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Mikaylah Gross and Hannah Roper in caps and gowns at commencement

2018 grads already giving back by establishing a new SoIC scholarship

December 13, 2018

(Story submitted by Cory Aiello)

Mikaylah Gross (BS Informatics ‘16 and MS Human Computer Interaction ’18) and Hannah Roper (BS Informatics ‘18) are recent IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI (SoIC) graduates already making a difference by giving back to their school.  They have stepped up together to establish the Make Your Mark Scholarship to benefit current SoIC students who are making a positive difference in the world using technology. For Gross and Roper, this scholarship is both the fulfillment of a long-time goal and a way to honor their time at SoIC.

When considering what attracted them to SoIC early in their college careers, both Gross and Roper used the same word:  Community.

Remembering her early search for a major at IUPUI, Gross said, “I felt frustrated in my previous degree program, like I was wasting my money while not finding exactly what I was looking for. Then, I ran into Vicki Daugherty, who knew me from a previous award I won in high school. She mentioned that I should try out SoIC, which prompted me to sample a few class offerings. Right away, I knew that this school was a much better fit for me. There is a sense of community within SoIC, because everybody feels like family and is supportive of each other’s goals and aspirations. I loved that SoIC made my degree feel unique and customizable.”

Roper agreed, stating “I owe so much of who I am today to SoIC and specifically to Vicki Daugherty.  As I was deciding between IUB and IUPUI, I met with her to talk about the campus and SoIC overall. In that two-hour meeting, she showed me the community and family-like atmosphere that SoIC had cultivated. SoIC and the Informatics degree was the perfect fit for me because I could still be true to who I am while helping others find their passions in tech.”

Vicki Daugherty, SoIC diversity coordinator said “In my role, I have had the privilege to work with many great SoIC students over the years and I have seen Mikaylah and Hannah foster a sense of belonging in others while instilling confidence in them as well as the desire to pursue careers in technology.  These dedicated women have also set the bar for near-peer mentoring activities as part of the Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) program in Indianapolis area high schools.  I was overwhelmed about their establishment of the Make Your Mark Scholarship as young professionals just starting their careers.  But I am not surprised, as this generosity reflects who they are as people.”

Catalysts for positive change

SoIC provided many opportunities for Gross and Roper that went beyond what they considered the typical college experience. Hannah remembered, “Mikaylah and I met each other through STARS Computing Corps, and we became the type of friends who push each other to pursue their life-long dreams and go in search of what makes you happy, aka best friends.” Gross was able to check a number of items off what she calls her “mental bucket list” as she completed her career at SoIC, including traveling the world, leading women in tech organizations, and teaching several classes and workshops.  But there was one particular item on the list to which she kept returning.

“I kept saying to myself that I wanted to start a scholarship, but it wasn’t a wise decision financially for what I could afford at the time, so I chose to focus on finishing my education. The minute I graduated, I reflected back on the list in my mind and thought, ‘Oh, I still haven’t accomplished this’. I actually reached out to Hannah and said, ‘I have this idea. I really want to start a scholarship, and you’re going to have to tell me if that sounds crazy or not.’ Right away, she stated ‘no it’s not, because I’ll do it with you.’”

In determining the requirements for their scholarship, it was important to Gross and Roper to make as many SoIC students eligible as possible, while ensuring that the recipient demonstrated passion in the field of informatics and computing. “It’s open to any student who is intrinsically motivated to make a difference in the field of technology, whether it be in the industry, academia, or through service leadership.” Gross continued, “We’ve seen shining examples of these students at our school already, so we would like to recognize and support them with hopes that they will continue pursuing their passions and inspiring future generations of technology leaders.

“Any sophomore, junior or senior from or outside of Indiana may qualify. In addition, there is no minimum GPA requirement, because I believe that GPA doesn’t truly represent the talent, passion, and drive that someone might have towards technology; rather I think it’s the engagement, involvement, and impact that shows a more accurate reflection of a student’s efforts to learn and grow.  As long as the student is in good academic standing, they will have an opportunity for this scholarship.” They decided to call it the Make Your Mark Scholarship because, as Roper explained, “We are always striving to make our mark wherever we go and whoever we encounter because the world needs more change makers. No matter how small the action, anything can be that catalyst for positive change.”

Mikaylah and Hannah hope that their scholarship can help as many students as possible while inspiring others to give back in whatever way they can. “I’m hoping that in the near future, we can either make this a recurring scholarship to support students for up to three years, or provide more scholarships to expand to even more students,” Mikaylah said.

If you would like to learn how to contribute to the Make Your Mark Scholarship, or if you would like to contribute to SoIC in another way, please contact SoIC’s Director of Development Stacy Zearing at szearing@iupui.edu.

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