A Carnegie Honor

An award from the Carnegie Corporation has ignited support for major initiatives at Stevens.

In September 2017, the Carnegie Corporation of New York recognized seven university presidents with an academic leadership award, including our very own, Nariman Farvardin.

Along with prestige, the award bestows $500,000 that President Farvardin allocated to four student-centric areas: scholarships, study abroad opportunities, summer pre-college, and the emergency fund for students who face sudden financial hardship.

In honoring President Farvardin, Carnegie cited a number of accomplishments for which all of Stevens can be proud. “Building on core strengths in technology and entrepreneurship,” Carnegie said in a statement, “Farvardin invested in more faculty members, support services for students, new academic and research facilities, and classroom technology. He emphasized experiential learning opportunities as a way for students to connect their education to work in their chosen fields, facilitated a 365 percent increase in students participating in international programs, and oversaw increased applications and improved retention and graduation rates.”

“This honor is a recognition of the tremendous progress that has taken place at Stevens over the last few years,” President Farvardin said. “After much thought, I have decided to use the funds associated with the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award to further strengthen our efforts to support academically talented, hard-working and ambitious students who have significant financial need, especially those from underserved communities.”

The summer pre-college program brings some 600 teens to Castle Point and immerses them in college life for up to two weeks. While living in dorms, the teens meet professors, explore academic programs, and collaborate on a project. The program is popular – according to 2017 survey results, 92% of students said they would recommend the program to a friend, 88% said it made them more excited to go to college, and 77% said it increased the likelihood of them applying to Stevens as undergraduates.

Thus, the success of the pre-college program helps explain the university’s significant increase in freshmen applications this decade. “We recognize the value our summer program has both on younger students and on Stevens,” said pre-college director Christie Graziano. “We are looking to grow the program and make it even more fulfilling for those who participate, so that we can continue to see more of them choose Stevens when they’re exploring their college options.”

However, many of the brightest students who could become interested in Stevens by visiting over the summer can’t afford the program costs, especially students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2017, the average family income of pre-college financial aid recipients was $28,539, but Stevens was able to offer help to only 25% of deserving applicants. Thus, in order to avoid losing so many of those interested students, President Farvardin has deemed the pre-college program worthy of a significant share of the Carnegie award.

In addition to helping attract more aspiring minds to Stevens, the Carnegie award will send more enrolled students abroad for an enriching academic and cultural experience. Since the Office of International Programs (OIP) opened in 2014, the number of Stevens students who go abroad for classes, internships or immersive projects has tripled. Some go individually as part of the Pinnacle Scholars package, while others enroll in two-week course trips like professor Ron Besser’s annual tour of Spain’s sustainable energy industry, or the popular School of Business look at the global economy through cities like London and Athens.

“Over the past few years, hundreds of Stevens students got a valuable experience from studying abroad,” said OIP director Susi Rachouh, who curates some 1,500 opportunities on the OIP website and helps students prepare for traveling, especially the many who have never left the United States before. “These students are experiencing new worlds, and they are taking what they encounter overseas with what they learn on campus and are forming new perspectives they can carry into their careers.”

However, while many students are interested in studying abroad, because they expect to work in a globalized economy, many cannot afford travel expenses for multiple weeks without help. Alumni and friends like Dick Sard ’62 and Erik Young have supported trips in recent years, but demand is sure to keep growing, meaning the Carnegie award and related gifts will have an immediate impact on an increasingly important aspect of student success.

The Carnegie award will also help students who find they might have to leave Stevens prematurely. President Farvardin has decided to allocate some of the money to the Impact Assistance Fund for students with a sudden financial need. “Sometimes unforeseen hardships, like a death in the family, sudden disability, or an accident or natural disaster, prevent students from meeting their tuition obligations,” said Ken Nilsen, dean of student life. “When our students face adversities, they can apply for help from the Impact Assistance Fund. This vital account is supported exclusively by gifts and is awarded to students whose change in circumstances prevents them from staying at Stevens and completing their degree.”

Beyond the original $500,000, the Carnegie gift could enrich Stevens even more for the way President Farvardin is using it to highlight the priorities of scholarships, study abroad, pre-college and the emergency fund, especially to benefit students from underrepresented backgrounds or who have financial need.

“On behalf of my fellow trustees, we are proud of President Farvardin,” said the board’s chair, Virginia Ruesterholz ’83. “The Carnegie Corporation honored President Farvardin for his leadership, and he is a successful leader because he has embraced and implemented a bold vision for Stevens. By allocating his award this way, he continues to lead, and we are heartened to see him draw attention to student-centric initiatives we care deeply about.”