Woodbury University and Microsoft Announce Microsoft Media Technology Scholarship Fund

Woodbury University and Microsoft Corp. Announce Microsoft Media Technology Scholarship Fund, Aimed at Encouraging Minority Student Participation in Tech Sector

Microsoft Matches Initial Gift of $10,000 by Woodbury Parent, Creating $20,000 Grant Pool

LOS ANGELES and REDMOND, Wash. (March 27, 2017) – In a move that combines philanthropy with an effort to engage minority students in the tech sector, a Woodbury University donor has partnered with her employer, Microsoft Corporation, to endow a new Microsoft Media Technology Scholarship Fund at Woodbury, Microsoft and the university announced today.

Pasadena resident Maria Alvarez donated $10,000 toward establishing a new scholarship fund aimed at providing greater opportunity for minority student entry into the tech sector. Alvarez, Partner Director of Engineering Shared Services, Bing Platform in Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research organization, arranged for the company to match the donation, for a grand total of $20,000.

According to Jesse Gilbert, Chair of Media Technology at Woodbury, the gift is an outgrowth of her admiration of Woodbury’s work and service to students. “Maria said that she really liked what we’re doing in the program, and that she wanted to give back to encourage other students of color to pursue careers in the technology industry,” Gilbert said. “We are grateful for her generous support.” Originally from Venezuela, Alvarez came to the U.S. for graduate degree in computer science and, upon completion of her degree, entered the technology industry.

At Alvarez’s direction, the scholarship is designed to encourage minority students to participate in the tech sector and address proven financial need. In addition to being a member of an identified minority group as specified by the U.S. Census, applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.0 and write a brief essay describing his or her goals in the Media Technology program. The university anticipates accepting applications for the Fall 2017 incoming class.
Alvarez also arranged to have two Microsoft Hololens Augmented Reality headsets donated to the Media Technology department. These next-generation devices will enable Woodbury students to pursue the kinds of cutting-edge AR applications that will drive the tech industry for years to come. One Woodbury senior is already actively developing a Hololens project that will be featured at the Media Technology department’s annual Showcase event in May.

Alvarez had this to say about her gift: “It is my sincere pleasure to make this gift to Woodbury University. The faculty, staff and students have impressed me, and I’m confident the ‘Woodbury experience’ is changing lives. From my own experience, I know that education opens doors and creates opportunities — it did for me. I came to the United States from Venezuela with empty pockets but full of hope. It was the gift of education that largely shaped who I am today. I am humbled and thankful that now, I can give back a small portion of what was given to me.”

“Microsoft is honored to be a part of Woodbury’s investment in students,” the company said in a statement. “Our mission is to ‘Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.’ Through this matching cash gift and Hololens device, we hope to help the Woodbury students achieve more — and encourage them to change the world.”

“Diversity is a persistent issue in the tech world, and we see both Maria’s generosity and Microsoft’s enthusiastic support of our program as milestones in helping to address that issue,” said Sue Vessella, MFA, Interim Dean, School of Media, Culture & Design at Woodbury. “With so many companies interested in attracting minority students, the Microsoft Media Technology Scholarship Fund can be a powerful vehicle for identifying and supporting those dedicated to joining the technology workforce.”