Foundation Founders Scholarship Program Sees Continued Growth

Since its introduction in 2016, the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation’s Founders Scholarship has helped connect talented young people to the world of natural refrigerants by awarding students who exhibit exceptional character, academic prowess and a healthy interest in pursuing an engineering or related technical degree with financial and professional assistance.

“The scholarship program is one of the main missions of the Foundation itself,” Joe Mandato, chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees said. It helps sustain the industry and introduce new talent to veteran industry leaders.

When the scholarship was initiated, it was limited to a small number of recipients due to limits on funding and interest. The IIAR Scholarship Subcommittee Chair Bob Port, said it has grown significantly over the years, culminating with the most recent cohort of nine new and returning students.

“The big success [last year] was the numbers,” Port said. This year, a field of 26 total applicants competed – the largest number of applicants ever received. Additionally, the Foundation voted to double the number of scholarships awarded, expanding the program significantly. This year three new juniors received scholarships as well as three seniors. Three more returning seniors continued their scholarships as well.

In 2019 the foundation awarded a record level of funding – $53,000 in total – Mandato said. The hope is to grow the program even more this year through continued fundraising efforts; the goal for 2020, he said, is $500,000. These funds will grow the scholarship program as well as sustain the Foundation and its research efforts.

Mandato said he hopes that in the future, the program can expand beyond United States boarders. Already the Foundation has received applications from Canada, Latin America and African countries, and Mandato said it’s his hope this international pull will continue to grow. Port agreed, saying he hopes that outreach efforts to colleges and universities nationally and internationally will be strengthened.

While the ARF scholarships benefit recipients tremendously, they are also critical for the overall health of the industry, Mandato said. Recipients are given the opportunity to visit the IIAR annual conference and to meet directly with industry leaders, many of whom are looking to fill positions with bright, talented young people.

As Port sees it, the conference invitation is one of the biggest benefits of the scholarship program. Students have a direct connection to the industry they are studying and to meet with industry professionals one-on-one. “I tell everyone to bring a stack of resumes with them” Port laughed. “I haven’t met a kid yet that wasn’t blown away.”

“I tell everyone to bring a stack of resumes with them. I haven’t met a kid yet that wasn’t blown away.”

Bob Port, IIAR Scholarship Subcommittee Chair

Ultimately, the scholarship program keeps momentum going in the industry. “The long-term benefit,” Mandato said, “as the scholarship program expands… as the list [of recipients] grows and there’s greater awareness within academia about the industry, those people who are responsible for the placement of graduating students from their various universities will be more likely to introduce the industry to them.”

The students who receive these scholarships are impacted positively, and their gratitude is apparent. “The IIAR Founders Scholarship has made an incredible impact in my career as an engineering student. By receiving this award, I am under less pressure to work extensive hours on top of my studies, and have avoided taking out student loans,” Samuel Koske, a junior at the University of Missouri who received a scholarship this year, said in a statement.

“This scholarship has also given me an incredible opportunity to connect with companies and learn more about the natural refrigeration industry,” Koske added. “After I graduate, my hopes are to eventually make cheaper and safer ways to make ammonia/natural refrigeration a more widespread technology throughout the world.”