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Leveling the Playing Field: Women for DeSales Offers $80,000 in Funding to Groups Across Campus

by Paige Hawk Feb 1, 2022

Getting accepted into medical school is the ultimate dream of many pre-health students, but some are at a disadvantage. 

“It’s really competitive to get into medical school these days, and, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, applications have been up. One of the major factors schools use to determine who is going to get accepted is the MCAT exam,” said Julie Himmelberger, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and pre-health professions advisor. 

While many students require professional support beyond the classroom to excel on the exam, the cost of such support can be prohibitive. That’s why, for the first time in the pre-health program’s history, Himmelberger requested support from Women for DeSales. Her goal? To provide five students with up to $1,000 each to purchase MCAT study materials and level the playing field.   

Himmelberger was one of more than a dozen faculty members, staff, and students to request funding from the women’s giving circle. In 2016, Women for DeSales was founded by 13 women with the mission of funding groups across campus that actively work toward bettering the DeSales community. Flash forward six years, the group of philanthropists has grown to 76 members who have all committed to giving $1,000 or more annually to the fund.

“We look for opportunities to assist students with their ability to continue to pursue their education, to impact student programming or experiences directly, and to create global and service-learning experiences for students,”

 Lina Barbieri, associate vice president for annual giving

One such opportunity is the summer internship stipend, which provides funding to students while they gain hands-on experience in their chosen field of interest. According to Kathy Krause, coordinator for experiential learning, the summer internship program doesn’t fall under financial aid. For students who rely on a steady income, this can mean missing out on opportunities that may give them a competitive advantage when applying for jobs or graduate school.

“I spoke to a student yesterday who supports his family,” said Krause. “This summer, he still has to work 38 hours at his job, and then, in order to give himself that little bit of an edge, he is going to also do an internship and fund that himself.” 

With previous support from Women for DeSales, the Career Development Center was able to offer the stipend to eight students last summer. The center is hoping to do the same this year.   

“The influence of giving [students] the taste of what they can do has made such a difference in so many of their lives,” said Krause. “I really appreciate [giving students] that opportunity.”

This year, Women for DeSales is funding $80,000 worth of programming. From supporting networking opportunities to a disaster simulation to research, the impact of its unwavering generosity will be profoundly felt across campus. 

“Frankly, what stands out and leaves the greatest impression is how much this group shows up for our students,” said Barbieri. “These women are a powerful witness to DeSales’ Salesian spirit and core values.”