Elsessers invest $1 million in the School of Information Sciences

James and Lionelle Elsesser
James and Lionelle Elsesser

A $1-million dollar gift from Lionelle (BA, LAS '66; MS, LIS '67) and James (BS, Business '66; MS, Business '67) Elsesser will both expand the iSchool's academic programs and support the recruitment of promising students. The gift will be invested in the School's new programs, and that investment will generate $50,000 annually for the Katharine L. Sharp Scholarships, which will be available to students in all iSchool programs.

"We are extremely grateful for this significant gift from the Elsessers, who have given so generously of their time and resources to benefit our teaching and research mission," said Dean Allen Renear. "This is a unique time in the history of our School, as we advance our leadership role in educating students for a wide range of career opportunities that incorporate our values of social benefit and service."

The gift from the Elsessers will enhance the education of students by supporting the infrastructure of the academic programs. This infrastructure includes offering additional, innovative courses taught by experienced, talented faculty and making classes available both on campus and online. 

"We are gratified that, with the guidance of Dean Allen Renear, a way has been established to help the iSchool accelerate new programs and provide financial assistance to such interesting and deserving students. We are delighted to help," said Lionelle.

The Katharine L. Sharp Scholarships will provide $50,000 annually for applicants and/or current students who show extraordinary potential for leadership in the profession and society. The first two recipients are MS/LIS student Dykee Gorrell and MS/IM student Shamini Hilda Samuvel Mani.

Shamini Hilda Samuvel Mani and Dykee Gorrell
Shamini Hilda Samuvel Mani and Dykee Gorrell

Gorrell received her bachelor's degree in history from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her areas of concentration include data science and usability engineering. After earning her master's degree from the iSchool, she would like to work in the technology sector as a user interface designer/researcher or data scientist or to perhaps pursue a PhD in social data science, in particular at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. She is interested in creating new methods of data collection through partnerships focused on developing more equitable and ethical technologies, especially for racialized Black online users.

"The Katharine Sharp Scholarship has lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most important aspects of school—learning," said Gorrell. "The Elsessers' generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals as they have helped me."

Samuvel Mani earned her bachelor's degree in engineering from Anna University in Tamil Nadu, India. Prior to enrolling in the iSchool, she worked for the Bank of New York Mellon, developing and deploying business intelligence solutions to Fortune 500 clients in the investment banking domain. The MS/IM degree was a perfect fit, given her background and interests in data science and analytics. Following graduation, Samuvel Mani would like to work for a multinational corporation and ultimately become a leading woman entrepreneur in the IT industry, empowering other women.

"I am so humbled and honored to receive the Katharine Sharp Scholarship," said Samuvel Mani. "I feel immensely motivated to study hard and achieve my professional goals in the future."

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