In this most unprecedented of times, the University of Dallas family is continuing to come together (in spirit, since we must remain apart physically) and help each other out in whatever way we can. As students, faculty and staff persist in our work from a distance, we support each other’s emotional and spiritual well-being in addition to striving to meet the physical needs of our students who have been left jobless or even homeless by the COVID-19 pandemic. We deeply appreciate the generosity of the greater UD community, including alumni, faculty and staff, trustees, parents, current students and other friends of the university, as we all endeavor to make it through this crisis to the day when we can all come together again in body as well as in mind.
Date published: July 20, 2020
After UD’s Irving campus shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Personal Career Development (OPCD) recognized that many current students had either lost summer internships or had not been able to secure internships. They proposed to President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, and Provost Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D., that UD launch a program to help these students by funding internships at nonprofit organizations whose missions and values aligned with UD's.
OPCD collaborated with Catholic Charities Dallas and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas (SVdP), which serves the same nine-county area as the Diocese of Dallas, to develop internship positions for the program. Students could apply to one of these positions or apply to receive the stipend to work at another nonprofit organization, as long as the organization’s mission aligned with UD's. The program is limited to students graduating in December 2020 or May 2021, with the idea that this summer may be one of their last opportunities to gain valuable experience before graduation.
“Internships are so important for students because they provide on-the-job experience and, as important, professional mentoring,” said Director of Career Services Shannon Blatt, MA ’14. “Studies have shown that internships are a key factor in success after graduation. OPCD is thrilled that we were able to facilitate a program that helps UD students gain this valuable experience while benefiting their communities.”
Psychology major Mary-Catherine Scarlett, BA ’21, is one of 15 students receiving the stipend. She had applied to approximately 15 psychology internships across the country, and interviewed for one, but they were all canceled either before or after hiring decisions were made. She then lined up two other jobs that also fell through and was scrambling for employment.
When she heard about the opportunities through OPCD, she decided to apply for one of the SVdP internships.
“I was blessed to be extended an offer,” said Scarlett. “My SVdP mentor through the process has been an invaluable resource because she truly cares about and thinks critically about the root causes and factors of poverty. She has been helpful in collaborating and giving feedback while letting me take the lead on the project.”
Scarlett’s stipend and those of the other students, which allow them each to work 15 hours per week for 10 weeks over the summer, are provided by the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund created by President Hibbs this past spring and funded by UD donors. Scarlett is able to work remotely from her hometown of Maumee, Ohio. As an intern, her task has been to create a resource list in the form of a spreadsheet that will help SVdP volunteers.
“Toward the beginning of the summer, I focused on covering free or cheap basic necessities and services in North Texas for people in need of help — for example, food pantries, emergency shelters and temporary financial assistance with bills,” she explained.
She then branched into more specific services such as affordable addiction rehabilitation centers and reduced-cost public transportation, with the ultimate goal of this list providing a guide for SVdP volunteers to help the families they serve and connect them with the best, most affordable services.
“For example, if there was a family evicted from their apartment due to COVID-19, there are several sources of funding, emergency shelters and free legal services that they can be directed to from the resource list,” said Scarlett.
With her psychology major, Scarlett hopes to go on to graduate school; she is currently applying to programs in Texas and Ohio, as well as a few others throughout the country. Because she wants to work clinically as a therapist, she hopes to pursue either a Psy.D. or master’s degree in social work.
“Eventually I would like to practice nature therapy, which is where my environmental science concentration ties in,” she said. “Interestingly, as I was researching rehabilitation centers for the resource list, I noticed that many of them incorporated outdoor recreation and immersion in their programs, so I may end up choosing chemical dependency as a possible specialization.”
With her internship along with a job at a Montessori preschool summer camp and Saturday shifts at a sandwich shop, Scarlett has been able to work more or less full time this summer in spite of the significant obstacles presented by the pandemic. Further, her internship, though it was not what she had originally envisioned for her summer work, has given her valuable experience and insights.
“I’ve learned that many resources are hidden in plain sight,” she explained. “After sifting through pages of Google, searching outdated web pages, and making phone calls, I’ve learned that the maze of social service organizations can be complex but navigable. I hope that my work will help families in need to receive assistance as quickly as possible. Rather than being bounced from agency to agency and shelter to shelter, I hope people can find a service that will treat them with dignity and advocate for them from the beginning.
