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Advancing New Programs Through Giving

As James Cotter, professor of geology, has learned, institutional giving can be a means of advancing a program’s aims. Inspired by the generosity of others, Cotter is bolstering both the geology and environmental science majors by supporting the Geology Fund and the forthcoming UMM Environmental Sciences Scholarship. While he contributes to geology each year, Cotter recently partnered with Nancy Carpenter, professor of chemistry, to begin establishing Morris’s first scholarship designed solely for students majoring in environmental science.

According to Cotter, there is an ever-present need for student aid. Believing scholarships can alleviate students’ financial burdens and “endorse the quality of the work they do,” he is happy to provide what he can to assist deserving recipients.

“Especially in a public institution where so much of what we do is publicly debated, you can get caught in a dynamic where money becomes the focus,” he says. “Giving allows us to step away from that kind of grind and focus on the things that are important—things like student need, which never go away.”

Although awards for geology and environmental studies exist at Morris, Carpenter and Cotter hope to strengthen and define the environmental science major with a more specific scholarship. According to Cotter, it takes time for a program dynamic to emerge within a new major the task acquires another level of complexity when that major, like environmental science, lacks a disciplinary home.

“Community is important at Morris,” he says. “In an interdisciplinary major it’s hard to articulate what the community is.” Cotter envisions that an environmental science scholarship will help do just that.

Cotter’s giving is, in part, influenced by the legacy of James Van Alstine, professor emeritus of geology. Van Alstine was instrumental in developing the curriculum that led to the implementation of the official geology major, and the James Van Alstine Geology and Environmental Sciences Scholarship was created in his honor in 2009. According to Cotter, Van Alstine “is a role model for giving.” He intends to “live up to his legacy” by helping cultivate the environmental science major.

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