$8.4 Million Gift Helps International Students Seize Opportunities

Andriy Molchanov, an entrepreneurial Ukrainian who is working on his fifth language, decided at age 12 to study in the United States. Though close to his family, he worked and earned enough scholarships to do it mostly on his own: middle school and hockey in Massachusetts, with some help from a host family, then high school in Pennsylvania and admission to Davidson College's class of '19.

His savings, however, fell short of supporting an unpaid internship in Boston with a corporate recruiting firm last summer.

Carlos Alvarez has listened to stories like Andriy's (pronounced André) from the international students attending Davidson on the scholarship that bears the Alvarez family name. At an annual dinner for the Alvarez Scholars or chatting on a bench on campus, he and his daughter, Malú Alvarez, Davidson class of '02, who also is actively engaged with the scholarship program, listen intently to the scholars as they gush about their Davidson experiences. They also describe the roadblocks beyond campus: federal requirements, work permits, visa entanglements or a lack of living expenses for an internship or overseas project.

An NPR report this week highlights these obstacles, which the Alvarez family is helping to knock down.

Alvarez, who emigrated to the U.S. with his family from his native Mexico, is a leading craft brewing entrepreneur based in San Antonio. He and his wife, also Malú, funded their scholarship program in 2010. Since then, Davidson's international student enrollment has doubled from four percent to eight percent. The Alvarezes have now announced that they will give an additional $8.4 million to further support international students and enhance their experiences at Davidson, creating a more robust program and support system for all international students.

The Alvarez Access Program will ensure that all international students, not just Alvarez Scholars, have dedicated resources and staff support to delve into the curricular, career-guiding and perspective-widening opportunities Davidson offers.

"I want all of the international students to have the experiences they dream of and to position them for greater opportunities in their career pursuits," Alvarez said.

The new funding will:

  • Create the Alvarez Director of International Student Services and expand the staff to offer more guidance and more support with federal requirements, such as visas and work permits. 
  • Support a new position in the Center for Career Development to build a network of companies that will hire or provide internships to international students and to help students navigate federal regulations, such as internships aligning with a student's field of study. 
  • Guarantee funding for two career experiences or programs that complement academic coursework for international students with financial need and offer similar funding by application to all international students.
  • Fund special training for comprehensive, pre-major advisers to guide international students on academics, physical and emotional health, career experiences and activities and programs beyond the classroom that complement academics. 

Alvarez has solved problems for international students before. As a trustee, he led the policy change allowing international students to take their financial aid with them on overseas semesters. 

Molchanov, who is an Alvarez Scholar, secured a donor-funded grant from Davidson's Center for Career Development for his Boston internship and is currently attending the Davidson in East Asia program, another experience made possible because of additional funding from the college. He praised the Alvarez family's new gift as helping with issues and challenges for international students attending Davidson on scholarships and need-based aid. 

"My only source of funding for off-campus experiences comes from my personal savings," Molchanov said. "I do work the maximum number of hours allowed for working on campus, but given the current situation in the Ukraine, I wire most of that money back home to help support my family." 

Yasemin Tekgurler '19, an art and sociology major from Istanbul, secured an internship in Charleston, S.C., this summer, but could only accept it after a faculty member found her free housing with a friend.

"I don't have a home I can go to (in the United States)," Tekgurler said, "live for free and intern in that city."

Alvarez emphasized that the students enjoy a limited time to grab the opportunities that Davidson offers.

"The staff and resources supported by the new gift will help students seize and weave together those experiences, to stand out as candidates for a dream job or grad school," he said. "It just takes a little more creativity and a little more work than the typical domestic student."

"The students return from all of these enriching experiences we are talking about–research, internships, travels–more engaged and more inspired, and this greatly shapes who they are as people and leaders," Malú '02 added. "We all have a desire to make an impact, a positive impact, given what we've lived."

The Alvarez family believes that the more you can eliminate the obstacles, the more well-rounded the student that is coming out, the greater impact they have as global citizens.

Danielle Strickland

Mark Johnson