sealPurdue News

April 25, 1997

Free plane ticket takes student on two-year trip

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When Kyle Maurice thinks about how he first came to Purdue University, he just laughs.

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"I was in my senior year at Florida A&M when someone came to me out of the blue and said there was a plane ticket waiting for me in my adviser's office," Maurice says. The ticket was to Purdue.

Two years later, Maurice will complete his first Purdue degree, a master's in electrical and computer engineering, this May.

The ticket was sent by Dwight Lewis, coordinator of minority programs for the Graduate School, so Maurice could visit the campus as part of Purdue's Historically Black Institutions Visitation Program. The visitation program is part of an eight-year effort to increase minority student enrollment in Purdue's Graduate School. Each fall, Purdue flies in about 70 students who visit the campus for three days, Lewis says.

Since the program's inception, 175 graduates from 11 historically black colleges and universities have enrolled at Purdue. More than 85 percent of those students have earned advanced degrees or are still enrolled. Students involved in the program have earned six doctorates and 80 master's degrees.

"I had heard of Purdue, but I had not considered coming here after I finished my bachelor's," Maurice says. "I was impressed by the facilities available and the quality of the faculty. But the real difference was Dr. (Kevin T.) Kornegay.

"I met him at one of the receptions during the visitation program. By the end of the evening, he told me that he wanted me among his group of graduate students conducting research in electrical engineering. And he followed up on that statement. Later on, when he found out I was missing something from my application, he called me to make sure I got the rest of the information turned in. No one at the other schools I was looking at paid that much attention."

It was not the first time that personalized attention influenced Maurice's choice of schools. While a high school senior in Tallahassee, Fla. , he planned to attend Carnegie-Mellon University. "But one evening the president of Florida A&M came to the house and stole me away," Maurice says.

Although Maurice was impressed with Purdue's campus and his adviser-to-be, he still considered graduate school at Georgia Tech and the University of Florida. The decisive factor was Maurice being named one of Purdue's first Coca-Cola Fellows.

The fellowship program was established in 1994 with an initial grant of $36,000 from the Coca-Cola Foundation, Atlanta . The first awards were present in the fall of 1995. The Coca-Cola Foundation has continued its annual support of the program, most recently with a $50,000 donation for the 1997-98 academic year.

The foundation's donations help fund fellowships for students who earned their undergraduate degrees at a historically black college or university and are enrolled in Purdue's Graduate School. "The support of the Coca-Cola Foundation is crucial in helping new and continuing students at Purdue's Graduate School continue their studies and earn their degrees," Lewis says. "The administration and the students truly appreciate what the foundation has made possible." At least five Coca-Cola Fellowships, worth $12,000 each, will be awarded for the 1997-98 academic year.

"Obviously that made the difference," Maurice says. "I know other students here and I know that the TAs (teaching assistants) really work hard for their money. The fellowship is great, because I can really focus on my studies."

After graduation, Maurice will spend the summer getting ready for his qualification exams for the doctoral engineering program, just as he always planned.

"I've always been interested in building things," he says. "My favorite toy was a deluxe Tinker Toys set with gears and pulleys and a motor. I spent hours building and fixing things. The house was littered with things that I took apart and could not quite get back together. So I pretty much knew that I would want a career in engineering and that working on a Ph.D. was a given."

Maurice expects to spend another three or four years at Purdue working on his doctorate. He wants to work in the telecommunications field, specifically designing wireless communication systems. "And I intend to eventually become a professor," he says.

Sources: Kyle Maurice, (765) 494-0750; e-mail,
Dwight Lewis, (765) 494-3232
Writer: J. Michael Willis, (765) 494-0371; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo Caption

Kyle Maurice relaxes from his studies in the walkway between the second floors of the Physics and the Materials and Electrical Engineering buildings. Maurice, one of Purdue's first Coca-Cola Fellows, will receive a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering during commencement ceremonies May 17. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

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