Paying it Forward

USD student Faith Osei-Tutu


When Erin Alex Fullinwider ’05 (BS/BA) graduated from the University of San Diego’s electrical engineering department, she was one of three women studying in the program. But that wasn’t a deterrent for her. In fact, today she’s encouraging other women to get into engineering as the founder of a new namesake scholarship for female engineering students, dubbed the Erin Alex Fullinwider Scholarship.

“I had such an amazing experience at USD, and to now be a part of other people’s experience — especially women in engineering — feels really awesome,” she says.

Faith Osei-Tutu (pictured) is one of the first recipients of the scholarship. The industrial and systems engineering third-year student says this extra financial support is allowing her to put her “best foot forward.”

As Osei-Tutu continues her educational journey, she, like Fullinwider, is inspired to support other women to get into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) industry.

“I’m the secretary for the National Society of Black Engineers. A big role for me next semester is to try to do outreach to high schools and middle schools for other black women to know they have an opportunity in the STEM field, because some people don’t think it’s an option,” says Osei-Tutu.

The quest to share opportunities with those who come after them is a common theme. “I enjoyed my experience at USD. I loved it. I made a lot of great friends and I wanted to give back a little bit. And I wanted to support the computer science program specifically,” says Spencer McDonald ’18 (BA), who earned his degree in computer science.

One of the highlights of McDonald’s USD experience was studying abroad in China during his first year, alongside other computer science students. It’s a trip that has inspired him to start a scholarship program for computer science and engineering students who are planning to study abroad.

“It was probably one of the coolest, neatest experiences that I’ve had,” he says. “The culture and lifestyle within China is so different than anything I’d experienced traveling other places or anywhere in the U.S. I think that’s what got me to want to start a study abroad-type scholarship toward the computer science program,” says McDonald, founder of the Spencer McDonald Scholarship.

Gabriel Goins, a senior integrated sustainable engineering student, is the first recipient of the scholarship and will be studying abroad in Cork, Ireland, in the fall of 2021. This will be Goins’ first trip abroad. He says he’s hoping to “learn about sustainability from another country’s perspective.”

Goins had planned to take out a loan to pay for this trip, but receiving this scholarship gives him more opportunities while he is overseas.

“Having this scholarship will actually help me just go and have a good time. I was going to stay in Cork for the whole semester because I can’t afford to go anywhere else,” he says. “This actually gives me a lot more leverage so I can visit other places outside of Cork. I’m excited for that.”

Alumni-funded scholarships play an integral role in supporting future generations of Toreros. Foundation grants also play a large part in providing scholarships for students. For example, in the 2020-2021 academic year, there were nearly 80 different gifts from foundations, totaling more than $1.2 million — ranging from small family foundations to employee matching funds.

These generous donations work together to help Toreros earn their degrees. And those who make these much-needed contributions see it as a gift, as well.

“We wanted to find someone who really needed this and otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience something new and different,” says McDonald. “It feels wonderful to find someone that fits that.” — Elena Gomez

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