“Even though I’m not a native of the area, this process has introduced me to both the flaws and strengths of Dallas,” she added. “I have also gained a deeper understanding of what social justice means both theoretically and practically, which will serve me well in graduate school and in my career.”
Date published: May 4, 2020
Amandhi Mathews, BS ’20, has not been home in two years. Home is Sri Lanka, and it is too far and too expensive to make the trip frequently, so she spent last summer conducting research at Harvard University. Then, a day before she found out she wouldn’t be able to return to UD’s Irving campus after spring break (which she was spending with a friend’s family in Arizona), her country closed its airports.
So for now, Mathews remains in Arizona. In Irving, she lived in Old Mill and had three on-campus jobs: she was a T.A. for the biology lab, was part of the University News layout staff, and filmed some of the sports games. Needless to say, all of these jobs are dependent upon the campus being open and occupied by students; none can be done long-distance. Attending UD was already a financial challenge for her family, so losing these jobs was devastating.
However, Mathews reached out to UD’s Director of Financial Aid Taryn Anderson, BA ’07, who told her not to worry; they would figure it out. Later Mathews received an email from Anderson telling her that the remaining balance of her semester’s tuition had been paid through the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
“UD helped me get through the past two months,” said Mathews. “That was all UD for sure. I just want to say thank you to the donors. If it wasn’t for these funds, I’d be in so much trouble right now — I honestly wouldn’t know what to do. Now I don’t have that stress; I can focus on my schoolwork.”
Mathews plans to graduate in December with her B.S. in biology and a molecular biology concentration (which she declared in the first week of orientation as a freshman). She came to UD knowing that it was a liberal arts university but not really knowing what that meant; she just knew that she would be able to study literature, which she loves, along with science. However, upon declaring her concentration she decided to take five or six biology classes, including upper-level ones, that first semester, which as she acknowledges now was “crazy,” but then she didn’t know any better.
“Ignorance was bliss,” she said. “I worked hard and just thought that’s how college is!”
She had not originally intended to leave her own country for college, but her father had encouraged her to take the SAT and apply to American universities; she applied to 13. UD was the last one from which she heard back, but gave her a good scholarship. Upon deciding that UD was the school for her, she immediately began emailing the biology professors, including Associate Professor and Chair of Biology William Cody, Ph.D., and was impressed by how quickly they responded to her.
When she flew to Irving to begin her freshman year, it was her first time flying and the farthest she had ever been from home. She came a few days early; her parents were unable to come with her because they couldn’t get visas in time, but her cousin came from California for one day to help her get settled. She immediately felt welcomed by the UD community; the first person she met was Assistant Professor of Theology Father Thomas Esposito, O. Cist., BA ’05, when she asked him for directions to Gregory Hall.
Another attraction of UD was that it was Catholic.
“I was so far away from home but could still practice my faith,” she said.
The immediate future remains somewhat uncertain for all of us, but Mathews appreciates that she has her UD education, as well as the practical aid from the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, to help bolster her.
“When I first came to UD, I didn’t know how studying philosophy or classical literature would help me in my future career, but now I realize that it’s about the way UD teaches us to think,” she said. “Sometimes in science you can become numb to life outside of your work and your research. A UD education makes you think about these other things. We’re taught how to think deeply about things that are important to life.”
To date, the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund has helped over 160 students like Mathews. More than 390 alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends have given $170,880. The need, however, is ongoing. To help our UD students in need, please make a gift to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
Date published: April 3, 2020
For business major Edisson Ramos, BA ’20, and his Old Mill roommates, like for so many others, everything changed so quickly.
“I thought I had everything planned out,” said Ramos. “My internship was going great, classes were going great, and the relationships I’ve built with my classmates had never been better. Yet, everything seemed to happen so suddenly. On top of the ever-growing sadness of losing our last moments as seniors, my classmates and I are now having to deal with a very real problem that’s affecting the lives of people worldwide. I went from planning for spring break to saying goodbye to my alma mater. I went from being able to make ends meet, to suddenly trying to figure out how we were going to make it through the next month.”
