Donor

Landmark Gift Will Support Graduate Education in STEM

A $1.75 million gift to the UNC Graduate School will promote access and equity among graduate students by reducing student debt.

A graduate student holds up a beaker to examine a solution in the Marsico Lab at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A $1.75 million gift to the UNC Graduate School will promote access and equity among graduate students by reducing student debt.

Women and others have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields.

An anonymous donor has provided a bequest that will increase graduate student diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) — and reduce debt for hundreds of future students.

The Graduate School has received a $1.75 million gift — among the largest in school history — from an anonymous donor. The gift will ultimately support hundreds of graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a preference to those who enhance the overall diversity of the Graduate School’s student body across STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Suzanne Barbour, dean of The Graduate School, said this gift will have an enduring impact on graduate students at Carolina and will provide opportunities to enhance diversity across many areas. “The donor’s gift will do more than just support individual students — it will support an educational and research culture that promotes innovation, creativity and success,” Barbour said.

The donor, a UNC-Chapel Hill alum who was the first in their extended family to attend a four-year college, hopes this gift will encourage others to support graduate education. “The reason I really wanted to support graduate students is, by that time, students really know where they’re heading,” the donor said.

The donor also said they supported graduate education programs in STEM because they wanted to ease the burden of student debt for graduate students who may also have debt from their undergraduate studies. “If we expect someone in the scientific fields to succeed in graduate school, we need to ensure they can focus on their studies and not wind up in more debt,” they said.

Graduate and professional students at Carolina comprise nearly 40% of the student body, and graduate education is often an avenue to launch students’ professional careers, whether in industry or in academia. As an undergraduate alum, the donor sees the benefit of investing in The Graduate School, which supports graduate students across a multitude of fields.

By minimizing potential debt, the gift will enable Carolina’s graduate programs to attract top students and alleviate the financial pressure for graduate students that comes with publishing a thesis or a dissertation—research that can directly impact societal issues, including wellness and health outcomes, and will allow Carolina to remain at the forefront of higher education.

The donor encouraged others to give if they are able, especially to graduate education, which has a far-reaching and significant impact at the University and for North Carolinians.

“Do the most good for the most people,” they said. “Whatever you think deserves your support—do it.”

This gift supports the Campaign for Carolina, the most ambitious university fundraising campaign in the Southeast and in University history. The campaign launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by Dec. 31, 2022.

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