Student Impact Stories

By Madeline Swanson

The University of Michigan continually ranks among the top public universities in the world, due in part to the diverse group of outstanding students who call this university home. U-M students hail from all 50 states and over 120 countries, and among undergraduates alone, more than half of them receive some form of financial support.

U-M President Mark Schlissel has said he believes “talent is ubiquitous in our society, but opportunity most certainly is not.” A strong tradition of philanthropic support has helped provide opportunities for promising students, allowing them to take advantage of the exceptional experiences our university has to offer—learning from world renowned faculty, conducting groundbreaking research, and immersing themselves in an engaging campus environment.

Given the opportunity, these talented students prepare to become the leaders and best in their fields as they attempt to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Donors ensure a talented and diverse group of the world’s brightest students continues to have access to U-M’s transformative education, combining academic excellence in the classroom with real-world experiences. Securing support for students remains our top priority.

Thanks to generous donors like you, students from all walks of life receive the resources they need to build upon their Michigan foundation and write their own success stories. Leaders & Best sat down with three incredible Wolverines whose Michigan experiences were made possible by philanthropic support. Get to know two outstanding students and an inspiring new alumna who are already making an impact on their campuses, in their communities, and across the Midwest.

Stav Nachum, a recent graduate of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business who is now working her dream job as a consultant in Chicago

Nowshin Laskar, a senior at UM-Dearborn serving her local community through education and mentorship

Ross Michaels, a second-year medical student, triathlete, and first-time father

STAV NACHUM

From Passion to Profession

Recent graduate Stav Nachum (BBA ’19) will never forget the moment she learned she was accepted to the University of Michigan.

It was the beginning of winter break, and Stav was checking into a hotel with her family when she received a flurry of text messages from friends: U-M had notified accepted applicants.

“I was on a flight and didn’t have internet access, so I had no idea the decisions had gone out,” Stav recalls. “As my parents were checking in to our hotel, I found out I was accepted, and I immediately told them the good news. Michigan was my dream school.”

Stav’s journey to Michigan began in Israel. Born in Tel Aviv, she arrived in the U.S. with her family when she was eight months old. By high school, Stav had become interested in everything from political science and international governments to technology and business.

Her budding passion for business piqued her interest in U-M’s world-class Stephen M. Ross School of Business, but with the top-ranked University of Virginia right around the corner from her hometown, choosing a school came down to a financial decision.

Stav’s exceptional academic performance in high school earned her multiple awards and scholarships, including the Robert and Janet Neary Scholarship. The Nearys’ scholarship offers need-based support for out-of-state students in the Ross School and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

“Knowing I wouldn’t have debt after graduation was an incredible feeling to have,” Stav says. “It made it easier to choose a school that suited my cultural and academic interests.”

Support from Robert (BBA ’55) and Janet (AB ’54) Neary enabled Stav to immerse herself in all U-M had to offer, providing her with a truly transformational college experience. Stav was widely involved on campus, whether she was conducting research on cybercrime at the Institute for Social Research or helping lead the TAMID Group, a student-run organization that consults with international startup companies.

“Having a scholarship allowed me to choose Michigan without the worry of having to spend hours every day working to support my tuition,” Stav says. “Instead, I was able to participate in a wide range of activities outside of the classroom that gave me a more holistic education.”

Before her senior year at U-M Stav interned at home and abroad, from the U.S. House of Representatives to a high-tech startup in Tel Aviv. As an emerging leader for student organizations like the Michigan Business Women, she used experiences such as these to mentor younger students in the group.

The opportunity to explore diverse interests eventually led Stav to her current career—a field she admits she didn’t know existed before coming to U-M.

“I landed my dream job at a top consulting firm that I enjoy every day, and I know it couldn’t have been achievable if I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Michigan and pursue different interests,” Stav says.

Now based in Chicago as a business analyst for McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, Stav helps companies improve strategy and business operations, evaluate customer experiences, and more.

“It’s easy to get excited about my work,” Stav says. “I often work long hours, but, to me, the work is so fascinating, and I truly feel I’m creating impact, learning, and evolving every day.”

In the future, she hopes to pay forward the generous support that led her to early-career success.

“Eventually I would love to give scholarships to others because of how dramatically they changed my life.”  


 

NOWSHIN LASKAR

A Michigan Mentor

University of Michigan-Dearborn senior Nowshin Laskar grew up enjoying school, but rarely had teachers and mentors to whom she could easily relate. As an elementary education and mathematics major, Nowshin is inspired to change that for future generations of students.

“I feel it’s important for children to be able to see themselves in the people they look up to,” Nowshin says. “It’s something I want to bring to my community, since it’s not something I grew up with. I see the students that struggle and I want to help them have a better future.”

At UM-Dearborn, Nowshin became highly involved in organizations across campus, pairing her passion for teaching math with her love of serving children in her community. Through the university’s Office of Metropolitan Impact, she tutored students in math at Detroit’s Osborn High School, serving as a role model to students who, like her, grew up in disadvantaged environments. 

“I was mentoring them and giving them an idea of what a college student could look like, as well as a picture of what college life could be like,” Nowshin says.

These critical educational experiences at Osborn changed her perspective on teaching. For many students at Osborn, growing up in poverty affected their ability to maximize their potential in the classroom. 

“There are so many different things people are going through,” Nowshin says. “When I work in different schools, I keep that in mind. Kids might be angry or restless because there’s no food in their house, and keeping those things in mind when I’m working with children is important.”

