Illinois Tool Works partners with NU to provide full ride STEM scholarship


File photo by Jeffrey Wang

The Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 1801 Hinman Ave. Illinois Tool Works partnered with the University to provide a full scholarship for an admitted Chicago Public Schools student each year.

Anna Laffrey, Reporter

Illinois Tool Works has created a partnership with Northwestern to provide a full ride scholarship to a Chicago Public Schools student pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The scholarship is funded by a $1.5 million endowment created by ITW, and will be awarded to a high school graduate who is admitted to NU each year, starting with the graduating class of 2018, said Rosemary Matzl, ITW’s vice president of community affairs.

Even though any admitted CPS student will qualify for the scholarship, Matzl said ITW will give preference to students graduating from ITW David Speer Academy, a charter school funded by ITW in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. The school serves a mostly low-income student body and prepares students to graduate college with degrees in STEM.

Matzl said ITW wants to support the students at Speer, but it also don’t want to restrict the scholarship opportunity to students from just one school.

“If a Speer student qualifies, they would be given preference for the scholarship money,” she said. “But, if there isn’t a student that meets the scholarship standards, the money would be given to a (different) CPS student.”

Speer earned the highest CPS rating, Level +1, during the 2015-16 school year, based on the CPS School Quality Rating Policy. Jordan Kruger, Speer’s assistant principal, said students have access to Advanced Placement math and science classes, as well as engineering electives throughout all four years.

Kruger said the STEM focus is inspired by the high demand for employees with STEM degrees from companies like ITW. Speer aims for 50 percent of graduated students to pursue STEM degrees and careers, he said.

The “hardworking culture” of the school drives students to be competitive despite financial burden, Kruger said. According to a 2016 CPS School Progress report, nearly 90 percent of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged.

“We have a lot of highly motivated students and want all of our students to focus on work in STEM fields,” he said. “We need all the scholarships we can get.”

The family of late James Russell, an ITW executive, donated $17 million to the Kellogg School of Management in 2013. Matzl said ITW decided to extend its partnership with the University by focusing specifically on access to education. She said offering additional funding to the Chicago and NU communities would expand its philanthropic reach.

Matzl said this funding will extend opportunities for Chicago students who may not be able to attend the University otherwise.

Steffany Bahamon, president of NU Quest Scholars Network, said she attends NU on a similar full ride scholarship offered through the QuestBridge program. The McCormick senior said increased scholarship opportunities will both empower Chicago-area students and foster inclusivity on campus.

“From my experience, McCormick seems generally high-income with few first-generation students,” Bahamon said. “Even for low-income students not benefitting from the scholarship, people from all backgrounds will feel more welcome knowing that economic resources are being provided.”

Bahamon said this scholarship also has the potential to strengthen ties between the University and CPS.

“We call ourselves Chicago’s Big Ten Team, so it’s great that we can put our money where our mouth is and connect ourselves to the Chicago community on a new level,” Bahamon said.

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