Student Success

At the University of Delaware, we focus not only on what our students learn, but how they learn. We break down department barriers, giving students access to experts and experiences across disciplines with collaborative opportunities in innovative labs, makerspaces and real-world situations.


You and your fellow donors are truly underwriting an extraordinary student experience, empowering students to explore beyond their limits.



Changing lives with Scholarships | Reimagining the Arts | Expanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion | Enhancing Athletics | Harnessing Collective Giving | Experiential Learning

Changing Lives with Scholarships


Scholarships have the power to change lives, fuel dreams and empower excellence. They help so many students who lack only the finances—not the drive, talent and ambition—to pursue their academic journeys at the University.

DAR 2023 Delaware First Report Student Success Scholarship icon

$177.5 million raised for undergraduate support


482 undergraduate scholarships created throughout Delaware First, changing countless lives for generations to come

President's Scholarship Challenge


In 2018, UD President Dennis Assanis announced his President’s Scholarship Challenge to inspire more scholarship support. Blue Hens answered the call and rose to the challenge, with more than 50 donors establishing 56 new endowed undergraduate scholarships as part of Delaware First.


This unprecedented challenge increased student support through a one-to-one, financial match—up to $5 million—for scholarship gifts ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, designed to create new, endowed undergraduate scholarships. 

“We are deeply moved by the stories our donors have shared about the motivations for their amazing generosity and support,” Assanis said at the close of the Challenge. “This was truly a collective effort that demonstrated the power of our Blue Hen community. By working together through the President’s Scholarship Challenge, we are creating opportunities for life-changing impact for generations to come.”

First generation student


A number of scholarship recipients throughout Delaware First have been the first in their families to pursue a college degree. Without family to share firsthand experiences for accessing and navigating college, scholarships are often a way to open doors to new possibilities and pathways.


For the longest time, Jon Marc Finamore, AS11, knew he wanted to study the brain. It amazed him, and he was curious to learn more about how it worked.


Throughout every aspect of his life, he brought both his brain and his heart, balancing intensive pre-med studies as an honors student majoring in biology and neuroscience at the University of Delaware with time spent playing board games or exchanging inside jokes with friends.

He and his wife, Erica Cohen Finamore, AS11, met when randomly assigned to the same residence hall as first-year students. As a future magazine editor and a future doctor, they came from different academic tracks, but eventually became a couple.

They married in October 2017. Four months later, Jon, then a neurology resident, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. As a neurologist, he understood the diagnosis he was up against. He and Erica held out hope he might beat the odds, but also wanted to make the most of whatever time they had together. His illness, Erica said, reinforced there’s no certain “life trajectory, as much as you want to have one.”

Months passed with them traveling and packing in memories between hospital visits and medical appointments. On April 17, 2020, Jon passed away after a hard-fought battle. Erica decided to continue a process she had already begun months earlier—creating a scholarship fund in Jon’s name at UD. As part of a family of Blue Hens — Jon’s father and brother both attended the University — they saw it as a way to both continue Jon’s legacy and give back to the place that meant so much to all of them.

Ultimately, Jon’s friends and family hope his leadership, dedication and compassion will inspire the next generation of doctors and researchers and allow them to pursue their academic goals through the support of his scholarship. They want others to learn from both his enthusiasm for the medical field, as well as the ways in which he created a full, meaningful life for himself and those who knew him.



DAR 2023 Delaware First Report Lara-Silva headshot

“As a child raised by immigrant parents, I was always told education is paramount. This message shaped my dream to be a teacher, but as the first in my family to pursue a college degree, I didn't know where to begin.

Then I had a truly life-changing experience in UD's Teachers of Tomorrow program, which immerses underrepresented high school students into college life with classes, mentors and resources to prepare them as educators and for entering college. There I formed a supportive network that helped me secure critical scholarships to pursue my education at UD and discovered how to align my values with my career goals. I find beauty in being the change for a future generation.”

Geraldine Lara-Silva, EHD24, recipient of the Clarice E. Wolf Education Scholarship, Walter Stark Scholar Award, William B. Keene Scholarship and the 2022 Seitz Award, is a junior majoring in elementary teacher education with a concentration in English as a second language.


