With less than a month left, fundraising efforts for the Calvin Lin Turing Scholars Endowment have already overshot their $25,000 goal. The endowment serves to benefit the Turing Scholars program, which is an honors program housed in UT’s nationally ranked computer science department.
Sarah Heier, associate director of development of the College of Natural Sciences, worked with other fundraisers in liaison with the computer science department to develop this endowment to honor Calvin Lin, who developed the Turing Scholars honors program over 15 years ago and has served as its director since.
“We’re successful because we did a lot of groundwork in advance,” Heier said. “We really want to get all of the alumni, or anyone that Calvin Lin has touched in some way, to [get involved].”
Heier said Lin has been an integral part of the Turing Scholars Program’s success since its launch.
“[Lin is] a visionary leader who’s very good at creating programs,” said Bruce Porter, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science. “He’s very excited about the Turing program, and he brings that excitement to the classroom and the
\ recruitment effort.”
According to Heier, the computer science department isn’t given much funding from the University to support its students and programs. This endowment, which raises money through UT’s crowdfunding platform, HornRaiser, provides financial support to the Turing Scholars honors program and its efforts.
“The Turing program is trying to recruit the best and the brightest,” Heier said. “They’re competing against Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, [and other prestigious schools]. Oftentimes, they lose out on students because we don’t have any
scholarships to give them.”
In addition to recruitment efforts, the endowment would serve to sustain and improve the Turing program.
“Our freshmen and sophomores view the community the strongest,” Lin said. “When they become juniors and seniors, they are not all taking the same classes together. We’d like to have some more programs and activities for the older students.”
To boost fundraising efforts for the program, the Kodosky Foundation, an Austin philanthropic organization, has pledged to match up to $1.2 million in donations raised through 2018.
“We’d take those funds and invest it in a permanent endowment for the University that spins off 5 percent every year for spending for the department to give to the students,” Heier said.
Lin sees this funding as great potential for continuing the success of the Turing Scholars program, which has already produced alumni now working for top technology firms including Apple, Google and IBM.
“Our reputation has grown. We’re getting great applicants from all around the world and country,” Lin said. “We want to keep doing what we’re doing. I have one vision: that we have enough resources to give out a lot more scholarships and full rides to students who come here.”
According to Porter, the Turing Scholars program facilitates success for its students by providing an academic and social aspect. Turing students take a personalized curriculum together as a cohort, giving the benefits of a small college alongside the advantages of a large public university.
“It begins and ends with students. That’s the best part of all,” Porter said. “It’s the excitement the students bring to the classroom. Every year, I teach a class that has a group of students in it that are just exceptional.”