Forty-six minority engineering scholarships have been awarded thus far through a program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where a Thursday, Sept. 29 celebration was held to thank Tennessee Sen. Todd Gardenhire for securing funding and former Chattanooga City Councilman James Moreland for recruiting prospective scholarship recipients.
Joined by UT System President Randy Boyd and UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Daniel Pack, UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle thanked Gardenhire for his work to secure state funding for the scholarships and Moreland for helping create awareness of their availability.
This year, 25 UTC students are Moreland Scholars, while the scholarship program impacted 21 students during the 2021-2022 academic year.
“Sen. Gardenhire often meets our students in the capitol and he’ll tell our students, ‘I’m a problem solver. Bring me problems and let me help,’ and this is one case where he’s done exactly that,” Angle said. “It really is his thoughtful attention to the needs of Tennessee’s employers, the need for more affordable education for Tennessee students and for opportunities for UTC to connect that is why this last-dollar scholarship is already having an impact.”
Gardenhire worked with colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly to secure $500,000 in state funding for scholarships for selected UTC minority engineering students in 2022-2023, on the heels of securing $100,000 for the program in the 2021-2022 academic year.
“I want to thank you for your vision,” Angle added. “Thank you for trusting us to do the right thing, to take care of these young people and provide a great education. We also are so honored to be able to partner with Mr. Moreland in this effort and with his connections to help make people aware of the opportunity. We owe a big debt of gratitude to everyone who’s involved with this.”
Boyd praised Gardenhire’s persistence in making the scholarship funding possible.
“We are here today for a lot of reasons. We’re here to celebrate UT Chattanooga and this opportunity for so many students, but I also want to say thank you to Sen. Gardenhire,” Boyd said. “If it wasn’t for his tireless passion for this project, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Gardenhire, a 1972 UTC graduate, insisted on sharing the spotlight with Moreland, for whom the scholarship program is named. Gardenhire cited Moreland’s inspirational personal story and record of civic engagement and predicted his friend would continue playing a key role in recruiting scholarship candidates.
Moreland said his desire to give back in gratitude for his own success makes his involvement an especially valued honor.
“I wanted a college education so bad, but I didn’t get a chance to go to college,” Moreland said, describing a lack of financial resources as a barrier. “I was blessed enough to get a job at DuPont. I started out as a machine operator. I was promoted seven times within 29 years, and I ended up being one of the top executives for DuPont. It means so much to me at my point in life now. I want to be that hand up to help somebody, to give them that chance to open up some doors.”
Directly addressing several current scholarship recipients at Thursday’s event, Moreland added, “All you young folks take advantage of this, a golden opportunity. If you do good, we hope that we’ll be able to get some more funding to help some more kids on the way, so we are counting on you.
“I just want to see your faces when you march down that line with that diploma in your hand going out to go to work. I am also kind of putting in a plug for Chattanooga. We got a lot of good jobs in Chattanooga, so when you graduate, please give Chattanooga some consideration.”
Engineering student Adam Belton, president of the UTC chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, credited the Moreland Scholarship, his academic advisor and faculty with persuading him to continue his studies when he had doubts. Belton said the scholarship frees him to focus entirely on academics instead of juggling a job to cover expenses.
“I just want to say an immense thank you to Sen. Gardenhire and Mr. Moreland for allowing me to be here and many others—others like me—to be here, those who couldn’t pay for school and are now able to follow what they want to do and love,” Belton said. “I’m eternally grateful.”
As a “last-dollar scholarship,” the Moreland Scholarship applies to costs that remain after funding from all other aid, such as federal Pell grants and Tennessee HOPE scholarships, has been applied. Funding per student varies, with a maximum $5,000 annual award per student.
Eligible students must be Tennessee residents, identify as a member of a minority group and have a high school GPA of 3.0 or better. Assuming a satisfactory minimum UTC GPA, scholarship recipients for 2022-2023 can receive the Moreland for all four years as undergraduates.
A UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science survey of recent graduates found a median annual salary of $72,500 reported by engineering graduates in their first year of employment and local demand in engineering jobs far exceeding available supply.