Purdue Engineering announces Project Bridge with $5 million gift for minority student scholarships

WEST LAFAYETTE — In support of one of Purdue University’s Next Moves to increase the number of underrepresented Boilermakers on the West Lafayette campus and to support their success as students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the College of Engineering announces a five-year program.

Project Bridge has been established with a generous $5 million gift from benefactors Bill Uhrig (BSAAE ’82) and Anastasia Vournas. It is the first major achievement toward the Board of Trustees’ recent unveiling of its goal of securing private resources toward this effort at the university.

J. William Uhrig, and Anastasia Vournas, photo – Patrick McMullan/ PatrickMcMullan.com

Project Bridge will test a variety of approaches to attracting and retaining underrepresented minority students and preparing them for success on and beyond the Purdue campus. A data-driven approach will identify the opportunities that most affect the desired outcomes so that the college knows where to make its continuing investments. This investment will be complemented by funds from the Purdue Next Moves’ Equity Task Force initiative in support of faculty hiring, postdoctoral positions and/or programmatic purposes.

“Without a Purdue education, my life would not have been the same,” Uhrig said. “I would like every interested student to have that same opportunity. Unfortunately, there are barriers to many students. Project Bridge is intended to identify the critical barriers for underrepresented minorities and enable Purdue to eliminate such barriers.”

Over the past decades, steady progress has been made in the number of Hispanic/Latinx students and women engineering students. As part of the university’s Next Moves initiative, the College of Engineering will work to ensure that all members of the engineering community have the opportunity to experience all that Purdue has to offer while approaches are tested, data gathered and the most effective long-term investments identified. 

First-year funds of this program are being used already to bolster scholarship offers to make them more competitive, expand Minority Engineering Program activities to recruit and support engineering students, facilitate a new HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) partnership and high school, and conduct a student success factor study to identify those elements that best predict the success of potential Boilermakers. Another aspect of Project Bridge is an annual review to critically assess results obtained and help identify where to allocate funds for the following year. 

In addition to Uhrig and Vournas’ generosity, other recent philanthropy from alumni and friends includes an anonymous contribution to establish the David Robert Lewis Engineering Scholarship, a commitment from alums Don (BSEE ’84) and Liz (BSEE ’85) Thompson, and a gift from Edmund O. Schweitzer III (BSEE ’68, MSEE ’71) and Beatriz Schweitzer.

“Thanks to the hard work of faculty, students, staff and alumni, who have laid the groundwork for Project Bridge over the course of this academic year, and with the generous support of Bill Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas, we have an opportunity to make a real difference,” said Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering. “Purdue Engineering anticipates the largest ever incoming class of underrepresented minorities this fall and is on track to welcome the largest entering class of Black Boilermakers in nearly three decades.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

Information Jim Bush,  jsbush@purdue.edu