by Ruth Bruno
The Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics (CSMP) scholarship program is making a difference in the lives of many CCSU Graduate students. By removing the financial burden of attending grad school, to providing them with additional benefits, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be offering approximately 20-25 students up to $5,400 per year through this scholarship.
For CCSU student Melissa Mulcahy, deciding on a major was not a challenging decision. After being introduced to the world of computer science through a high school class, Mulcahy realized she would like to continue in her new-found area of study. “I immediately fell in love with programming. When I was applying to colleges, I did not doubt that I wanted to go into the Computer Science field.”
What was more difficult for Mulcahy, however, was finding the funds to alleviate the “financial burden” that would be placed upon her in the form of a college tuition. It was at this point in her life that the CSMP Scholarship Program stepped in to help. Mulcahy won the scholarship during her freshman year at CCSU.
The scholarship, whose program was established back in 2006, can be renewed upon review of the academic performance of scholars. The NSF says it’s main purpose is to “attract and retain academically talented and underrepresented students from low-income and disadvantaged families to achieve degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics.”
According to Dr. Stan Kurkovsky, program director and Chair of the Computer Science Department, the scholarship is given to students who can demonstrate high academic potential as well as a need for the funds.
“The hopes are that [the students] are going to continue, either being employed, or ideally attending graduate school in their respected disciplines,” said Kurkovsky.
Though Mulcahy was helped financially by the scholarship program, she says the benefits did not end there. Mulcahy attended several conferences in game development and research as well as computers in education with other members of the program. She says that due to the program’s student-faculty relationship, she has been able to do two research projects with Kurkovsky.
“The program has opened me up to opportunities that I would never had had before,” says Mulcahy. “If I had to pick the major benefit of the CSMP Program, it would be the experience it provided.”
Mulcahy plans to move on from CCSU to get a Masters degree in software engineering. She encourages other students to apply.
“The opportunities presented by the program should not be passed up,” she says, “Without the aid of this scholarship, I am not sure if I would be where I am.”
For some students, the scholarship program’s most helpful attribute was not monetary, or even tangible.
“It gave me a shot of confidence that someone had reviewed my information and thought that my future was worth supporting,” said Hannah Hocutt, who won the scholarship during her freshman year and applied it towards a degree in Physics. “Physics appeals to me because it is so obvious in everyday life. It’s the study of the basic clockwork of the universe, and it is so, so beautiful in its simple elegance,” said Hocutt.
According to Dr. Ivan Gotchev, professor of mathematics and faculty member of the CSMP program, dedication to a CSMP discipline, as Hocutt has exemplified, is a main factor in deciding which students become part of the program, helping to assist the scholarship program in meeting its goals.
“Our program has been very successful,” said Gotchev. “We have been able to help many minorities, female, and first-generation students in financial need to come to study at CCSU and to graduate within four years.”