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Jessica and Tim Pate

The G. Timothy (’80) and Jessica Hope (’07) Pate Environmental Science Field Program Scholarships, or simply the Pate Scholars Program, recently received a renewal in its funding. The Pate Scholars Program is a need-based scholarship opportunity that helps reduce the cost of studying abroad at an environmental field site or field studies program run by UNC-Chapel Hill.

First launched more than five years ago, this program was created after UNC alumna Jessica Pate’s memorable experiences in the field as an undergraduate student. She and her father Tim, a 1980 Carolina graduate, were moved by the unique opportunities presented by the field site program and recognized that financial limitations often prevent many students from even considering studying abroad.

“After moving back to Chapel Hill in 2011, I was looking for a way to give back to the University,” says Tim. “I knew my daughter’s experience at UNC had been positively affected by her field studies and great advice from her advisor, Dr. Greg Gangi. Once Dr. Gangi told us there were students who wanted to participate in field studies but couldn’t afford to, the thought of helping them really appealed to us.  I also wanted my daughter to start thinking more about philanthropy and what her passions were for helping and making change.”

“These programs made a huge impact on my life,” Jessica added. “I knew participating in these programs can be expensive and we wanted to help make these experiences possible for students who otherwise may not have been able to participate.”

While rewards vary based on the destination, the scholarship typically reduces the cost of studying abroad enough to make it comparable to studying on campus. Students who receive financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and are interested in participating in an environmental study-abroad program through UNC are eligible to apply. Applications for this scholarship feature an essay question asking students to describe how studying abroad through a field site program would enhance their educational experience.

Greg Gangi, teaching professor and associate director for clean technology and innovation at IE, leads the selection committee for this scholarship and has organized several environmental study-abroad opportunities during his time at UNC. Having recently led a Burch program in which students spent three weeks studying clean technology and innovation in China and South Korea, Gangi recognizes the unique value of study abroad programs such as this one.

“There are many advantages of going abroad, and we don’t want financial means to limit students from these opportunities,” he says.

Gangi also was delighted to see such a diverse group of students participating in his recent Burch program, some of whom had never flown in an airplane prior to this trip. The group also consisted of a few recipients of the Pate Scholarship. Brianna Chan, a sophomore at UNC intending to major in environmental health sciences, is one recipient.

“Studying abroad put me in a position where I could think outside of the box, challenge myself, apply my learning to real situations, and take a step outside of the conventional bounds of education,” Chan explains. “I’m grateful that Carolina is so dedicated to increasing access to opportunity for all students – without the Pate Scholarship, none of this trip would be possible for me.”

Following their trip, Pate Scholars are asked to provide a presentation about their experience to a class of K-12 students. Noemi Gavino-Lopez, a Pate Scholar who also participated in the Burch trip to China and South Korea this summer, hopes to share her unique experiences with students attending her former high school in Alamance County.

“With the help of the Pate Scholarship, I was able to make studying abroad a reality which would in return allow me to explore the field of clean technology,” Gavino-Lopez explains. “I would like to emphasize that if there is a will, there is a way to make goals happen with the generous help of a variety of resources such as the Pate Scholarship.”

Story by Dylan Morgan ’22

Dylan Morgan is an environmental science major at UNC and is part of the graduating class of 2022. This summer, he is working as a communications intern at the UNC Institute for the Environment. Morgan’s career aspirations combine environmental research with journalistic storytelling, particularly in the fields of ecological restoration and natural resource conservation.

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