More Than a Ticket to Ride: The Scholarship Programs

With help from philanthropy, MSU is able to create scholarship programs that offer an infrastructure of support to help meet students' needs.

students celebrate graduation at the Spartan statue

More Than a Ticket to Ride: The Scholarship Programs

With help from philanthropy, MSU is able to create scholarship programs that offer an infrastructure of support to help meet students' needs.

Think about what it might be like to get admission to the world’s most exciting theme park...without ever having been to a theme park before.

These programs are to a successful experience at MSU as maps, park guides, and the buddy system are to a successful day at the theme park.

The Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholars Program

Detroit M.A.D.E.—which stands for Mastering Academics Demonstrating Excellence—offers participants community service and outreach opportunities, mentorships with peers and professionals, dedicated advising, leadership development and preparation for life or continuing education after graduation, and financial support for an education abroad experience.

The program offers high-impact experiences that are tailored to students’ interests, including service-learning opportunities in and around the city of Detroit.

FACT: service projects in 2019, 2021, and 2022 brought together over 100 students, staff, and alumni of the Detroit M.A.D.E. program to help Detroit-based nonprofit Rescue MI Nature Now with efforts to develop urban gardening spaces that provide fresh food and nature-based educational programs in communities within the city.


The STARR Scholarship

The STARR Scholars program began in 1998 with a gift from anonymous donors who wished to provide full-ride scholarships to students from Wyoming to attend MSU. Three scholarships were awarded that year. The program expanded to include students in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2012. In its 25-year history, the scholarship covered tuition, fees, books, room and board, and incidental expenses for 230 students.

FACT: Originally named after a beloved family pet (a dog named—you guessed it—Starr), the STARR scholarship was funded exclusively through gifts from the same donors for its entire two-and-a-half-decade existence. Though the program will officially end with the 2022/2023 school year, all students being supported by a STARR scholarship will continue to receive funding through the completion of their undergraduate degree.

STARR Scholar and 2023 graduate Evan Griffis was drawn to MSU by the prospect of majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife, which would help him make a career out of a lifelong love of birding.

The Gupta Values Scholarship

Created through a $2.5 million endowment in 2016 by alumnus Shashikant (Shashi) Gupta and his wife Margaret, the Gupta Values Scholarship offers a $5,000 tuition award to a cohort of 20 students annually, renewable each year. Students are diverse in every way, from their backgrounds to their chosen fields of study, and are selected based on their commitment to the values of integrity, excellence and human dignity—values that have guided the lives and careers of the scholarship’s benefactors. Recipients also have access to leadership opportunities and support for off-campus educational experiences. Past recipients have expressed deep gratitude for the “village of support” they have, which includes  fellow members of their cohort, a team of dedicated advisors, and Shashi and Margaret Gupta themselves.

FACT: the Guptas’ $2.5M in 2016 has grown to a value of nearly $3.1M in 2022. It currently distributes 20 $5,000 scholarships per year, but could have the capacity to support 600 students per year by 2035.

Gupta Values Scholars in 2018.

The Vanderploeg Scholarship

A portion of alumnus Martin Vanderploeg’s $17 million gift in 2022 launched the Vanderploeg Scholars Program, which is tailored to first-generation students in any major, for whom navigating college may be especially challenging. Vanderploeg Scholars meet regularly with dedicated advisors, who take an individualized approach to each student’s success and help open doors to additional scholarships, summer bridge programs, mentorship opportunities and study abroad.

Says Vanderploeg Scholar Alyssa Konesky, “As a second-year student, it was hard to find scholarships that weren’t geared only towards incoming first-year students. I remember getting the email that I had received the scholarship and going up to my mom and saying, ‘Hey! I got a scholarship!’ It was really exciting. I come from a low-income family, where money and finance for my education is really hard to come by.  But even outside of the financial aspect of this program, I have taken part in a lot of professional development experiences on campus—things like how to prepare for an interview and how to do an elevator pitch. I also got the opportunity to bond with other first-generation students and have gotten involved in undergraduate research.”

FACT: 21% of MSU’s student population is comprised of first-generation college students.

I’m so grateful for everything that this program has done for me, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

The Dow STEM Scholars Program

Funded in 2014 through a $5 million gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Dow STEM scholars program has two main criteria: students who apply must be majoring in a STEM field, and they must have tested into a specific math class (MTH 103A, which is a very common prerequisite for many other math and science courses) on their math placement exam.

At the time the program recruited its first cohort of students in 2015, the six-year graduation rate of STEM majors who took MTH 103A was roughly 30%. With the help of the Dow STEM Scholars Program, 48% of its first cohort graduated within five years—proof that providing students dedicated academic and social support services, prerequisite classes that are more tailored to their needs, and financial support to pursue high-impact learning experiences, research opportunities, or education abroad, are a highly effective way to increase their chances of success.

FACT: the success of the Dow STEM program’s custom-designed summer and fall math courses was the catalyst for a university-wide change to make some of MSU’s math curriculum more accessible to the wide, diverse population of students who need it to pursue a STEM degree program.


Author: Devon Barrett, '11