Alumni Features Students

Scholarships support work that matters – and those who get it done

Barbara and Dave Underriner, ’81, recently created the first endowed public health scholarship in the CPHHS at Oregon State University, providing funding to students to reduce the financial barrier to obtaining their degree.

Barabara, Dave and Julie Underriner

By Kathryn Stroppel

For many students, receiving a scholarship is more than simply dollars, it’s validation – and hope.  

Student Daniel Hartman, who is studying human development and family sciences with the goal of becoming a school counselor, calls it “one of the proudest moments of my life.” He says, “I never dreamed, in a million years, that I would eventually become an Oregon State Beaver. I honestly never thought that I would get to go to college, so this means a great deal to me. When my wife told me that I had gotten a scholarship, I bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t believe that someone would give me money to help me pursue my dreams. This money will help my family a great deal.” 

“Scholarships provide much-needed financial assistance to deserving students, and they also let students know that we believe in them,” says Associate Dean Vicki Ebbeck. “We are telling a successful recipient that we have heard your story and are willing to invest in the positive impact we believe you will make in the future.”   

Barbara and Dave Underriner, ’81, and their children, Julie, ’12 (BS, human development and psychology) and Michael, also know the difference a scholarship can make to students, as well as the college. They recently created the first endowed public health scholarship in the CPHHS with a gift through the OSU Foundation.  

“Our family felt it was critical to provide funding to students to reduce the financial barrier to obtaining their degree, support the vitality of the college’s programs and top-notch faculty, and provide needed talent to support the health and well-being of communities and organizations locally and around the world,” says Dave, a longtime college supporter who serves as executive vice president and chief health officer for HMSA/Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawai’i. 

Student need exceeds resources 

During the last three years, it is estimated that, on average, there were sufficient funds to support only 34 percent of undergraduate students in the college who applied for scholarships. In addition, the award amount a student receives in a year is often limited to about $1,000 in order to stretch available funds to as many students as possible.  

“Obviously students would benefit from receiving a higher amount such as $1,500, or $500 per term, and receiving that amount for multiple years instead of a single year,” Vicki says. “We know that more aid and the promise of multi-year financial assistance are associated with greater persistence.” 

In addition, students are increasingly assuming more responsibility for the cost of their education. According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, a Pell grant when first enacted covered nearly 80 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public college. Today, it barely covers 30 percent.   

Research also shows that students who received a scholarship had almost three times greater odds to graduate than those who applied but did not receive a scholarship, while holding constant their initial status in terms of credits earned and GPA at the time of application.  

The college started several initiatives in recent years to be intentional in efforts to optimize the impact of scholarships. Some of the current initiatives include assisting students who are: 

  • Unable to register for the upcoming term because of a financial hold 
  • In need of emergency funds due to personal hardship 
  • Admitted to the Honors College and facing additional tuition for classes 
  • Distance education students often with competing demands and who are older than the average college student 
  • Incoming students, including transfer students new to our college 
  • High in financial need and have demonstrated an improved GPA as well as adherence to academic engagement activities 

Support students, the college, our future 

“This college does work that matters,” Dave says. “Not only is it committed to education, but it also works to positively impact the health of our collective communities. The college has grown and evolved in a very dynamic way, the leadership and faculty are top-notch, and not only are they committed to educating, they’re also engaging in important research to help solve critical problems and to identify opportunities to positively impact the health of our collective communities. 

“This has been clearly evident during the COVID pandemic. This challenging time put a bright light on the important role of public health and the crucial role public health professionals play in helping to understand the impacts, helping to develop solutions, and engaging with others to mitigate the impacts of challenges to our collective health. They also look at potential issues and work with others to develop proactive approaches to prevention and early intervention. This is such an important field of work. 
“The ongoing sustainability of the college and its ability to grow and attract students and faculty is vital to OSU and to our society. We add our support along with many others to give students the opportunity to learn and to contribute to the health and vitality of our communities.”  

Dave, who earned a forestry degree in 1981, grew up in health care under the tutelage of his father, who led Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. He began his own career in health care as an administrative intern with Providence, a not-for-profit Catholic health care ministry, earned a master’s degree in health service administration from the University of Washington and served Providence Oregon for more than 30 years in advancing leadership roles. 

A recognized leader known for excellence and compassionate service, Dave was recognized in 2015 by the Oregon State Alumni Association as an Alumni Fellow representing the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Read more about Dave and his thoughts on health care in this 2015 Synergies story.