The Undergraduate Professional Development Grant is intended to support first generation college students and their paths to the post-college professional world. It was thought up by Carlo Juntilla, the 2018 GSBA president who saw a need in the Gonzaga community to support the students who may have trouble financing future endeavors in the career world. 

“This grant was founded from fact — that the ability to be able to afford a ‘business casual’ or ‘formal’ outfit is not a reality for every Zag on campus,” Michael Tanaka, GSBA president, said in an email.

The grant was created by Juntilla when he realized that first-generation college students and low-income students are set back because they can’t afford things such as new clothes for an interview, or are unable to attend an academic conference due to the cost.

When this grant was still in the process of being created, Juntilla researched other universities that had started a grant similar to this one, including Georgetown University. He then worked with University Advancement to talk about what it would take to create this grant. 

Juntilla passed down the fundraising of this grant to future GSBA presidents after his leadership of GSBA ended. Athena Sok, last year’s GSBA president, was given the task to fundraise money to help this grant become self-sufficient. 

“We focused on fundraising for the grant during Crowdapalooza, which was a weeklong fundraising event where GSBA worked with University Advancement to set up a crowdfunding page for individuals to directly donate to the grant online,” Sok said.  

When the presidency was passed down to Tanaka, his goal for the grant was to reach a $50,000 fundraising goal, which would mean the grant would solidify and become a self-sufficient grant. GU would take a portion of the money and invest it, making it self-sufficient for years to come.

 After three years of fundraising, GSBA finally reached this goal in the past month.

“I received word from University Advancement that they received two separate donations that would put the grant over the endowed mark,” Tanaka said. “To see how much work and intentionality was put into this project the past three years and to see it actualized now as a fully endowed and solidified grant means everything to me.”

The grant has three different areas that students can apply for: interview/professional attire, academic conference registration/airfare and membership to a professional organization.

A $150 donation would finance a student to receive new interview attire or graduate school study materials, and a donation of $300-$350 would allow a student to attend a professional conference. 

“This grant is especially significant to me because this is all student driven,” Sok said. “Students have found the need for this grant, students have fundraised for this grant, and now a committee of students review applications for the grant.”

It has helped several GU students achieve their professional post-undergrad goals. 

“If this grant represents anything, it represents the need to redefine what a ‘Zag’ is,” Tanaka said. “First-generation or low-income status is not an aspect you can or should identify visibly, nor something that should be asked of students unless it is for a particular reason.”

For the spring 2019 semester there were 10 awardees for the grant. This fall, 11 GU students were awarded the grant.

“Every student should be given opportunities to succeed and the Undergraduate Professional Development Grant helps close that gap and allows students to pursue their career and other professional endeavors,” Sok said.

Donations to the grant can be made on the Zagfunding website. For any further questions about the grant, reach out to GSBA on the third floor of Hemmingson.

Lindsey Wilson is a staff writer. You can follow her on Twitter @lindseyrwilson1.

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