“I’m a first-generation college student from New York, and both of my parents work 60 hours a week to be able to put me and my siblings through school. I could have gone to a school in state, but I wanted to come to UD because it has an Air Force ROTC. This scholarship helped make that possible, and I was able to graduate as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force—the only UD student in my class to get a pilot slot in the Air Force. I’m able to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot, setting myself and my future family up for great things.”

Jacob Neumann, BE22, recipient of the Torelli Family Scholarship, from Baldwin, NY

DAR 2023 Delaware First Report Student Sucess Cox headshot

When Tajai’ Cox, BE23, lost his mother in his sophomore year, he didn’t know how he was going to continue at UD or where life might take him next. Paula Glover’s, BE89, scholarship support gave him the finances and hope to realize his dreams.

Hear about the impact the funding had on him in his own words.

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UD’s arts and humanities programs inform and excite communities and foster local, national and international partnerships that transcend traditional academic boundaries and advance cultural understanding. Throughout Delaware First, UD has seen transformative growth in the area, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Guillaume Combet is an associate professor of violin for the School of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences. Photographed for the President's Report while teaching a group lesson in Loudis Recital Hall and an individual lesson.


Music infuses a cultural richness in a community, brings worlds together, inspires new ideas and connects people across backgrounds. At UD, music does just that and more, thanks in part to transformational gifts from Don Puglisi, 12H, and Marichu Valencia, 23H, supporting the Donald J. Puglisi and Marichu C. Valencia Music Enrichment Fund.


While the fund has supported and continues to support a number of areas focused on music—from undergraduate scholarships and student ensembles to visiting professors and instrument equipment—their generosity helped establish the School of Music in 2019. The shift has elevated and enhanced the music department and created greater resources for performers, educators, scholars and creators of music to achieve the highest levels of artistry while engaging local, regional and global communities.

“We believe music is a universal language that has a transformative effect on people,” Valencia says. “It is our hope that this gift will help to further enrich the lives of our students, faculty and community, as well as encourage future generations to support the arts.”



Mark Samuels Lasner has been called many things. A Victorian caricature. A man who’s stepped out of a time machine. The foremost blind book collector in the world.

Certainly, for a senior research fellow at Morris Library who regularly dons a three-piece suit, cane, fedora and polished monocle, all three characterizations are fitting. During Delaware First, he added UD supporter to the list of descriptors.


Lasner gifted his life’s work—a vast anthology of British literature—to the library’s Special Collections. The collection is the largest and most valuable donation in the Library’s history. Appraised at more than $13 million, it contains some 9,000 books, letters, manuscripts and pieces of artwork from a who’s-who of Victorian cultural elite, including Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Aubrey Beardsley. And while some would be loath to part from something so irreplaceable, Lasner adopts a view as practical as it is altruistic.

“Collectors are the people who are left with the job of preserving and organizing our cultural heritage,” Lasner said. “This gift is a way for the collection to live on.”



During her time at the University of Delaware—both as a graduate student and as the director of undergraduate studies in Art Conservation—Vicki Cassman, AS86M, touched the lives of many, leaving a lasting impression that they all continue to carry with them. So, when Cassman passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer, it was no surprise those who loved her and respected her work found a way to honor her memory with the creation of a fund in her name.


The Vicki Cassman Undergraduate Award in Art Conservation was created during Delaware First and will support undergraduate students with a passion for the conservation field and create opportunities for their research and professional development.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Vicki as a scholar and teacher, but also as a person. Vicki was a very caring person and that was clear to everyone she met, especially her students who worked with her. She was an extraordinary teacher on campus as well as in life,” said Dan Rich, a friend, neighbor and retired UD professor of political science and international relations. “Making a gift to this fund in her name was a chance to support and recognize the contributions of a person like Vicki and all she represented in her life—the kind of person and work we want at the University.”



Claudia and Richard Fischer made an incredible gift to establish the Paul D. Head Endowment for Choral Artistry, in honor of Dr. Paul Head, Unidel professor of music, director of choral studies and music director of chorale and Schola Cantorum. They leveraged their gift to create a matching challenge to inspire other donors to contribute and endow support for the UD choral studies program. The new fund will enable dozens of students each year to travel internationally to participate in major choral festivals and competitions. It will enhance their student experiences, cultivate global musicians and elevate the program even more.


