Research Park Helps Minority Students Build Their American Dream

By Stacey Smart, a freelance writer based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

February 2018

Marisol Ramos helps detect different types of patient cancers. Staining tissue slides utilizing a selection of more than 170 antibodies, her work is critical to countless people who rely on her for answers about their health.

But Ramos may not have been able to pursue a career in immunohistochemistry if it weren’t for a special technology scholarship she received while attending Alverno College. Graduating with a major in molecular biology, Ramos credits the scholarship as the reason she could further her studies to obtain a minor in chemistry, which landed her a position at Wisconsin Diagnostics Laboratories as an anatomic pathology technical assistant.

After learning that minorities were underrepresented in science and technology majors at colleges and universities in the greater Milwaukee region, former Milwaukee County Supervisor, Lee Holloway, set out to change that by founding a scholarship that specifically encouraged minority students to enter fields such as computer science, chemistry and biology. The Lee Holloway Technology Scholarships for Minority Students program was created by the Milwaukee County Research Park Corporation in the year 2000. Now in its sixteenth year, the scholarship has helped numerous young men and women follow their dreams and make important contributions to society.

Pakistan-native, Ghulam Khan, says that receiving this scholarship was, “one of the best things that ever happened to me.” This entrepreneur knew it would be difficult for his parents to put six children through college. But when the 2005 graduate of Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) received the technology scholarship, it helped the family in a big way.

Khan, who majored in electrical engineering with minors in physics and math, began his 11-year-career at Rockwell Automation while still a student at MSOE and became the subject matter expert on Rockwell’s power and energy management products. He then spent several years at Mitsubishi Electric before starting his own business, Automation & Energy Management Services, LLC. As a consultant for several Fortune 500 companies, Khan provides engineering support to both commercial and industrial sectors.

Administered by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), the minority scholarship program awards four students each year – two juniors and two seniors – with $5,000 each ($2,500 per semester). As a result, these scholars typically receive $10,000 over two academic years.

“Since 2001, the Research Park has provided scholarships totaling $250,000 to 34 students,” says Mary Ellen Powers, executive vice president of MMAC. “It’s a life-changing opportunity for these deserving recipients, opening doors they may not have otherwise had access to. All of these students have gone on to take well-paying employment in various scientifc and technology felds.”

Puerto Rican-born Hector Quintero recalls the time before receiving the Lee Holloway Technology Scholarship as being one of the hardest periods of his life. Quintero spent long days waiting tables early in the morning and late at night with classes, tutoring and studying sandwiched in between. Quintero says, “Once I received the scholarship, I was able to reduce my hours working and increase my hours studying.” This computer science major is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) and is a software engineer at Dematic Reddwerks. “There is no doubt in my mind that this scholarship fueled my path to graduation by allowing me to focus more on my education and less on financing school.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be: from Milwaukee County and of African American, Asian American, Hispanic, or Native American ancestry; majoring in one of the natural sciences, corresponding engineering elds, or mathematical and information sciences; and attending a four-year baccalaureate program within Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha, or Walworth counties.

The scholarship money is donated by property owners at the Milwaukee County Research Park. The research development fund, as it’s called, is also used to sponsor other technology-focused events, such as local science fairs. “Businesses in the Research Park are quite dedicated to community involvement,” notes Guy Mascari, executive director, Milwaukee Regional Innovation Center, “and are therefore very supportive of this program and appreciate their contributions being put to such good use.”

Working full time while going to college is a challenge for anyone, but imagine also being a single mother of two boys. This was the predicament that Samantha Williams (Teichmiller) found herself in ten years ago while majoring in biology at Alverno College. Fortunately, things became less stressful when she received the technology scholarship. “I was able to work less so I could concentrate more on my schooling,” says Williams. This 2010 graduate is now a quality manager at Fair Oaks Farms in Pleasant Prairie.

“The technology scholarship does more than help pay for tuition,” points out Angela Frey, Ph.D., associate dean of natural science, mathematics and technology and professor of biology at Alverno College. “It helps students focus on their studies by easing their finances. If students must find work to help cover tuition costs, they’ll typically pursue higher-paying options that
often have nothing to do with their career ambitions instead of accepting a position that offers professional experience in their field but may pay less. The scholarship removes this pressure, allowing the student to zero in on school and seek valuable professional development that may be found in an unpaid internship or lower-wage position.”

In addition, Frey says the scholarship gives students recognition for their hard work in fields where minority students are still the minority. The scholarship underscores the academic aspirations of the scholarship recipient, while boosting confidence and providing a sense of belonging. “As a professor and mentor, I’ve seen the benefits of this scholarship firsthand,” says Frey.

Born and raised in Zoeknog, Mpumalanga, South Africa, Jimmy Shabangu is a UWM student majoring in information science and technology and a recent recipient of the Lee Holloway Technology Scholarship for Minority Students. “I am so thankful for this scholarship because aside from being a student, I am also a husband and father,” says Shabangu. “The scholarship has taken a large amount of financial burden off my shoulders and given me freedom to finish my degree faster without incurring large amounts of debt.” Currently a web services administrator for MSOE, Shabangu says, “The scholarship has truly set me on a path to success.”

Gregg Tushaus, member of the selection committee since the scholarship’s inception and former building owner in the Research Park, says the technology scholarship is a great tool for promoting economic development in this part of the state. “We encourage the recipients to remain in the Milwaukee area after graduation to apply their skills locally, and many of them do,” Tushaus says.

By giving back to support the workforce of tomorrow, the Milwaukee County Research Park has helped worthy individuals like Ramos, Khan, Quintero, Williams, Shabangu and many others excel in technological fields. Their success is a testament to the powerful and far-reaching effects of the technology scholarship – effects felt not only by the recipient, but throughout
the community as well.

“I am very grateful for this scholarship,” says Ramos, who also teaches anatomy and physiology laboratory courses at Alverno College and is aspiring to earn a master’s degree in health sciences. “It has impacted my life in a great way.”

For more information about Research Park scholarships, contact Guy Mascari.


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