Pitzer College Students Receive Life-Changing STEM Scholarships

Claremont, Calif. (January 28, 2016)—Five Pitzer College students are one step closer to becoming physicians because of life-changing Rose Hills Foundation STEM scholarships.

The scholarships are part of a four-year $750,000 grant from the Rose Hills Foundation to Pitzer College, beginning this academic year. They are awarded to high-achieving students from Southern California who show passion and aptitude for STEM studies and plan to major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The students are: Theresa Dang ’18, from San Diego; Patricia Doan ’16, from Riverside; Karan Patel ’16, from West Covina; Maria Rivera ’17, from Riverside; and Erick Cruz-Grave ’19, from Los Angeles. They are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university.

All five say that without the foundation’s generous scholarship support, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to realize their dreams of attending medical school after graduation.

“The scholarship tells me that others see I am working toward a goal worth fighting for,” said Doan, who plans to be a general practitioner. “It lets me focus on my studies without my family worrying about paying for tuition and books.”

The scholarships, granted in varying amounts based on individual financial need, first go toward paying off student loans, then toward Pitzer-based aid, and then provide a monetary stipend. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years as long as the students maintain the scholarship criteria, which include a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Robin Thompson, Pitzer’s director of financial aid, said, “With these additional funds, we’ve offset some of the financial pressures that we know students feel, with the goal that they will have less financial pressure and more time to focus on their academic interests.”

“I was working 10 hours a week to sustain living in college,” said Dang, whose goal is to become an osteopathic physician. “Now, I have time to focus on studies.”

Aside from being excellent students, the STEM scholarship recipients all share a deep interest in social responsibility, one of Pitzer’s core values—some from a very young age.

Dang said that when she was in kindergarten, she told her mother, “I want to be a trash collector in the morning to keep the community clean and a doctor in the afternoon to make people better.”

Today, Dang is working hard—not only for herself, but for her community—to realize her dream of becoming a doctor. “There’s a lot of pressure as a first-generation college student,” she said. “I’m not just going to college for me, but for my parents and for hundreds before and after me.”

Cruz-Grave, a first-year student who plans to major in human or molecular biology, intends to become a gastroenterologist. A few years ago he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (it’s now in remission), and he aims to help people with similar medical conditions. “I want to give service to others,” he said.

Patel, who is pursuing a major in molecular biology and a minor in economics, has worked as a volunteer at a leprosy center in India and speaks Hindi and Gujarati as well as some Spanish and Urdu. He hopes to eventually set up his own medical practice.

Rivera, who is majoring in chemistry with a minor in Spanish, said: “I was struggling a lot in organic chemistry last year. I wondered if I should drop the class and put off my dream of becoming a doctor.”

A visiting professor shared that she also had struggled academically in college and almost quit. “Don’t let one class stop you or determine your future,” she told Rivera.

“That motivated me,” Rivera said, and she passed the class. “I can’t give up now.”

The students all expressed surprise at receiving the grants, followed by enormous gratitude, to both the Rose Hills Foundation and to Pitzer College for ongoing support.

Thompson said, “I hope these students are encouraged to continue in their respective fields, and recognize their academic accomplishments, because they are the future leaders in the STEM fields.”