“I come from a low-income household and have parents on welfare and disability financial support, so a trip like this would be nothing more than a distant dream if not for the monetary and moral support,” said Bri Keller, AS23, a chorale member who participated in the 2022 trip to Rovinj, Croatia. “As musicians, one of the most valuable pieces of the process for us is the ability to communicate and connect with other humans. When you bring international travel and new environments to the mix, that accelerates the experience even further because we are granted the gift to share our music with the world.”




Part of the human experience is to seek acceptance, belonging and meaningful connections. At the University of Delaware, we want to ensure everyone feels like they belong and are a valued part of the Blue Hen family. Throughout Delaware First, generous donors have helped bolster the University’s efforts, creating new experiences, resources and opportunities that foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.



$21 million for diversity, equity and inclusion was raised by 6,900 donors

JEDI Fund students


In 2021, the JEDI Fund was created to help empower UD students, faculty and staff to become leaders of positive change. Support through the fund helps provide programs, resources and opportunities to cultivate educated and empowered individuals who not only understand the origins of societal challenges related to equity and social justice but also have the tools to create solutions to address them.


The fund has created new student and faculty enrichment programming and opportunities centered on developing leadership skills, a deeper understanding of issues on the topic and an increased mutual respect and civility for people and cultures.

First-year cohort Social Justice Peer Educators


Funds raised through the JEDI Fund established the Social Justice Peer Educators program, which trains students as peer educators, sparking peer-to-peer conversations and educating the campus community about diversity and inclusion.


The first cohort of 10 Student Justice Peer Educators conducted 17 workshops, including:

  • 513 participants
  • 18 requested by faculty
  • 5 requested by students
  • 3 original trainings
RISE students


RISE offers UD engineering students a multi-faceted, personalized support system from their first day on campus until they cross the graduation stage. While open to all engineering students, the resources are meant to help undergraduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds succeed at the highest levels within the University and beyond in their careers as engineers and computer scientists.


In honor of its 50th anniversary, many Delaware First donors stepped forward to help reenergize and reimagine the possibilities for students within the program through philanthropic support and hands-on experiences.

The urge to pay it forward inspired RISE alumni Ernest Jones, EG92, to arrange internships for RISE students at his North Carolina employer.

“What RISE really afforded us was a pool of human resources, and a mentoring program that allowed us to have a big brother, a big sister,” said Jones, who earned a mechanical engineering degree at UD. “We have to participate in helping students. That’s key. Shame on me if I didn’t bring those opportunities back to a school that provided me so much.’’

Spectrum Scholars faculty and student


In 2018, in collaboration with JPMorgan Chase & Co., the University developed the Spectrum Scholars program as a system of support and career development opportunities for select UD undergraduate students with autism.


Each year, the program accepts approximately 10 eligible students into a cohort for comprehensive services featuring one-on-one coaching, group coaching and peer mentoring meetings. A dedicated career counselor supports students in their career development. The program is highly collaborative, focuses on each student’s strengths, and is driven by each student’s goals and motivations.

Overseen by UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Spectrum Scholars also offers general support to autistic students across UD’s campuses while promoting autism acceptance and inclusion to individuals and groups throughout the University and in the surrounding community.




“There’s something powerful about engaging with your own peers and hearing from someone who is at a similar place in life as you are, students that you can envision being and connecting with.”

Rachel Garcia, program architect and associate director for student diversity and inclusion


“In RISE, I have learned so much about what comes after college, but also have been exposed to so many different opportunities and different people. I learned so much during events and always came out refreshed and with a new open mind on what it truly means to be inclusive.”

– Deanna Salinas, EG22, 23M


 “Being in college poses a lot of challenges and being autistic similarly poses a lot of challenges. And when you are experiencing both at the same time, some of those challenges amplify each other. Knowing that there is a program that is going to address both in a way that synthesizes those challenges and works with me on both at once, I think that’s really going to be helpful.”

–Finnegan Madison, AS19



The University of Delaware Athletics invigorates the enthusiastic and loyal Blue Hen community—creating well-rounded student-athletes, increasing community connections and deepening Blue Hen pride with students and alumni.


