Donor makes $8 million gift to expand GW’s Clark Scholars Program and support more students
Each year, the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) welcomes a new cohort of Clark Engineering Scholars, many of whom have known from early on they were going to be engineers. The Clark Engineering Scholars Program rewards SEAS students with financial assistance, professional development, and leadership and networking opportunities. With a recent gift of $8 million by the Clark Charitable Foundation, the program will support more students each year.
“Our Clark Scholars benefit not just from financial support for their studies, but from internships, study abroad, leadership training, and mentorship by distinguished engineering alumni,” says SEAS Dean David Dolling. “They also benefit from the steady hand of the program’s director, Professor Murray Snyder, a retired U.S. Navy nuclear submarine captain who models leadership for them. We’re extremely grateful to the Clark Charitable Foundation for expanding the program that Mr. Clark established to help us forge engineering leaders.”
The Clark Scholars Program was made possible in 2011 by an $8 million gift from the late A. James Clark, HON ’10, a GW trustee emeritus and Clark Enterprises founder whose contributions to the university included the construction of landmark facilities on the Foggy Bottom Campus, volunteer leadership, and philanthropic support. The following profiles highlight a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and alumnus from this esteemed program.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
SAM BRICK KNEW FROM THE TIME SHE WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL that she wanted a STEM career. No surprise: As a native of Seattle, Washington, “pretty much everyone she knew” worked at Microsoft. “I picked GW because I wanted a school where I could have experiences outside of engineering, and I thought D.C. was a good place to do that,” says Sam. “I also came here because there are people studying all sorts of things … I wanted that interdisciplinary environment.”
Currently a freshman in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Sam has found GW to have no shortage of fascinating people to meet—and things to do. “The professors are interesting, the older students are interesting, I go to the lab, I go to my job, I take classes in women’s studies and psychology,” she says with enthusiasm. “I also just started working on a steel bridge team. First, we assemble the parts here, then, at the competition, we get to assemble it again. How fast you build it, how much weight it holds, and aesthetics are all taken into account to determine the winner.”
Sam was one of the lucky few chosen for the Clark Engineering Scholars Program through her high school recommendation process. “I didn’t hear about the scholarship until after I was accepted,” she says, describing the scholarship as being a significant part of her GW experience. “Within the engineering school, a lot of initiatives focus on leadership, but the Clark Scholars Program takes it one step further.”
Sam is also excited to pay it forward: “I’m definitely looking ahead to moving through the program and being an older student to new students coming in, just as the juniors and seniors were to me. I can’t wait to tell them about my experiences and being on the flip side of that interaction.”
Given the opportunity to speak directly to the Clark family, Sam would love to tell them that their contribution has had a significant impact on her. “I don’t know if I would be able to come here without the financial support,” she says. “All of the networking is helpful, too, so I would like to say ‘thank you so much!’”
Alexander Snouffer, ’19
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
LONG BEFORE ENTERING COLLEGE, ALEX SNOUFFER knew he wanted to be a mechanical engineer. With a fascination for vintage metalworking machinery and mechanical antique watches—and four years at a STEM high school in Hagerstown, Maryland—he was well prepared to enter GW as a mechanical engineering student.
Now a sophomore, Alex recalls the first time he visited the GW campus. “Something just hit me,” he says. “I fell in love with the school, I fell in love with the surrounding area, and I love living here in D.C. It’s a great area with a great vibe, and I particularly like the feel of the engineering school.”
When a professor encouraged incoming freshmen to apply for the Clark Engineering Scholars Program, Alex didn’t hesitate. “The Clark scholarship is great because it prepares you for the real world,” he says. “I’ve gotten to attend lectures where alumni tell us about the profession and give us tips for entering the job force. Plus, we get to interact with the Clark Scholars in other classes.”
Currently employed by the machine shop in the Science and Engineering Hall, Alex enjoys making parts requested by professors and helping students manufacture their own designs. “It’s really interesting when a manufacturing class comes down [to the shop],” he says. “When you have 20 students at the same time, you really need to know what you’re doing. It’s a fun challenge.”
Alex is also a member of the GW Robotics Team, where he is participating in a competition to make the most efficient firefighting robot. “The robot has to circumnavigate a maze to save a baby from a fire,” he says. “It even needs to put out candles that simulate the fire.”
According to Alex, these opportunities might not have been available to him if it weren’t for the Clark Engineering Scholars Program. “I applied early decision to GW,” he says, “but the financials didn’t 100 percent work out. My parents and I decided I would come, and at the end of my first year we would reevaluate whether or not I would be able to stay. But after getting the Clark scholarship, the financial burden was greatly eased for both me and my family.”
Alex expresses sincere gratitude to the Clark Charitable Foundation: “I would like to say ‘thank you very much.’ The scholarship is greatly appreciated, both in its generosity to the students and its support for GW engineering.”
AS A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL, TANIA SINGH was pretty sure GW offered exactly what she was looking for in a college experience. She also found out she had been awarded a Clark scholarship, which ultimately sealed the deal.
