Johnson family gift will increase opportunities for students
A major gift from the family of St. Olaf College Board of Regents Chair B. Kristine Olson Johnson ’73 will give more St. Olaf students the opportunity to take part in high-impact learning experiences and pursue their post-graduation goals.
Bolstered by the college’s Strategic Initiative Match program, the gift will result in a significant, endowed commitment for the newly established Johnson Family Opportunity Fund. The Strategic Initiative Match is a St. Olaf Board of Regents initiative that provides matching funds for gifts above $50,000 that support the college’s strategic plan.
“Our daughters brought to our attention the difficulty many low-income students have in accessing out-of-classroom educational experiences and internship opportunities,” says Rob Johnson. “We decided as a family that was an area where we could have a meaningful impact, and St. Olaf’s Strategic Initiative Match made it attractive to act now.”
The fund will make competitively awarded, need-based grants of up to $5,000 per person to enable low-income students to participate in a variety of important learning experiences and to help them pursue more effectively their post-graduation goals.
Support for participating in such learning experiences may entail, for example, funding for travel to a professional conference to present undergraduate research or stipends to cover living expenses or transportation for internships and practicums.
Assistance with post-graduation plans could include funds to travel to interviews with graduate programs or funds for test preparation classes.
While St. Olaf is committed to meeting the demonstrated financial need of all students it enrolls through a robust financial aid program, such financial support only covers the basic costs of attending the college. For students who participate in some high-impact learning experiences such as study abroad or off-campus internships or who have aspirations for postgraduate study, there are additional costs. These unmet costs may prohibit some talented and accomplished students who lack the necessary financial means from taking full advantage of the opportunities that are available to them.
“Some students at St. Olaf face barriers to success not because of lack of ability, or performance, or determination but simply because of their circumstances,” says St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74. “This generous gift from the Johnson family will remove those barriers. Its impact will be immediate and profound. We are most grateful.”
When fully funded, the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund should support 25 to 30 students each year.
In an effort to maximize its impact, the fund will leverage several existing programs at St. Olaf: TRiO Student Support Services, a college retention program; the TRiO McNair Scholars Program, a graduate school preparatory program; and a series of Piper Center for Vocation and Career events, services, and workshops tailored to low-income students.
This isn’t the first time the Johnson family has supported St. Olaf students. For several years the Johnson Internship Scholarship Program, offered through the Piper Center, provided need-based scholarships of up to $2,000 to students who were pursuing career-enhancing internships.