WSU President Announces Scholarship Initiative and Outlines Vision During Inauguration
OGDEN, Utah – During his inauguration, Jan. 7, Weber State University President Brad Mortensen announced ’CATapult, a scholarship fundraising initiative to raise $10 million by July 1, 2021.
Mortensen told the crowd of 900 in the Val. A. Browning Center that the ’CATapult initiative will help boost student recruitment, retention and completion rates by propelling students past financial obstacles that impede graduation.
“Weber State students start down the path of their degree and sometimes reach a point where they can no longer handle all of the financial obligations, so they reduce the number of courses they take or stop out for a semester to work and save money,” Mortensen explained. “We have established the ‘CATapult scholarship to provide an energetic, upward burst of momentum toward graduation for our fellow Wildcats.”
The president illustrated the need for such funding by introducing the audience to Yandriel Sobrino-Rodriguez, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2016.
Rodriguez and his family fled their native Cuba to escape political persecution. He arrived in Utah at age 11, unable to speak English. After high school, Rodriguez enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent the next four years serving his adopted country. Following an honorable discharge, he enrolled at Weber State because of its reputation as a “military-friendly” campus.
In his senior year, the computer science major was close to graduating when he discovered that his GI Bill benefits were exhausted, and he had too many credits to apply for alternative financial aid. He sought advice from his Veterans Upward Bound mentor, who suggested Rodriguez apply for a privately funded scholarship available to current students who have completed 50% or more of their graduation requirements.
Today, thanks to that scholarship, Rodriguez is in a master’s degree program and working as a software engineer at My 529, a nonprofit educational savings program run by the state of Utah. He calls his Weber State experience “life-changing.”
“Without coming to the U.S. and attending college, I would either be working on a Cuban sugarcane plantation or in jail,” Rodriguez said. “Everywhere I go, I let people know that I’m a veteran and that I went to Weber State.”
The ’CATapult scholarship will provide support to many additional Wildcats who are progressing toward graduation. The scholarship will be flexible enough for the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office to address a student’s unique circumstances.
During the inauguration, held on Weber State’s Founders Day, Mortensen also articulated the vision for his presidency. He expressed his desire to align the university’s strategic plan and emerging opportunities with the strength and accomplishments of its historic values.
Under his leadership, Mortensen said the university will continue its hallmark of personalized attention; redouble its efforts to promote student enrollment, retention, completion and success; and prepare a next-generation workforce that balances technical skills with aptitude in problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork.
Mortensen will maintain a focus on the core themes of access, learning and community. He wants to expand the university’s leadership role as a dual-mission university, where students can earn certificates and easily advance from associate’s to bachelor’s to graduate degrees.
“I hope it can be said I have been a listening, learning president, and that Weber State has been a learning university — not just a university that imparts knowledge, but a university that itself is learning,” Mortensen said.
He believes the university is primed to address workforce needs, erase opportunity gaps for diverse students and form strategic educational pathways. Weber State’s flexibility and affordability provide access to learning for all students — students such as Sobrino-Rodriguez — who are pursuing their educational goals.
For more information about the ’CATapult scholarship initiative, visit weber.edu/catapult.
For more information about the inauguration, visit weber.edu/WSUToday/112219_PresidentialInauguration.html.
For photos, visit the following link.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.