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La Sierra University Students Land Edison STEM Scholarships

Seven students from the Adventist university receive a helping hand toward reaching their goals in computer science and mathematics with scholarships from Edison International.


LSU students receive STEM scholarships

La Sierra University computer science majors (left to right) Mia Lorraine Laurea, Christopher  Friedrichsen, Cody Johnson, Ethan Morales-Vierna and Eric Manjarrez this May each received a $2,143 STEM scholarship from energy giant Edison International. Two mathematics majors also received scholarships. Photo by Natan Vigna

On May 24, 2018, seven La Sierra University students got a helping hand toward reaching their goals in computer science and mathematics with scholarships from energy conglomerate Edison International.

The awards of $2,143 each were presented during La Sierra’s annual scholarship awards ceremony during which 226 students received a total of about $372,000 in scholarship funds managed by the Office of University Advancement. The Edison scholarships were awarded to five computer science majors and two mathematics majors.

The Edison awards derive from a $15,000 grant the university received last December for supporting students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM subjects. This year’s grant brings to $75,000 the total amount awarded to La Sierra since the 2014-15 school year by Edison International for STEM scholarships and tutoring.

“STEM scholarships help students defray the cost associated with getting a degree, but most importantly they inspire and inform students of the diverse STEM careers available to them,” said Marvin Payne, chair of La Sierra’s chemistry and biochemistry department. “There is currently a shortage of professionals in the STEM industry, and these scholarships contribute to our goal of filling the gap in order to achieve a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.”

Three computer science majors commented on the significance of their Edison awards.

“This award is very significant to me as it will really help lighten my financial burden and allow me to focus more on school,” said Cody Johnson, a sophomore from Phoenix, Arizona. His concept for a computer game with potential uses on smartphones was included in his application for the scholarship.

Johnson says he isn’t “too picky” about exactly where he might work in the future, “but hopefully, someday I can work with a company like Microsoft,” he said.

Scholarship winner Mia Lorraine Laurea, a junior La Sierra University student from San Francisco wants to become a game developer for Playstation or Nintento and has designed a simple ‘roll-a-ball’ game on an application called Unity. Laurea is further motivated by the Edison award to achieve her dreams. “This award is significant since it is a part of a bigger community that wants to make an impact in the world through STEM,” she said. “This award will drive me to become the best woman in computer science that I can become.”

Ethan Morales-Vierna, also a junior, is from Cudahy, California, and will intern at aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman this summer where his responsibilities will involve translating existing computer code into another programming language.

“My initial reaction to being selected to receive the Edison scholarship was shocked,” he said. “This past year was challenging academically and I thought my eligibility would be hindered because of that. Not to mention all the other highly qualified applicants. However, when I heard I was selected I felt very honored and grateful,” he said.

“Receiving this scholarship will allow me to not have to spend hours worrying about finances and instead be able to spend those hours on schoolwork or extracurricular activities,” Morales-Vierna said.

La Sierra University majors that qualify for the Edison scholarships include mathematics, computer science, information systems, environmental science, chemistry, and physics. The funds are intended to help fill occupations in fields the United States would like to bolster in its pursuit of innovation.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM-related occupations are expected to increase 14 percent overall through 2020, with the greatest increase predicted in biomedical engineering at 62 percent. The field for medical scientists is expected to grow 36 percent, for systems software developers by 32 percent, computer systems analysts by 22 percent, and mathematics jobs by 16 percent.

Edison International, a generator and distributor of electric power, is the parent holding company of Southern California Edison and other subsidiaries. Edison International’s philanthropic arm in 2017 awarded $11.4 million in in education grants out of a total $21.8 million in charitable giving.

Edison scholarships are among a wide range of tuition funding opportunities for La Sierra students. Outside of endowed and donor-based scholarships managed by the Advancement office, the university this school year provided $17.3 million to undergraduates and $1.86 million to graduate students through a variety of scholarships including 17 different institutional programs of which approximately 11 are renewable awards.

University scholarships include awards and earnings match programs for Seventh-day Adventist church members, Adventist summer camp student employees, and student literature evangelists. The university also offers an Adventist membership discount to students who are members of an Adventist church, or to non-Adventist students who graduated from an Adventist academy.