“It sounded like a great opportunity,” she says, pointing to Admitted Students Day, when she met with one of the biomedical engineering professors who told her what it meant to be a Clark Scholar at GW. “They were investing a lot in the engineering program, building a new building, spending money on research—and the Clark scholarship was something unique GW could offer me that other schools couldn’t.”
Now a junior, Tania is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering with a minor in biophysics. She plans to continue her education following graduation and earn an MD/PhD. For the past two years, she has concentrated her research on the effects of ultrasound on pancreatic beta cells.
“I’ve been working with Professor Zderic in the Therapeutic Ultrasound Lab, running experiments,” she says. “The research I’m doing is mostly diabetes specific, but I’m also working on the simulation of thermal mechanical effects of ultrasound on the abdomen, which has a broader applicability.”
Tania began experiencing the benefits of being a Clark Scholar even before her first day in school. “We have a boot camp at the beginning of the semester, so freshman year, I was on campus a week before everybody else. It was kind of intimidating—nobody was here, you move into your dorm, and you’re by yourself. But I actually ended up meeting some of my best friends to this day when I first went to that boot camp.”
Tania effusively describes her gratitude for having been chosen as a Clark Scholar: “I would definitely say ‘thank you.’ It’s been an incredible opportunity I wouldn’t have had without the support they have given me. Even some of the research I’m doing is because of the Clark Scholars Program requirements. It’s been incredible.”
Abbie Gillen, ’17
ABBIE GILLEN WAS INITIALLY ATTRACTED TO GW because of the “cool energy” and sense of community she felt when she first stepped onto campus as a high school junior from Johns Creek, Georgia. During her freshman year at GW, one of the engineering professors encouraged the incoming class to apply for the Clark Engineering Scholars Program, and she thought—“why not give it a try?”
Four years later, she can emphatically say she is glad she did. “The Clark Engineering Scholars Program has been a great opportunity for me,” says Abbie, who is pursuing a degree in systems engineering with a double minor in computer science and biology. “I have been able to connect with GW alumni and previous scholars, and I’ve definitely gotten exposure to events and topics I never would have experienced otherwise.”
One such event was the SEAS Hall of Fame dinner, which Abbie attended as a sophomore. A night to honor exceptional SEAS alumni, the celebration left a lasting impression. “I got to meet people who were 10, 20, 30 years down the line and see how their time at GW brought them success in their careers,” she says. “I also got to hear about the cool changes they were making in the world.
I had a good time at that dinner, and I learned a lot about what my future might hold.” Abbie, who is graduating this spring, has recently secured a position as a systems engineer in the Washington, D.C., area. She attributes her experience as a Clark Scholar as pivotal in helping her find employment so quickly. “The Clark Scholars Program emphasized professional skills, how to network, how to talk to people, and how to go to interviews prepared,” she says.
“What I learned in the program enhanced what I learned in my coursework and prepared me to do the face-to-face interview, a skill that led me to successfully getting a job.”
Abbie sends a heartfelt thank-you to the scholarship committee and the Clark family. “I didn’t know how awesome the Clark Scholars Program was going to be when I first joined,” she says, “but I’m definitely grateful to be part of it. Not only did the program help make my time at GW better, I feel it was a launch pad for my job and whatever will happen in the future. The experience was an invaluable part of being at GW.”
Civil and Environmental Engineering
HAVING GROWN UP IN HONOLULU, HAWAII, the farthest east Ian Wong had ever been was Arizona. When he got accepted to GW, he told his parents it was the perfect opportunity for him to see what the rest of America was like. “I spent my entire life on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” says Ian. “So I decided to take a leap and come to the East Coast.”
Ian recalls his first orientation class where he learned about the Clark Engineering Scholars Program—he decided to go for it. “By some miracle, I got brought back for an interview,” he says. “I was nervous. I basically talked about what I wanted to do in life. When they chose me, I was shocked.”
Upon graduating with a degree in civil and environmental engineering, Ian landed a position with Clark Construction in the Washington, D.C., area. Prior to that, he worked for a year as an intern for Clark Construction, working on District House, GW’s newest residence hall. “By the time I walked in the first day as a full-time employee, I could already do a lot for my project manager.”
Ian attributes a lot of his confidence—in school and on the job—to the Clark Engineering Scholars Program. “The program was full of students with a lot of potential. We had great conversations and many aspirations, which gave me a good world sense.”
The program also builds worldliness by requiring students to study abroad. Ian went to Istanbul, where he learned basic Turkish and worked with the best engineers in the country. “It was really intense—I didn’t expect it, but academically it really pushed me,” he says. “I felt like I became a much stronger engineer and person because of it.”
Ian has tremendous gratitude for being selected as a Clark Scholar. “I would like to say ‘thank you so much!’” he says. “This scholarship has meant so much for my family, and it really helped me believe in myself. I was intimidated when I came to GW. Everything in Hawaii is much slower, and I didn’t know if I could keep up. Being selected for this program showed me I could succeed. Because of that, I got to intern with a great construction company, and I’m working there today. I’m so thankful—it’s been awesome!” —Mary Follin
Hear more from Sam, Alex, Tania, Abbie, and Ian at go.gwu.edu/clarkscholarsvideo