Throughout Delaware First, supporters rallied to provide funding for new facilities, team excellence funds, student-athlete scholarships and so much more.

Chrissi Rawak, Director of Athletics, Community, and Campus Recreation, Nassir Adderley, HS19 and Ryan Carty, Head Football Coach


“Some 30 years after graduating from the University of Delaware it is not the individual achievements nor the experiences on the field that I vividly remember. It is the team achievements, the moments with my coaches, teammates and friends that even 30 years later make me bend over with laughter. The memories of the individuals who went out of their way to help me be a better player on the field and more importantly a better person off the field. The culture of the University promotes devoted life-long friendships and that is what I am so thankful for today.”

-- Steve Shaw, BE86, donor to Men’s Lacrosse Excellence Fund, former UD lacrosse player and father of Blue Hen lacrosse player, Ryan Shaw, BE20, 21M

Chrissi Rawak, Director of Athletics, Community, and Campus Recreation, Nassir Adderley, HS19 and Ryan Carty, Head Football Coach


Nasir Adderley, HS19, known for his incredible accomplishments on the field at Delaware Stadium, can now add generous philanthropist to his legacy. His gift will help current and future student-athletes succeed in and out of competition.


The Adderley family has made a gift in support of an upcoming facilities project, of which details will be announced at a later date. He becomes the youngest former student-athlete to make a major gift to Delaware Athletics.

“This generous gift by Nasir, especially so soon after graduating, speaks volumes about his character and his love for the University of Delaware,” said Chrissi Rawak, UD Director of Athletics, Community and Campus Recreation. “We are so grateful for his generosity, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for him and his family.”

“Throughout the years, it was always in my plans to support the community that means so much to me,” Adderley said. “What is being done for the athletes is second to none and I can’t wait to see the results.”



I Heart UD Giving Day | Blue Hen Strong Fund | African Violet Scholarship Fund

With more than 113,000 donors uniting to lift up the UD community by contributing to Delaware First, the impact of collective giving is powerful and felt throughout every aspect of the Blue Hen family and way beyond campus.

BabyBlue and YoUDee pose with a student on I Heart UD Day


The University’s first giving day was launched in 2018 as part of Delaware First. Each year, it’s a day for alumni, friends, parents, students, faculty and staff at UD and around the world to come together and celebrate their love for the blue and gold by supporting the areas that mean the most to them.


Gifts range from $5 to thousands of dollars—each bolstering University programs, organizations and causes.

In its six years, I Heart UD Giving Day has raised more than $4,813,945 from 28,523 donors.

Blue Hen Strong Fund


When Blue Hens faced unforeseen financial challenges and burdens due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the University launched the Blue Hen Strong Fund in May 2020 to help those in the most urgent need. Within just a month of launching, UD supporters answered the call and contributed more than $250,000 for Blue Hens who needed support the most, including emergency housing and tuition funding as well as providing technology for online learning.


As a result of this success and impact, The Blue Hen Strong Fund evolved to live on in perpetuity as the University’s central, ongoing fund for donors to support the greatest, most timely needs of UD students throughout the year.

In addition to meeting the additional needs of students, since it launched, funding helped students with:

  • career readiness opportunities
  • a laptop loaner program
  • Center for Black Culture’s Each One Reach One Mentoring Program
  • Career Center’s Student Internship Grant program
  • a First-Generation Mentoring Program
  • a basics needs pantry for students
Tia Bolden, AS93


Tia Bolden, AS93, and her Mu Pi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. sisters—a sisterhood that began on campus and continues for life—made history in May 2018.

“We were the first Black sorority on campus and the first Black sorority to create an endowed scholarship,” said Bolden.


The sorority sisters created The African Violet Scholarship Fund in 2017 to support female undergraduate students from an underrepresented group that demonstrates a commitment to scholarship, service and leadership.

“The 11 women who founded our sorority in 1975 paved the way for us to come to school here and succeed,” says Bolden, co-chair of the scholarship endowment. “We all really believe in this scholarship and paying it forward.”

