New scholarship aims to increase diversity in tech

A newly created scholarship for first-semester students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) will focus on increasing diversity in the tech sector through mentorship and financial support.

Created with a gift of $200,000, The Mike and Rosemary Laphen Scholarship will support five IST students annually with a $10,000 scholarship for a guaranteed four years, as long as the student remains in good standing. Based on their academic accomplishments, qualified students will be invited to apply by the College of IST’s Office of Undergraduate Recruiting.

In addition to financial support, recipients will benefit from personal mentoring from Rosemary Laphen, aimed at helping them succeed in academics and building a strong foundation for their professional success. Through their scholarship, the Laphens hope to support the college’s efforts to increase diversity in technology-related careers.

“From the standpoint of the students, it’s powerful to know that someone is interested in them succeeding in their career,” Rosemary Laphen said.

Rosemary Laphen experienced first-hand how a lack of diversity can affect students during their academic careers. 

“When I attended Penn State, I was an accounting major,” she recounted. “At that time, there were only three other females in the program. That made me personally recognize the value in increasing diversity in a program.”

After graduating at the top of her accounting class and completing a successful career in banking and auditing, Rosemary Laphen was driven to support students whenever she could. Mike Laphen, who was named an Alumni Fellow in 2010 and Distinguished Alumnus in 2014, earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Penn State and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He also previously served on the IST Advisory Board.

The couple, both the first college graduates in their respective families, had previously created the Laphen Family Trustee Scholarship in 2013, also to support IST students. 

“What appeals to us about [IST] was that it’s on the cutting edge,” Rosemary Laphen said. “It’s almost a guarantee that students with good GPAs will be employed in meaningful ways.”

Inspired by the college’s growth and its student successes, the couple is supporting efforts that increase diversity both in the college and the technology industry. They hope the group of chosen students will develop lifelong connections through their common bonds and create professional support systems.

“From my own experience, when you enter a program, it is really nice to have a group of people to connect with,” Rosemary Laphen said. “I want to help these students feel a sense of belonging at IST right from the start.”

That sense of belonging is something the college strives to achieve through its undergraduate programming and academic services. This scholarship adds dimensions of support that will increase the ways in which students can grow.

"The Laphens’ continued generosity will have a tremendous impact on not only the students who will directly benefit but also the technology field where these students are sure to have successful careers after graduation,” said Andrew Sears, dean of IST.

”Penn State tends to attract hard-working, motivated students,” said Rosemary Laphen. “Those are the type of people we would like to lend a hand to.”

The Laphens’ generosity demonstrates the impact of gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends, which have been essential to the success of the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university. Private support will keep the door to higher education open and enable students to graduate on time and on track to success; create transformative experiences on Penn State campuses and around the globe that tap the full potential of Penn Staters to make a difference; and impact the world through discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated November 29, 2017