College of Engineering & Mines

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It takes a village: how CEM, donors, and students celebrate the power of philanthropy

The first to come, CEM’s Scholarship Award Ceremony brings together the hearts behind scholarships

Groups of students and alumni greet and socialize with one another in a reception after the ceremony
After the ceremony, students and donors greet and socialize with one another during a reception. Photo by Paige Prekker/UND College of Engineering & Mines.

While snow in October isn’t uncommon up north in Grand Forks, the first snow of the season is seldom welcome with open arms.

Yet despite the snowy weather, donors, students, and community members gathered in the Gorecki Alumni Center on Oct. 27 to celebrate a recurring — yet extraordinary and transformative — occasion: scholarships.

The inaugural Scholarship Award Ceremony for the College of Engineering & Mines was a heartwarming recognition of the philanthropic contributions impacting hundreds of CEM students annually. In the 2021-2022 academic year, $1,279,161 in scholarships were awarded to over 500 CEM students. Of that total, $503,911 was raised by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

During the ceremony, every donor was honored and recognized for their generosity. On stage, the donors hand the student who benefited from their scholarship an envelope containing a congratulations letter: a symbolic gesture of giving them their scholarship.

As students came to the stage to receive their congratulations letter, cheers came from students and guests alike — a testament to the college’s team-driven atmosphere.


Woman delivers a heartfelt message at a podium on stage
Robin Turner thanks donors and students for attending the first ever Scholarship Award Ceremony, noting that it’s a “proud mom moment” to see students braving the snow to come together in celebration of gratitude. Photo by Paige Prekker/UND College of Engineering & Mines.

Paying it forward

Closing the ceremony, Robin Turner, FCEP, Sr. Director of Development for the College of Engineering & Mines, spoke to the participating students about the intention behind every scholarship awarded to them: to pay it forward.

“I have the privilege of traveling regionally and all over the country to meet with our alumni and donors,” said Robin. “Many of them have told me that they received a scholarship while attending UND. After graduating from UND, they went on to have amazing careers all over the world. They never forgot how their education at UND prepared them for the real world and one day wanted to pay it forward.”

Robin emphasized the heartfelt intentions behind the giving. “These scholarships have so much meaning. I hope you know that our alumni /donors believe in you and want to see you succeed. They want you to go on into the world and do amazing things.”

During the post-ceremony reception, Ashly, a geological engineering student, reflects on the power of paying it forward.

“What Robin said earlier on stage was to “pay it forward”; I want to help pay everything forward that I am learning here at UND so that I can go back and help my community, being that conduit connecting science to the indigenous communities and making sure that we’re pushing forward in a really good way.”

Like the other students that day, Ashly felt grateful and happy for the support at UND.

“I’ve been able to be supported by an amazing advisor, Taufique Mahmood, and I’ve gotten to meet some amazing colleagues that I am able to collaborate with and open up good conversations with. I am very thankful for the community here at UND because I feel that I am very welcome and that my culture is able to be celebrated. I’m glad to be here and very thankful to be supported by UND.”

Student and two donors pose for a photo on stage
Scholarships help students financially, but they are also proof of the faith that others have in them, their future, and the impact they’ll make in the world. Photo by Paige Prekker/UND College of Engineering & Mines.

The faces behind the scholarship

Perhaps the most impactful moment of the event was the interaction between students and the donors who made their scholarships possible. After the ceremony, students and guests socialized and got to know one another in the Gransberg Room.

For civil engineering student Norah, meeting Brad & Gayle Aafedt wasn’t just an opportunity to extend her thanks in person — it was a moment of genuine connection.

“It’s really cool to receive the scholarship because I wasn’t expecting it,” said Norah. “All of a sudden, I looked to see that I received the scholarship and I felt really grateful! Meeting my donors is a great experience because I get to tell them how thankful I am for the scholarship and how much it really means to me.”

On any other day, Norah, Brad, and Gayle may have been strangers to one another. For both parties, the ceremony was an eye-opener of the deeply personal impact that binds them together.

“The Aafedt Family Engineering Scholarship is really important and special to me because it is a scholarship we put together for our family; our son is a 4th generation engineering graduate from the University of North Dakota, and we wanted to celebrate that,” said Gayle. “The reason why we put together an engineering scholarship is to pay forward all of the scholarships that we received. We want to pay it forward, thank the people that did before us, and create another generation of engineers.”

There’s often more than just one or two generous donors behind one scholarship — and sometimes it’s a whole company. Representing EAPC Architects Engineers, Casey Hutton, Office Manager & Architectural Project Manager, and Lori Bakken, Marketing Director, attended the ceremony on behalf of the organization.

“The main reason that I’m here and why we give to the college is that it gives back to the community and to a client we work with quite frequently,” said Casey. “We do a lot of work with the UND campus, but it’s really a win-win for both of us because we get a lot of our staff from UND. I can count at least five people in our engineering department who are UND graduates. We get a lot of strong people from this program.”

The life-changing impact of scholarships

For some students, the reality of going to college is a matter of one thing: funding. For Nicholas, a biomedical engineering student, scholarships meant the opportunity to finish his education — and spend time with his family.

“This scholarship gives me something I normally can’t get for myself; it gives me the support to work less hours. And working less hours means I get to spend more time with my kids. The philanthropy buys me time I would normally spend working to pay for my education — time I don’t get to spend with my family. And as a father of five, there’s a lot of family to go around.”

Nicholas notes that without his scholarship, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to college and work towards his engineering degree — which has been a dream of his since childhood. “I am finally accomplishing that, thanks to the generous support I have received through financial aid, scholarships, endowments… it’s all the difference in the world to me.”

A donor passes on an envelope to a student as they pose for a photo on stage
For Terry, sponsoring student scholarships means supporting the next group of engineers while paying forward the scholarships that helped him get a degree and career he’s proud of. Photo by Paige Prekker/UND College of Engineering & Mines.

A tradition of passing the torch

Students today like Nicholas experience life-changing impacts through scholarships — but they are an echo that reverberates from scholarships from generations past. Terry Lucht, a 1974 graduate, recalls the philanthropy he, too, received back as a student.

“I was able to get a scholarship to help me get through college. So, with a great career and the opportunity to give back, I decided it would be fun to set up an endowment and give back to the university that helped me tremendously,” said Terry. “I learned a lot of good things; it was a great school that carried me through a long career.”

“I’m grateful to have that behind me and to be able to pay it forward a little bit to the next group of new engineers. It’s a great school, great bunch of people, and it’s good to see that tradition being carried on.”


Written by Paige Prekker  //  UND College of Engineering & Mines