Jandos Scholarship helps outstanding female College of Science students


One of the biggest scholarships in the College of Science is also the most mysterious.

Every year, the Mae and Lloyd J. Jandos Scholarship gives out $5,000 per student to deserving undergraduate students in Women in Science Programs. This academic year, 17 students each received a scholarship while 19 are scheduled to benefit from the money in 2014-15.

Since it was introduced in 2009, $500,000 has gone to Science students. A few students received the scholarship multiple times.

The mystery behind the large scholarship is the source. Mae and Lloyd J. Jandos’ daughter Joyce Zawila graduated with a Science degree in 1956. When Zawila died in 2006, her will had specific instructions for a large part of her estate to go to the Purdue Foundation for the purpose of a $1.6 million endowment fund for science students. Purdue received the first portion -- a half million dollars -- on Dec. 13, 2007. Since then, the money has grown and so has the mystery of a family that has helped almost 100 undergraduates after decades of no documented communication since 1956.

“That is the sum total of what we know about these people,” says Barbara Clark, director of diversity and Women in Science Programs. “By the time we found out about this, they were all deceased.”

Clark works with a committee to select students that have completed at least a semester and have at least a year left of school for the Jandos. Applicants must have a minimum grade point average of 2.75. Clark believes the scholarship is a valuable tool in retaining Science students, making sure they do not feel the need to transfer to another major or university. Jandos winners have to have experience in diversity as well – either as part of an organization, charity or events.

“We decided to make the requirement of ‘high-achieving’ more generous. Instead of just choosing the 4.0 students, who get all of the awards, we think 2.75 are still students who will graduate, get jobs and be good, contributing members of society,” Clark says.

At the beginning of the school year, Clark started to organize meetings of the 17 current Jandos Scholarship recipients. Clark, a computer scientist, leads networking and discussion topics that matter to successful women like the imposter syndrome, a psychological notion by some women who believe they may not deserve their success and accomplishments, and “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” a popular book by Sheryl Sandberg.

“I think it helps facilitate their growth,” Clark says of the twice a semester meetings. “Next year we are going to have them attend some diversity events and write some reflection papers on that. We’re getting a little more intrusive in working with them but I think they like that. … Supporting them in other ways besides the money is beneficial to them.”

Before a meeting in February, Chemistry senior Rachel Svetanoff, Computer Science senior Lillian Liu and Biological Sciences junior Amanda Mark expressed their gratitude for the scholarship and revealed the impact the dollars have made during their time in the College of Science.

“It saved my life,” says Svetanoff. “If it wasn’t for this scholarship, I wouldn’t be at Purdue and I wouldn’t be able to afford college. After my dad passed away, my mom didn’t have a job. … There would be no other way I could’ve afforded college. … We were on a really tight budget.”

The Jandos award helped Svetanoff survive and thrive during her last few years at Purdue. She has been able to be a part of Purdue Science Student Council, Purdue Student Government, American Chemical Society, Purdue Student Pugwash Organization and, of course, Women in Science Programs.

Mark became a first-time Jandos scholarship recipient in the fall. Her tuition was paid for with a 21st Century Scholarship from the government. Now living off-campus, the timing of the Jandos money has been great for the Health and Disease student.

“I pay for my living – rent and electricity – the food I eat each month. It’s put me on a budget each month,” Mark says. “My books. I also took a study abroad trip (to Salamanca, Spain) this past May and I had to take out a loan for that.”  

“I used to work three different jobs so this scholarship allows me to work significantly less hours,” Liu explains. “As for receiving the scholarship, it’s nice to know you’ve earned something in your undergraduate career. It’s nice to know in the middle of your undergrad that if you work hard, you can earn this reward.

Mark and Svetanoff acknowledge the atypical story behind the scholarship. Yes, the College of Science has benefitted immensely from many alumni gifts that go to scholarships. But a scholarship like the Jandos, from a family that has had little to no contact with Purdue for decades, is out of the ordinary to say the least.

“I thought it was amazing that randomly a big pile of money showed up at the College of Science’s front door,” Mark says. “Now it’s being put to good use, being given to people who need it, who are working hard at Purdue trying to pay for their education, maybe get out of undergrad with not a whole lot of debt and maybe pursue a professional or graduate education. So it’s actually helping students to do that, like me. I’m very thankful for it.”

“All of us who have received the scholarship have worked hard to earn it,” Svetanoff adds. “The story is like a miracle. It’s almost unbelievable. “

Jandos meeting

Rebekah Figueroa (left) and Anavi Nahar participate in a recent Jandos Scholarship meeting.

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