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Donor Makes a Difference

Research is something that many students want to participate in before graduating — but the time commitment can cause challenges without proper funding.

Third-year Honors student and Wielenga Research Scholar Morgan Vandenberg has felt this pressure, as she holds three odd jobs on top of her research position.

Vandenberg explained that through having her research experiences funded, she has been able to focus her intentions on nourishing her knowledge in public relations.

“It’s also amazing having those direct aspects of being able to communicate in the environment I plan to be in after graduation,” she said.

Last week, the 22-23 cohort of Wielenga Research Scholars had the opportunity to meet with long-time donor and supporter Tom Wielenga over dinner at Snyder-Phillips Hall.

Wielenga grew up in Zeeland, Michigan and attended Michigan State University after both his siblings did. He then went on to receive his doctorate in mechanical engineering from University of Michigan.

Wielenga has funded over sixty Honors students research experiences, providing them the chance to take the next steps to achieve excellence during their academic career.

“As a sophomore, I learned to work with a professor, Dr. Ron Rosenberg, and it was just such a great experience for me. That’s kind of why I do this,” Wielenga said. “I hope the scholars have the same experience I did.”

Wielenga is known for inventing the anti-rollover brake system, a system used to prevent a friction rollover of a vehicle found on every SUV today.

Second-year student Dana Williams is honored to be a scholar of the program and is ecstatic to participate in her first on-campus research opportunity.

Her research focuses on preventing gender-based violence in jails, communities, and schools — and she is part of a secondary project working with Safe Haven and the CDC.

“This has given me the opportunity to experience research on campus on a topic I’m extremely passionate about,” Williams said. “If I could say one thing to Tom Wielenga, it would be thank you so much for the opportunity, for helping us expand our knowledge, and for inspiring us to learn more on what we’re most passionate about.”

The reason for Wielenga’s generous support is simple: to provide an opportunity for students to take the next step toward their desired career, whether it be in STEM, medicine, the arts, or whatever field they are passionate about.

“You’re going to make mistakes, they might be bad, and you’re going to feel horrible, but you’ll find a way through and eventually get to someplace better.” he said.

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