Heather Arbuckle,
head advisor for the College of Science

Years at OSU: 4

City of residence: Corvallis

In OSU’s College of Science, a scholarship program started last school year looks at three criteria when deciding if students are eligible for emergency financial assistance. Are they experiencing an emergency; are they within one school year of graduating; or have they run into barriers that are outside of their control?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for Equity Promise Scholarship funds quickly outstripped the initial amount, as students ran into hardship after hardship: Work hours cut due to the shutdown; loved ones with compromised immune systems restricting the student’s ability to go to their job; parents laid off and no longer able to contribute to the student’s tuition.

“For COVID, we ran out of money really quick,” said College of Science head advisor Heather Arbuckle. As of May 18, 73 COVID-related scholarship applications have been submitted since remote learning began in March. Another 16 recipients have requested renewals of their scholarship money.

Because the COVID money ran out so quickly this quarter, Arbuckle said College of Science Dean Roy Haggerty has been flexible in allocating more funds to the scholarship.

For the first 18 months of the donor-funded Equity Promise Scholarship, Arbuckle was in charge of reviewing applications and distributing money. Now, Student Success Advisor Jen Olarra is handling the applications and student meetings, while Arbuckle oversees the funds. Donors are providing additional emergency funding through the Beavers Care initiative, a partnership between the university and the OSU Foundation.

When the Equity Promise Scholarship began in the 2018-19 school year, only advisors, working with a student, could submit applications for scholarship money, but this school year the college opened it up so that fellow students, faculty or staff on campus can now nominate students via an online recommendation. The only restriction is that the person sending the recommendation can’t be a relative of the student.

The advising office also marketed the scholarship much more broadly so students were aware that the money was available, Arbuckle said.

Olarra reaches out to applicants within 48 hours of their submission and meets with each one to understand their situation and individual need, Arbuckle said.

Advisors also help identify other potential sources of funding on campus. And they work with students to find more sustainable sources of money and develop a financial plan to keep them on track.

Arbuckle said she is impressed with how the dean, scholarship donors, and business affairs and financial aid staff across campus have worked together to avoid any disruption in students’ education.

“It’s the OSU way,” she said. “It’s the OSU community coming together and supporting each other so that we can support the students.”

She added: “We can’t succeed unless our students succeed.”

Have an OSU Unsung Hero suggestion? We are looking for submissions that highlight OSU employees and students who are not typically in the spotlight but are going above and beyond during this pandemic. Send your suggestions to [email protected] and our staff may contact them to conduct remote interviews that we would feature in OSU Today and elsewhere.