CORVALLIS, Ore. – Thanks to new scholarships at Oregon State University funded by two of Oregon’s major electric utility companies, engineering students from rural Oregon towns like Ontario, Klamath Falls, Gilchrist and others are able to focus more on studying and less on how they’ll pay for college.
Pacific Power and the Portland General Electric Foundation recently gave $25,000 each for scholarships at the OSU College of Engineering. Both companies are longstanding supporters of OSU, having provided more than $1 million each to the university in support of various programs and scholarships, including gifts to the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility.
The new scholarship gifts are aimed at helping students excel in OSU’s engineering program, a source of new engineers for the utilities that employ a significant number of OSU graduates.
Pacific Power’s gift adds to its Pacific Power Scholars program in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, where the company has invested $75,000 in scholarships since 2008. One of the new Pacific Power Scholars is Ben Porter, who grew up in the small Central Oregon town of Gilchrist and is a senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering.
“The Pacific Power scholarship has enabled me to focus on my classes and coursework, rather than worrying about how I’ll pay for my education,” said Porter, who lost his father, a log home builder, in a motorcycle accident in 1998. His mother is a school teacher, and his sister, Ellen, is majoring in computer science at OSU.
After graduation Porter wants to design systems that enable more efficient use of power in home appliances, electric vehicles and industry. “In the future, power consumption and generation will only become more of a problem, and I would like to contribute to the solution,” he said.
“Supporting education, and particularly the education of tomorrow’s engineers, is a high priority for Pacific Power,” said the company’s vice president of customer and community affairs, Pat Egan, who holds a degree in history from Oregon State and serves on the OSU Alumni Association board of directors.
“Well-educated, creative engineers are key to finding solutions to the world’s energy challenges,” Egan said. “We’re investing in these people, and we’re counting on them to help us meet those challenges as a company, a state and a nation. We’re pleased to partner with Oregon State via the Pacific Power Scholars program as a win-win-win – for the student scholars, for OSU and for Pacific Power.”
The PGE Foundation gift has established a new OSU scholarship program, the PGE Scholars. These students receive $5,000 and work closely with mentors at PGE, some of whom are OSU alumni.
“PGE is proud to support students at one of the nation’s top engineering schools,” said PGE president and CEO Jim Piro, who holds a civil engineering degree from OSU and serves as a trustee of the OSU Foundation. “By partnering engineering students with engineers working at PGE, we can provide these students an opportunity to shadow our engineers and learn about some of the innovative projects we are developing for Oregon’s energy future.”
Two of the PGE Scholars this year are Heather Rysenga from Ontario, Ore., and Victoria Chang from Klamath Falls. Both were valedictorians of their high schools. Rysenga is a sophomore studying electrical and computer engineering who is interested in robotics.
Chang is a senior in mechanical engineering. Her mother came to the United States from China and works at Safeway in Klamath Falls, and her father, also Chinese, came to the U.S. via Vietnam and recently retired as an assembly line worker at JELD-WEN Windows and Doors. Victoria and her siblings are the first generation of her family to attend college (both her sisters are also at OSU, studying nutrition and veterinary medicine).
Chang said the PGE scholarship has been invaluable. “I’ve basically had to work since I was a sophomore in high school, and I’ve been working 20-25 hours a week while at OSU,” she said. “Thanks to the PGE scholarship, and other scholarships I’ve won, this is the first time I don’t have to work as much.”
Ron Adams, dean of engineering at OSU, said the PGE and Pacific Power scholarship programs not only help engineering students excel, but also foster collaboration between OSU and local companies, resulting in a workforce trained to meet specific industry needs.
“We’re grateful to both Pacific Power and the PGE Foundation for supporting our students in this very impactful way,” Adams said. “This helps our students become top engineers while also connecting Oregon’s leading energy companies to the innovative research and workforce development we do here at Oregon State.”
These gifts are part of The Campaign for OSU, the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. Guided by OSU’s strategic plan, the campaign has raised more than $650 million to provide opportunities for students, strengthen the Oregon economy, and conduct research that changes the world.