FSW Funding launches STEM scholarship program

Robyn Barrett will enrich the lives of many students across campus. As an ASU alumna and founder of the Phoenix branch of FSW Funding, Barrett has launched the company’s STEM scholarship program for ASU female students.

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, programs have difficulty retaining female students, Barrett said, and it can be overwhelming for women studying these fields at times.

“Those fields are male-dominated, but obviously women can compete in those fields also, the problem is because they are predominately male," she said. "Women (coming) into those majors are such a minority that I think that they feel like there are no support groups for them."



Barrett said she was approached Polytechnic campus' administrative staff and asked to create a scholarship and offer support to women pursuing these degrees. Barrett said she is thrilled to launch the STEM program, and it will be the second scholarship program that she has launched to help students.

In a press release, Barrett said the FSW Funding STEM Scholarship is a great addition to the firm's existing entrepreneurial scholarship program.

“Entrepreneurship can come from all areas of study,” she said. “Adding the STEM scholarship this year is a nice fit with what we are trying to do, which is encourage students to think out of the box, create new ideas and new businesses, which will ultimately lead to new jobs.”

The FSW Funding STEM scholarship is unique in the aspect that there is no application process. The recipients will be hand-picked by ASU faculty.

Barrett’s first scholarship offered, the FSW Funding Entrepreneurial Scholarship, was launched in 2009. Barrett said she is looking for students that embody the essence of entrepreneurship.

“What we are looking for is somebody who really has the spirit and understands what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” she said.

Barrett is passionate about mentoring and encouraging student entrepreneurs.

“The idea (of the program) is to continue to promote the youth (and) the kids coming up through college," she said. "It is important."

Barrett strongly believes small businesses are vital to the American way of life and she said America just would not be the same without small business owners.

"America was built, and will continue to grow, on the backbone of small businesses," she said. "Small businesses are the largest employers, and (small businesses) are really what moves the market. … If you don’t have small businesses, if you don’t have capitalism, then you don’t have America."

The Funding Entrepreneurial Scholarship program awards $1,500 to selected undergraduate and graduate students.

The program has been helpful in many students’ lives, especially economics and supply chain junior Michael Mefford's.

Mefford, who was last year's winner, heard about the scholarship through an entrepreneurship program that he is involved with. He said the scholarship helped him spend more time focusing on school.

“It helped me a lot, because I was able to cut back my hours (at work) and focus on projects I was working on," he said. "It was a really big stress reliever."

Mefford advises that it is vitally important not to be discouraged if there are difficulties becoming an entrepreneur.

“I’m sure people who are interested in entrepreneurship have a lot of ideas, not just one, and more likely than not they are going to encounter problems that are going to shut them down or set them back... but if you keep at it and take initiative, you’re going to get where you want," he said.

Keith Ryu, finance and computer information systems senior, said this program was exactly what he needed as an entrepreneur.

“It was a perfect opportunity for me because the scholarship description pretty much described what I was striving for at the time,” he said.

Ryu was a sophomore when he created his business, ONVARD.com, that helps small business owners train employees. He said when he received the scholarship he was at a vulnerable place with scarce resources.

“I received the award when I was a sophomore, (and) that’s when I got started with my current venture ONVARD … and without any funding and at that stage and time when you’re a sophomore in college, it’s very difficult to know what to do, you know, without any mentors,” he said.“But the funding not only helped financially, but it really just gave me confidence in what I’m doing.”

Reach the reporter at Rashinda.bankhead@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @rashindaa

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