December 16, 2008 — The Bernard Osher Foundation recently awarded $1 million to the University of Virginia to support students who are working toward completing their first bachelor's degree after having been out of school for at least five years.
Osher Reentry Scholarships worth up to $5,000 will benefit 10 to 20 students annually. Recipients must demonstrate financial need and academic promise and must anticipate participation in the workforce for a significant period of time upon graduation.
"This gift will create opportunities for adults to continue their formal education and make what once was a remote possibility, a hopeful reality," said Billy Cannaday, dean of U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, which will administer the scholarships.
The Osher Foundation made two grants of $50,000 to U.Va. in 2006 and 2007 that annually funded 20 scholarships for students in the SCPS's Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree program. The program supports re-entry students by offering evening and weekend classes, specialized advising and a peer mentoring program.
Based on the success of those grants, the foundation opted to provide permanent support for the scholarships, said Andy Lynch, a program officer for the foundation. "All that led us to believe that the University had already invested in the success of these students, so the Osher funding would be putting good money after good money."
An Osher Reentry Scholarship is helping Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies student Amber Brister to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. Previously, she worked for a decade in commercial construction, beginning as a project intern and working her way up to become a project manager on huge jobs like the $1 billion Harrah's Jazz Casino in New Orleans and the Short Pump shopping mall near Richmond.
But she recently hung up her hard hat to pursue her passion for animals. "I was scared to death to come back to school," Brister said. "The scholarship meant a lot on an emotional level."
U.Va. is one of 22 colleges nationwide to have received similar gifts to endow Osher Reentry Scholarships. The University of Richmond is the only other such school in Virginia.