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The Impact of Giving

Giving is critical to the work that we accomplish in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE). We use scholarship funds to recruit and support our talented students – and to help them thrive when they get here. We use our endowed professorships and faculty excellence funds to recruit and retain world-class faculty and to support their innovative research and teaching. And we use discretionary giving to start new initiatives, like the CBE Alumni-Student Mentoring Program, Spring Wellness Day, and our CBE Research Image Beautification Project.

The impact of giving is hard to quantify but easy to convey. Frank Culberson (BSChE ’60) and his late wife Doris Culberson have given several student scholarships and endowed professorships to the department, with his latest gift being the naming of the atrium in Engineering Building I where CBE is housed. Frank did not have much money growing up and was not sure that he could even go to college. Scholarship support was essential to his success, which is a big part of why he supports the University today. He hopes that other recipients will do the same: “Those that get scholarships, I would believe a significant number of them would give back to school. We just need to keep pushing these students to think about the University, and to think about including support for the University in their budget.”

In fact, one of Frank’s recipients did just that. Elizabeth Nance (BSChE ’06) was the first student to receive a Culberson scholarship, allowing her to grow and flourish. As she tells it, she struggled with the rigors of chemical engineering coursework, working part-time to make ends meet, and not wanting her middle-class parents to take out so many loans for her education. In addition, she was struggling with imposter syndrome, not confident of her skills or ability to perform engineering. The encouragement of the faculty, graduate students, and teaching assistants helped her, but most important were conversations with Prof. Lisa Bullard, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and the Culberson scholarship opportunity that was awarded to her. As Elizabeth says, “When somebody invests in you, that’s a message.”

After graduating from NC State, Elizabeth obtained her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and later joined the University of Washington as the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, where she is now the Jagjeet and Janice Bindra Endowed Career Development Associate Professor. Elizabeth says that she always knew that she wanted to pay it forward one day, and that is what she did several years ago, endowing the Edna Loretta Nussman scholarship, in honor of her grandmother, along with generous donations from her uncle, Tommy Nussman, and her mother, Candy Nussman Nance.

Scholarship endowments are impactful because they “keep giving.” In fact, forty percent of our ChE undergraduates have an average of $ 4,000 in unmet need. But scholarships are not the only way to make a difference, nor are they CBE’s only need. For example, Trent Carrier (BSChE ’94) initiated the Richard M. Felder Teaching Excellence Endowment, which has now grown to $ 250,000 from gifts and pledges from over 58 alumni and faculty, in honor of Prof. Felder and his commitment to excellence in teaching. As Trent says, “I always wanted to acknowledge the role that NC State and CBE had on my life, and I wanted to do it in a way that emphasized what made it special for me. Teaching excellence is a clear priority for the department, and I felt this would be a good way to rally support from alumni who shared this same experience.”

Another enhancement fund, the Lisa G. Bullard Undergraduate Enhancement Fund, is used by Prof. Bullard to support activities that enhance the experience of undergraduate chemical engineering students. After its initial endowment by alumnus Robert Bradley (’09) when he was only a few years out of school, 87 alumni have contributed to the Bullard Undergraduate Enhancement Fund.  Lisa noted that she was “excited about the potential to use this fund to continue to make the ChE undergraduate experience the best it can be. So far this has involved support of the senior banquet, senior gifts, graduation expenses, travel funds for senior design guest speakers, and transportation for a sophomore trip to a chemical plant. It is humbling to have such a fund named for you while you are still alive to appreciate it, and I take seriously the intent of the donors to enhance the experience of our undergraduates.”

Similarly, Quint Barefoot (BSChE ’85) has created two endowments at NC State: the Robert M. Barefoot Scholarship named in honor of his father and the Barefoot Family Academic Enhancement Fund. The academic enhancement fund provides scholarships for the Barefoot Student Ambassador program and for the officers of our AIChE Student Chapter. Read more about Quint and his philosophy here and see a list of all our endowments in CBE Connects.

Endowed professorships are also extremely important for recruiting and retaining talented faculty.  The department currently has seven endowed professorships, with two new professorships coming on-line in the next few years after completion of their endowments: the Ronnie and Cynthia McNeill Professorship in Nanomedicine and the Goodnight Distinguished Professorship in Innovation in Biotechnology and Biomolecular Engineering. However, the total number of endowments is low for an elite institution like NC State. CBE department head Prof. Sindee Simon noted, “To compete at the highest levels, we need to double the number of endowed professorships, and we need to be able to offer endowed chairs to assistant professors to recruit excellent talent and to associate professors to retain that talent. The CBE faculty at NC State are as good as anywhere in the world. We have a lot of positives that allow us to recruit and retain that excellence – a collegial and collaborative environment, exceptional students, good infrastructure, and a supportive administration – but sometimes the added recognition that a professorship brings is needed to seal the deal.

Prof. Carol Hall, the Worley H. Clark, Jr. Distinguished University Professor in Engineering, echoed Prof. Simon’s sentiments. Carol was the third female faculty member ever appointed in a chemical engineering department in the U.S. and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She explains that the honor of being a distinguished named professor is very much a reward unto itself. Furthermore, the discretionary funding that is associated with the endowment, although typically only a fraction of the research funds brought in on grants by the endowed faculty member, is critically important because it is flexible and allows endowed faculty freedom to pursue important but potentially unfunded (or not yet funded) research projects. The funds can also be used to enhance and enrich the education of graduate students, enabling them, for example, to go to national meetings where they can be exposed to new ideas that can be translated into new directions for the faculty member and the department.

On this Day of Giving, we encourage you to invest in your CBE department, whether it is through discretionary giving, a directed gift, or an endowed gift. Our vision is to be a global leader in chemical and biomolecular engineering education and research, with a continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We aim to be the very best we can be. Your support is crucial. Please consider making a gift today to help the next generation of chemical engineers.

Please give now.