Mark and Betsy (Reddington) Vergnano at the UConn Foundation Board Social at the Alumni Center Great Hall in Storrs, CT, on October 15, 2023. (Roger Castonguay/Defining Studios)
For the second time in two years, the generosity of UConn alumni Mark and Betsy (Reddington) Vergnano is shaping the future of engineering education at UConn.
The couple made a $3 million gift this fall to establish the Vergnano Endowed Chair for Inclusion within the College of Engineering. Support for this faculty position, in addition to new programs and staff support, will build upon the impact the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion is already having on students.
“We are so grateful for the continued support of Mark and Betsy Vergnano,” says UConn College of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian. “The Vergnano Institute for Inclusion has unified our efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. These founders inspire our faculty, staff, students, and alumni to aim higher, break boundaries, and work better together. I am particularly enthusiastic about the new chair, and I look forward to everything they do to lead us forever, united and stronger than ever before.”
Expanded Support for the Vergnano Institute
An initial $3 million gift from the Vergnanos in 2021 established the Institute, which is dedicated to increasing the number of underserved students in engineering and other STEM fields. The Institute provides scholarships, mentoring programs and development resources to help students succeed both during their time at UConn but also after graduation, whether that is in the workforce or academia. Inspired by the Institute’s success thus far, the Vergnanos decided to expand their involvement and support.
“We have learned that scholarships are very helpful, but to ensure the students’ successful matriculation, there is a need for continued support over their four years,” Mark Vergnano explains. “We wanted to make sure that scholarships, content, and leadership are all part of the Institute.”
It was also important to the Vergnanos that students within the Institute felt continued support in the wake of the national conversation around equity, justice and inclusion in higher education and the workplace.
Building on the Institute’s Success
Currently, 45% of students in the College of Engineering come from underserved educational backgrounds that have been historically overlooked within the field. And the retention rate for students participating in the Institute is above the national average for engineering students. And this is just the beginning.
“The students within the Institute are building a community,” says Vergnano. “Since our initial gift, Betsy and I have seen these amazing students elevate themselves into leadership positions throughout the College and across the entire campus.”
The Institute is also attracting significant interest from the Connecticut engineering industry as businesses look for a pipeline of diverse talent. Some of these companies are adding their support through scholarships and internship programs in hopes of bolstering the state’s engineering workforce.
Published: Jan 08, 2024