For many students, internships and jobs — both current and those lined up for the future — have been lost. Ramos feels fortunate in this respect because his internship — in logistics for a company considered essential — is simply on hold for the moment, and he may be able to go back as early as next week; further, his post-graduation position in business-to-business sales with AT&T is still scheduled to begin in the fall, though the start date may be pushed back. One roommate, however, was interning at a law firm and has lost that position, because the firm simply had no need of him working from home.
“So many students I know have not only lost their current employment, but also their employment after graduation,” said Ramos.
A first-generation college student, Ramos has never had an easy time making ends meet. He has always figured it out, though, even when it meant living in his truck for a semester and joining the lacrosse team for access to the locker room; he knows that this time would have been no different, but he deeply appreciates the aid UD has been able to provide.
“I don’t know a lot of people who like asking for help; I know I am certainly not one of those people,” he said. “However, God works in mysterious ways.”
Director of Financial Aid Taryn Anderson, BA ’07, contacted Ramos, getting boxes of food donated by Catholic Charities for him and his two roommates. A couple of days later, Anderson reached out again to see if Ramos needed help with any bills.
“There really aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am,” said Ramos. “Even when the world seems to crash down, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. The money donated will help me cover this month’s rent and pay for groceries … the money gave me another lifeline. Not knowing how you’re going to get by and receiving help when you need it the most is a feeling like no other. It gives you hope; it lets you know that God has your back.”
In appreciation for help he has received in the past, Ramos has already given back to the UD community with the establishment of the Groundhog Library, which provides UD students in need with textbooks that they can borrow for a semester at no cost.
The fund helping Ramos, UD’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, has currently raised nearly $90,000; the first of the funds were distributed last week to help students make their April rent, and Anderson is in the process of distributing a second wave to students with housing or food insecurity or in need of Wi-Fi or other resources for online learning. As many as 40 students have received assistance so far, including undergraduates in all four classes and graduate students in both Braniff and Gupta.
“This money will go a long way to help students,” said Anderson. “I am swamped right now with emails from students and requests for help.”
Donations to the fund have come from alumni, faculty and staff, trustees, parents, current students and other friends of the university. Some families have donated back to UD some or all of their refunds for the spring semester’s room and board.
“The older I get, the more respect I have for UD's stewardship of a classical Catholic education that does not blindly chase the latest fads in higher education or in society as a whole,” said Alex Valadka, M.D., BS ’83. “As a physician on the front lines of the pandemic, and as a medical school faculty member who knows firsthand the impact of the pandemic on a university, I am acutely aware of the effects that the pandemic can have on a small, private university like UD.”
“I wish I could hug everyone who donated, but given current circumstances, maybe a high five from six feet away would do,” said Ramos. “I would like to sincerely thank everyone who donated for this cause. Many other students will also be touched by generosity. Know that you have made an everlasting impact in our lives. Thank you for reaffirming my hope; I know I won’t ever forget moments like this. You all helped me when I needed it the most, and whenever I am in the position to help in turn, I will never forget what others did for me. I wish I could thank you all personally, but I hope to live a life of paying it forward. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these dark times. May God bless you all.”
If you are a student in need of assistance, please contact Taryn Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-721-5266.
Contribute to the fund here or by mailing a check to: Office of University Advancement, University of Dallas, 1845 E. Northgate Drive, Irving TX 75062. Please write “COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund” in the memo portion of your check.
Dear UD Community,
I hope you and your family are well. All UD alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are in our prayers during this trying time. Stacey and I feel blessed to be part of a community that is strong, tenacious and resilient.
Today, our university community faces an unprecedented challenge from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. We have had to make the difficult decision to repatriate our Rome students and move classes online for the remainder of the semester for all students. Our residential students have returned to their permanent homes, but many students who live off campus remain in Irving, albeit under a recently imposed “shelter-in-place” order. Our faculty, staff and students have responded to this crisis with grace and grit, yet new challenges, financial and otherwise, arise nearly daily.
Many of you have reached out to ask what you can do to help, and I am grateful for your generosity. In response, I have created the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to immediately help UD students in this rapidly evolving situation. Funds given for this purpose will be used to:
Your gift will truly make a difference to our UD students in this neediest of times!
You may make a gift online or by mailing a check to: Office of University Advancement, University of Dallas, 1845 E. Northgate Drive, Irving TX 75062. Please write COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund in the memo portion of your check.
I thank you for keeping our students, the most vulnerable members of our UD family, in your prayers. And I ask that you support our students in need.
Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83