Dean Andrew Sears establishes educational equity scholarship at College of IST

September 29, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology, Andrew Sears has seen first-hand how careers in the information sciences can transform lives. But he also knows those opportunities are not always accessible for everyone -- often because of an individual’s financial struggles in securing a degree or due to the significant diversity gap in the field.

In response to those challenges and motivated in part by the significant social justice issues across the country, Sears and his wife, Beth, have made a gift to establish the Andrew and Beth Sears Educational Equity Scholarship in the College of IST. As part of the University’s Educational Equity Matching Program, Penn State will provide a 1:1 match from University funds to create a permanent endowment.

“I’ve spent years working to increase diversity in the disciplines addressed by the College of Information Sciences and Technology,” said Sears. “We can establish all sorts of programs to support increasing diversity, and they are helpful, but to make progress we also need to make sure a Penn State education in this area is accessible. The financial barriers are real.”

He added, “This scholarship will contribute to two goals at the same time: it will help make a Penn State education in this area more accessible for individuals with financial need while simultaneously contributing to our efforts to increase diversity in the field.”

Jason Gines, associate dean for inclusion and diversity at the College of IST, said that the dean’s financial support reinforces the college’s commitment to the ideals and principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Through the establishment of an educational equity scholarship, Dean Sears speaks to not only current students, but also to prospective students, as a leader who is concerned about their experience from the time they arrive at IST to the time that they leave,” said Gines. “It says ‘This is who we are as a college. This is what we should be and aspire to be aligned with.’”

At the college of IST, 15% of the undergraduate student population comes from underrepresented populations. In the workforce, the numbers are similar — 7.4% of tech jobs are filled by Black employees and 8% by Latinx employees.

“The college’s programs, in one way or another, all deal with the question of how we help individuals leverage information and computing technologies to solve complex problems,” said Sears. “In this context, increasing the diversity of the workforce means there are more perspectives at the table, which increases creativity, allowing for teams to be more innovative and to develop better solutions more quickly.”

He concluded, “From a very practical perspective, increasing diversity is necessary if we want to help people and organizations make the best decisions and develop the best solutions in a fast and efficient way.”

To make a gift to scholarships supporting diversity, equity and inclusion at the College of IST, visit ist.psu.edu/alumni-donors/give or contact Mike Weyandt, director of development, at 814-863-0215 or mjw134@psu.edu.

The Educational Equity Matching Program offers alumni and friends the opportunity to partner with the University in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Penn State. Through June 30, 2022, or until the $10 million pool of matching support is expended, donors can multiply the impact of new scholarships for students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the Penn State community. This support will help to fulfill Penn State’s historic land-grant mission — to reach all citizens of our Commonwealth through teaching, research, and service — and drive transformation across the institution and the larger world.  Learn more at raise.psu.edu/EEMP.

Gifts made through the Educational Equity Matching Program will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated September 30, 2020