergraduate students to receive the award, which is being offered for the first time this semester. The scholarship covers the cost of in-state tuition and fees, housing, dining and books. For an Ohio resident on the Columbus campus, the cost of tuition, fees, room and board for the current academic year is about $23,160.

The grants are funded through a new university endowment stemming from the comprehensive energy management partnership.

In 2017, Ohio State entered into an innovative public-private partnership with Ohio State Energy Partners that generated a $1.015 billion upfront payment to the university, plus an additional $150 million commitment to support academic priorities. The university has invested most of the proceeds to date in endowments that provide ongoing support for student scholarships, teaching excellence programs and other priorities.

ENGIE North America and Axium Infrastructure together created Ohio State Energy Partners.

The company’s commitment to academic collaboration includes $25 million for endowed funds that provide scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and professional students based on academic ability, financial need, and a demonstrated interest in sustainability.

The first students to receive the grants were selected by Ohio State’s financial aid office based on criteria developed by the university’s Energy Academic Collaboration Council. Criteria included financial need, academic merit and interest in sustainability. Each scholarship is renewable through the completion of a degree.

Future students at Ohio State will be considered for the scholarship after they complete the university’s special scholarships application and the application for federal student aid.

Male, a Columbus resident, said her interest in sustainability developed while she was a student at Metro Early College High School. The school, created through a partnership between Ohio State and Battelle, offered an early college experience that helped Male learn about environmental science and agriculture.

“I think I really found a passion for sustainability and I especially loved working at the greenhouses on West Campus,” she said. “That’s when I found out that I really wanted to do something within sustainability.”

For Rebecca DeMoss, a first-year student from Cleveland, a love for plants brought her to Ohio State to pursue a horticultural degree. It also helped her receive one of the ENGIE-Axium scholarships.

“My mom always knew I was going to be a plant scientist. She just always knew this,” DeMoss said. “I didn’t realize until halfway through high school that this is really what I loved.”

DeMoss said Ohio State’s horticultural program is the best in the state. She said sustainability is a critical part of what she’s learning in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.

After growing up in a poor part of Cleveland, DeMoss said Ohio State and the scholarship have opened new doors for opportunity.

“Here I have a future. I can see that already,” she said. “There are so many people already helping me – my academic adviser, and I have a peer mentor. Everyone is just really trying to help me and I never got that before so I really appreciate that.”

Both DeMoss and Male see value in Ohio State’s focus on becoming a more sustainable campus. The comprehensive energy management partnership is implementing energy conservation measures to reach the university’s goal of improving energy efficiency by 25 percent over 10 years.

Some of the changes include upgrading the energy systems in more than a dozen buildings to improve their energy efficiency by more than 26 percent on average and converting more than 75,000 indoor light fixtures to energy-efficient LED technology.

The big picture matters to Male, but so does the impact the scholarship has had on her life.

“What they’re doing has helped my family immensely.”