By April 2018, enthusiastic sorority sisters, family and friends had already raised $30,000. Then, Bolden and other fund supporters took advantage of UD’s first-ever I Heart UD Giving Day on May 9, 2018, to raise the rest of the $50,000 needed to fully fund the endowed African Violet Scholarship Fund.

“We never imagined we could raise that much money in one day—our goal was to raise an additional $5,000 on Giving Day, so we raised much more than we had expected,” says Bolden. “It was amazing to have so many people step up to help future Blue Hens. Knowing that we could help change the course for a young woman is a very rewarding and fulfilling feeling.”



“I have participated in three crowdfunding campaigns and raised more than $10,000 to support my research. These funds allow me to purchase the materials needed to create wearable assistive devices and provide them to individuals with mobility issues for free, and to travel to conferences to present this work and outreach to a larger population of people than I would be able to otherwise.”

– Ashley Pigford, associate professor of graphic and interaction design


“I was a first-generation student putting myself through college. The support I received from the African Violet Scholarship donors meant that I didn’t have to decide between groceries and books or rent and program fees. Now, I’m preparing to start law school.”

 –Keri Edwards, AS21


Internship Grant Program | Study Abroad | Parents Fund | Makerspaces

Experiential opportunities beyond the classroom open new possibilities and empower students to develop skills that on-campus classroom settings cannot provide, preparing them to succeed in our interconnected world.


Internships, study abroad programs and hands-on research allow students to develop professionalism, habits of reflection, critical analysis, decision-making skills and accountability. Access to such impactful experiences should not be limited to only those who can afford it and Delaware First donors made sure funding was available for more students to take advantage of transformational opportunities.

Internship grant students


Internships offer Blue Hens critical hands-on, real-world experience that has become more of a necessity for securing employment than a “nice-to-have” on resumé.


By eliminating the financial challenges associated with unpaid internships, students have the opportunity to gain critical professional experience, develop new skills, better understand career paths and increase their employability by graduation.

As part of Delaware First, Sarah Jastak, AS54M, committed a multimillion-dollar gift for internship support, scholarships, new facilities and unique pieces for special collections. Jastak’s funding, through her will and for immediate use, will provide Blue Hens with invaluable experiences that will help them succeed at UD and beyond.

Students participating in Study Abroad trip


The University is celebrating 100 years of our study abroad program, commemorating the first cohort of students to travel to France with UD’s Professor Raymond Kirkbride in 1923. Throughout the Campaign, many donors have chosen to support the programs to cultivate global citizens while giving Blue Hens life-changing experiences that help them excel academically, personally and professionally.

Parents with UD student


Many resources and programs championed by the UD parents and families are made possible by giving to the Parents Fund, which provides the Division of Student Life with valuable resources to support its mission to create a place where all Blue Hens feel like they belong and are celebrated, deepen student learning and advance a holistic approach to the UD experience through education, opportunities and communities.


Contributions to the Parents Fund helped provide:

  • Mental health and wellbeing resources
  • Support for inclusion and equity initiatives
  • Enhanced opportunities for student engagement and leadership development
  • Expanded career development resources for post-graduate success
Student bike project at UD's Makergym


UD’s makerspaces empower students, faculty and staff to turn ideas into reality by providing the space and tools to create anything from 3D prototypes and animated robotics to advanced electronics and wearable technology. Delaware First donors have increased these critical spaces across campus as well as equipped them with state-of-the-art equipment, tools, training and other necessary resources.



“Funding allowed me to gain meaningful experience volunteering on the nursing floor at Nemours Children's Hospital. Working at this hospital helped me further my aspirations of attending nursing school post-graduation and eventually becoming a pediatric nurse.”

– Erin Lillis, HS23


“My time studying abroad really taught me to live more in the moment of life and to not take anything for granted. We saw how different the culture is when it comes to taking care of the environment and saw the large homeless population—little kids eating out of trash cans. It made me realize how very fortunate I was to be on this trip, taking classes and applying what I learned in the outside world while experiencing new food, cultures and traditions.”

–Devon Enoch, EG24


“Education is at a crossroads, with classrooms changing with digital integration. We want students to have experiences here that not just prepare them for future jobs but inspire them to create the jobs of the future.”

Mohsen Badiey, professor of electrical and computer engineering and faculty director of the University’s Maker Initiative.