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UCF and SPIE Announce $250K Undergraduate Scholarship Fund

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SPIE has announced the establishment of the Soileau Family-SPIE Optics and Photonics Undergraduate Scholarship Fund for the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL). The $125,000 in funding from SPIE is being matched in full by a gift from the Soileau family to create scholarships for undergraduate students at CREOL, with preference given to students who are first-generation college students.

“This generous gift from M.J. and Cheryl Soileau establishes accessible and future-focused opportunities for undergraduate students studying optics and photonics at UCF CREOL,” SPIE president John Greivenkamp said. “It gives us great pleasure to come together with the Soileau family in order to create this scholarship fund — one with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of first-generation students — which will support current and future generations of optics and photonics scientists and engineers in perpetuity. In addition, this collaborative effort holds special significance for us since M.J. is both a former SPIE president and board member, as well as an SPIE Gold Medal recipient.”

“I learned early that wealth does not equal worth,” said M.J. Soileau, who was a first-generation college student. “My family is pleased to partner with SPIE to support scholarships for students studying optics and photonics to help them realize their worth.”

“As an international leader in optics, lasers, and photonics, UCF provides opportunities for students from all backgrounds to explore their passion in this critical field,” said UCF president Alexander Cartwright, also a first-generation student, an SPIE fellow, and a researcher in the area of optical sensors. “It is an honor to recognize this second UCF investment as part of SPIE’s Endowment Matching Program. Coupled with the Soileau family’s generosity and M.J.’s legacy in optics and photonics, this gift will help many of our students discover their full potential and impact as scholars.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program, established in 2019, is a $2.5 million, five-year, educational-funding initiative designed to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics. SPIE supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing up to $500,000 per award to college and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied to the SPIE mission. The initial SPIE contribution to the University of Arizona named a new endowed faculty chair, the SPIE Chair in Optical Sciences. Another matching agreement announced earlier this year established the SPIE-Glebov Family Optics and Photonics Graduate Scholarship Fund for UCF CREOL.


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