This year the Northwest Oracle User Group created a scholarship for an outstanding female student in the Portland State University Computer Engineering  Department.  The criteria was straight-forward.  In addition to being an outstanding student we asked all the applicants to answer this question:

“How does employee participation in professional communities add value for their employers?”

The arguments for promoting WIT are well-documented elsewhere, and it had a bearing on our decision.   But we also did it with an eye toward our future:   Through the scholarship we’re developing a relationship with a potential decision-maker when the student enters the workforce.  By associating Oracle and user groups with IT success the scholarship recipients may become advocates at their companies.

Here’s the process, so you can do with your user group:

  • The board needs to capture the criteria and implementation plan in a formal policy.  We decided to leave the scholarship amount to the discretion of the board inside the policy.
  • Set the scholarship amount for the current school year and select a college to approach.
  • It only took a couple of emails to get introduced the development department for the PSU Engineering Department.  After that it was smooth sailing.
  • The development office deals with this sort of request all the time.  In our case they did all paperwork, performed all of the interviews, and gave us a list of qualified candidates and attached their essays.  The choice was then up to us.

It was almost that simple.

It is illegal for a college to discriminate on the basis of gender, so while they acknowledged our preference they were also required to open the scholarship application to men.  The final decision was ours to make based on the school’s recommendation and the content/quality of the student essays.   You could tell who’d done some research.

Final piece of advice:  Make the decision early in the calendar year so the college has time to work your scholarship into the regular application work flow.  It’s easier on the college staff and your scholarship will get better visibility among the students.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.