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Crowdsourcing a scholarship the young alumni way

Students in the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) program can choose from three design-build projects. More than 70 percent choose to build autonomous robots.Students in the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) program can choose from three design-build projects. More than 70 percent choose to build autonomous robots.It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes. It can also take a village—or 120 dedicated Buckeyes—to create a scholarship.

When Liza Toher Reed (’06, ’10, Electrical Engineering) first heard about the Ohio Scholarship Challenge—in which the university will match distribution payments on any newly endowed scholarship of $100,000 or more—she was inspired.

While she couldn’t personally donate $100,000, Reed felt that she could reach that total with a little help from fellow Buckeye engineers. “I remember thinking that my husband and I could commit $10,000 over the next few years and if I could find a few fellow grads to join me, we could meet the challenge’s initial $50,000 endowment requirement.”

Choosing which worthy program to support was easy. As a freshman, Reed had changed her major from math to electrical engineering specifically to participate in the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) program.

FEH provides an accelerated introduction to engineering and challenges students to work in teams on an advanced design-and-build project. She remained active in FEH throughout her academic career, serving as both an undergraduate and graduate teaching assistant.

“I forged lifelong bonds with other students and faculty and saw firsthand the impact the program had on the people involved,” she explained. “The FEH experience stays with you as a student, and supporting fellow students by paying forward is the Buckeye way.”

In order to generate that support, Reed partnered with three other passionate Buckeye engineers, Marc Meckler (’07, Mechanical Engineering), Mark Morscher (’89, Electrical Engineering) and Dan Trares (’06, Computer Science and Engineering).

Together they initiated the FEH Scholarship Challenge last April and matched every dollar donated.

“The idea of a multiplying impact for your gift seemed like something that could resonate with engineering alumni and help young alumni feel like their donation matters,” said Reed.

The team tapped their personal networks and spread the word via emails, which FEH Director Rick Freuler sent to all FEH alumni, and lots of social media posts.

“We made daily social media posts, sent personal thank-yous to donors and shamelessly asked people to repost our messages,” Reed said with a laugh. “But those shameless requests worked. It amazed me how many people said they heard about the challenge because someone they knew had re-posted it for us.”

The challenge was an overwhelming success, raising nearly $25,000 from more than 120 supporters. As promised, the challengers matched that amount and established the FEH Scholarship Endowment, which will provide at least one scholarship each year.

“The FEH family’s willingness to invest in helping sustain the program’s life-changing impact will benefit Buckeye engineering students for generations to come,” said Freuler.

The challengers and additional supporters will also ensure the endowment grows to $100,000 over the next few years, Reed explained, thus qualifying for the Ohio Scholarship Challenge match and ensuring exponential impact on future students.

This story was originally published in Forward, the College of Engineering's giving impact report. Read more giving stories and the full report online.