THE CAMPAIGN FOR UW BOTHELL, 2010-2020

Avanade fuels STEM scholarships and mentorship programs

Avanade FUEL conference

A new scholarship program for women pursuing STEM degrees extends well beyond generous financial support.

Laura Avila is almost breathless when she describes a turning point for UW Bothell’s School of STEM at the start of the 2018 academic year: Avanade, a global company headquartered in Seattle that specializes in digital transformation, had selected UW Bothell as a partner in establishing a new scholarship fund for women in STEM.

“This had never happened at the school before, and it was such a generous scholarship,” says Laura, the director of undergraduate academic services.

“As we thought of evolving our programs,” explains Heba Ramzy, corporate citizenship senior director at Avanade, “we realized that we didn’t have a STEM scholarship partner in the region where we are headquartered.

“Then we met with the school’s dean at UW Bothell, and we got excited — about the school, the students, the energy.”

MEETING STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE

“We’re a perfect fit for a number of factors,” says Heba, noting the school’s location within the Seattle region’s tech corridor. She also cites the strength of the UW Bothell program that evolved to meet growing demand in Washington for STEM professionals.

It builds upon a commitment to educating more women and first-generation students, which aligns with Avanade’s goal to help address issues of social justice. Currently, 30% of UW Bothell’s STEM students are women, which is about 10% higher than the national average.

In the 2019-20 academic year, the Avanade STEM Scholarship program includes 10 scholars who are all encouraged to reapply for funds every year to ensure they get the support they need to graduate.

“The staff at Avanade are so committed to the scholarship mission,” says Laura, “that they directed an internal prize to a new ‘Avanade People’s STEM Scholar’ fund, which will go to yet another UW Bothell student in 2020.”

One of the current scholars is senior Jessela Budiman, a first-generation college student. She started as a Running Start student, taking classes at a community college while still a junior in high school. She eventually transferred to UW Bothell to pursue a degree in Computer Science & Software Engineering.

As a recipient of an Avanade STEM Scholarship, she says she now aspires to achieve even more.

“I was spending a lot of time trying to cover college expenses,” Jessela says. “Then the scholarship gave me financial support that enabled me to fully focus on my classes and projects.

“It’s like finding a home,” she adds. “As a woman in STEM, I was conscious of the gender ratio, but Avanade has made me realize I’m not alone. I’ve gotten a chance to meet many successful women in technology who have paved the way and inspired the younger generation.

“My confidence has really grown, and I thank Avanade for that.”

A FIRST OF MANY FIRSTS

The Avanade partnership with UW Bothell has also included a number of firsts.

To celebrate 2019 International Women’s Day last March, Avanade hosted a full day of staff discussions and inspirational talks from Avanade leadership at its company headquarters and broadcast to all offices around the globe. Heba decided to open it to the students from UW Bothell so they could participate with the rest of the company. “It was a special invitation — something we wanted to do with our new partner,” she says.

For many students, it was the first time they had access to a formal forum where they could hear directly from global business executives who are women. For some students, the event was also the first time they had ever visited downtown Seattle. And it was here that many of the scholars first identified their Avanade mentors.

The event was a revelation to the students: The possibilities before them were tremendous.

In another first last June, Avanade hosted an intensive, five-day experience for its scholars at the inaugural FUEL: Innovation, Leadership and Technology Conference at California Polytechnic State University. Avanade flew students in from UW Bothell and the New Jersey Institute of Technology so they could join their counterparts at Cal Poly in the conference’s hackathons, panels on human-centered design thinking and a variety of skill-building sessions.

The Avanade program at UW Bothell is also distinctive for the way it helps students learn how to develop and drive professional mentor relationships. In return, mentors encourage and empower the UW Bothell students as they prepare for their careers, guiding them to leverage Avanade’s rich network of contacts and opportunities.

“A mentor is a sounding board, someone with whom the scholar can explore a multitude of opportunities,” says Heba, noting that staff at Avanade who take on a mentor role consider it a badge of pride. Avanade’s own incoming CEO Pam Maynard participated as a mentor for one of the students.

A NETWORK FOR LIFE

For maximum impact, the Avanade STEM Scholarship program at UW Bothell is designed to be holistic, says Heba.

“It’s beyond economic support,” she says. “Events, skill-building sessions and workshops show students how the sector approaches clients, solves problems and comes up with strategies to engage with clients. It prepares them to engage in that process themselves.”

The program is committed to building a more diverse and dynamic digital workforce in the future as well.

“Being part of a bigger community is important for women in STEM,” Heba says. “We have established an international network of 12 schools and 67 scholars. That’s a global network of like-minded people who will open doors for one another.”

The company recently expanded its engagement by offering internships to both STEM and business students. “This is a paid opportunity and gives first-hand experience in the technology field and the possibility of working directly with clients,” says Heba.

“We are also building a closer relationship with the faculty so we can look for other ways to collaborate.”

In reflecting on the program’s impact, students say they will draw on their experiences and new connections throughout their careers.

“It has inspired me to approach challenges with an open mind, and I have a network of people with that shared experience,” says Jessela. “I am so thankful and so grateful.”