Her desire to work with students and give back to the community extends into other programs, like Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates, the Student Michigan Education Association, the Muslim Student Association, and Talent Gateway. 

In 2018, Nowshin was named a UM-Dearborn Difference Maker—students who are at the forefront of their fields. Generous donors—also difference makers—enabled Nowshin to attend UM-Dearborn and have a significant impact on campus.

“I don’t have to worry about taking out loans and having to stress over how to pay my tuition without finding a job,” Nowshin says. “I can focus on my career goals, which helps tremendously.”

Nowshin’s strong academic performance in high school earned her the Opportunity Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship automatically awarded to students within certain geographic districts who are admitted to UM-Dearborn.

Nowshin is also a recipient of the Belinda J. Wilson Endowed Incentive Scholarship, which provides need-based support for students from Detroit who are leaders in their community. In her mentoring, Nowshin exhibits the kind of leadership qualities she hopes to pass on to her mentees.

“If I didn’t get scholarships, I never thought I could pay for college,” Nowshin says. “I chose UM-Dearborn because of the scholarships that were offered to me. Coming from a low-income family, I would not have been able to afford it. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”

In the future, Nowshin hopes to pay forward the support she received by serving students in her own community. “My biggest dream is to teach in Hamtramck,” she says. “I really love this place and the people; it’s something that’s really special to me.”

Donors’ generosity has inspired Nowshin to someday provide scholarship support to other students like her.

“It’s really important because there are so many kids that work really hard to have the same opportunities as others, but money gets in the way,” Nowshin says. “It’s great to know people are there to help us.”


 

ROSS MICHAELS

Balancing Act

Ross Michaels had a big year in 2018. He moved to Ann Arbor, started medical school at the University of Michigan, completed an Ironman Triathlon, and became a dad for the first time.

“It wasn’t an easy first year,” Ross says. “But we didn’t sign up for easy when we decided to go to medical school.”

For Ross, life has always been somewhat of a balancing act. As an undergraduate at Michigan Technological University, he studied biomedical engineering, ran track, remained active at church, volunteered for service trips, and more.

Ross married his childhood sweetheart, Kaitlyn, during their senior year at Michigan Tech. Both worked as volunteer emergency medical technicians. As newlyweds with plans to start a family, they knew Ross attending medical school would mean a major commitment of time and money, and that finding support—financial and otherwise—would be crucial to their success.

For many students, receiving financial aid is a deciding factor when choosing a school, especially when carrying prior educational debt. That was the case for Ross, who planned to join the Army to pay for medical school. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than acquiring more debt.

Then a phone call came.

“I was signed up for officer training when I got a message from the assistant dean for admissions at the Medical School, saying, ‘Ross I’d like to offer you a scholarship to Michigan if you defer for a year,’” Ross says. 

Ross, a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, received the Northern Michigan Endowed Scholarship at the U-M Medical School, providing him with a fully funded two-year scholarship. That financial assistance, courtesy of Curtis Cummins (BS ’89, MD ’95), allowed the Michaels family to continue pursuing their passion for public service.

“Being married with a kid, it was hard looking at this big burden of debt,” Ross says. “We felt an overwhelming sense of freedom when I was offered the scholarship because it allows us to use our skills in whatever way we see fit and go wherever God’s calling us to practice. This is something you can’t really put a value on for us.”

Medical student scholarship recipient Ross Michaels, his wife Kaitlyn, and their daughter in the University Hospital courtyard.

Dr. Cummins’ support has not only enabled Ross to chase his dream career, it’s also allowed the Michaels to continue volunteering, all while providing enough security for Kaitlyn to take care of their 6-month-old daughter, Eden.

Growing up in an intimate rural community, the Michaels discovered their love for service volunteering through their church. By high school, Ross was pondering whether to become a pastor or a doctor, until a trip to Haiti changed his perspective. Ross met a doctor who runs a clinic in Haiti and began helping him care for patients, solidifying his love for medicine.

“Being able to offer the gift of medicine really resonated with me, so I chose medical school.”

His choice to come to Michigan was inspired by the heroic team of doctors and nurses at Michigan Medicine.

“We would often pick up the U-M Survival Flight team from the airport and transport them to the hospital in the U.P. to pick up sick children,” Ross says. “When the U-M physicians and nurses showed up, the panicked staff at our little local hospital was so relaxed just because the experts were there. It gave me the impression that people really knew what they were doing at Michigan.”

Now in his second year of medical school, the balancing act continues. So how does Ross do it all? With a little perspective and a lot of support, he says.

“Being able to go home and pick up Eden—who could care less about anything—it just brings me back to the bigger picture of what’s important.”

MORE: STORIES OF IMPACT
Students celebrating Pride and the Spectrum 50th Anniversary logo

Howard Bragman creates million-dollar “coming out” fund at U-M

Bequest celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Spectrum Center, the nation’s oldest LGBTQIA+ college support center, with its largest ever gift.
Published 8.27.2021
Abstract collage repreenting research

ISR’s Next Generation Initiative

Donor-funded awards support promising graduate scholars early in their careers. Meet four students whose research is changing lives.
Published 8.25.2021
Graphic of the six Olympic medalists who received donor support

Donor support helps student-athletes pursue their Olympic dreams

Six U-M Olympic medalists received donor-funded scholarships during their time at Michigan. Get to know more about them and how philanthropy helped propel their success.
Published 8.24.2021