Sometimes, scholarships are difficult to find, internships never seem to pay enough, if at all, and "gaining experience" seems to be more of an abstract term rather than a concrete activity.
However, the Prentice Family Foundation's Western New York (WNY) Prosperity Scholarship encompasses all three concepts. The scholarship, which began in the 2009-10 school year, intended to lessen the number of young, talented professionals who leave the WNY area after graduation, the scholarship is for civic-minded students at the University at Buffalo who are committed to the WNY community.
The scholarship assists undergraduate and graduate/professional students who are actively preparing for their careers that further economic development and growth, especially in the WNY region, according to the scholarship's website.
"The scholarship has made me more acutely aware of business in the WNY area. I have gone to more lectures by visiting speakers regarding business, and met businessmen and women from this area," said Ruth Huoh, a 2010 UB graduate with a BA in English and a BS in business administration and a recipient of the scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year, in an e-mail. "I network more because I know that now I have a vested interest in the vitality of this area."
Undergraduate applicants must be at least junior-level students at the commencement of the scholarship period and in an approved major in any of the programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Management's Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program, or in either the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences or the Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences program. Students must have at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
Graduate applicants must be accepted into a UB graduate or professional program in any of the programs offered in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, in the MBA program in the School of Management, or in the MS program in Biotechnology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. These students may apply at any time during their program of study and must be in "excellent" academic standing.
All applicants must be registered full-time students and must demonstrate financial need through an analysis of the submission of a 2011-12 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents in order to calculate this financial need. Additionally, students must participate in a credit-bearing summer internship and complete 300 hours of internship work during the scholarship period in the eight-county WNY region.
"Students who participate in the scholarship program would be getting first-hand work experience in an internship, in a business that is usually directly contributing to Western New York economy," said Michael Torsell, editorial assistant and project administrator in the office of the VP for strategic strengths. "Students who participate in the scholarship program would be getting first-hand work experience in an internship… they get a chance to see how local companies are contributing to Western New York's growth and resurgence."
If the internship does not provide payment to the student, the scholarship will provide a stipend to students for their 300 hours of work. Undergraduate students will receive $12 an hour, while graduate students will receive $15, for a total of $3,600 and $4,500, respectively.
"We've had students do research at Roswell Park [and] we've had students do research on campus. As research is also developing the economy, we've had students work with local companies as well," Torsell said. "[Providing an internship stipend] gives our students more freedom to work where they see the best fit for them and the Western New York economy."
At times, internships may offer more than professional experience in one's field of choice. In addition to building a professional network and contributing to the economic revitalization of the WNY region, many internships may turn into longer-term commitments.
"One of the things that we have found as well, that with our Prosperity Scholarship, upon successful completion of their internships, many [Prosperity Scholars] have been offered professional positions in those businesses and industries in which they interned," said Dr. Beth Del Genio, chief of staff in the Office of the Provost and an adjunct assistant professor in educational leadership and policy. "Our goal has been to provide our students with opportunities to transfer their in-class learning to real-life professional experiences in Western New York businesses and industries. Students get to see the wide array of exciting professional opportunities here in Western New York."
In addition to the internship stipend, there is a tuition-aid portion of the scholarship that will be determined based on the student's demonstrated financial need through FAFSA. Additionally, the scholarship can be renewed from year to year. In 2009-10, $392,993 was distributed to 18 students, and in 2010-11, $219,720 was distributed to 12 students, which included four renewal scholarships.
Applications for the 2011-12 WNY Prosperity Scholarship are due no later than April 1. Approximately 25 to 30 scholarships will be given this year, according to the website. More information, along with the application, can be found online at wnyprosperityscholars.buffalo.edu.
"This is a really exciting scholarship program," Del Genio said. "[Prosperity Scholars] are excited to be… contributors to economic revitalization of our Western New York region."