The University of New Orleans has long enjoyed a reputation for providing students with rigorous instruction and solid preparation for the real world. Now, a $50,000 gift from the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust will expand two signature campus programs that directly engage undergraduate students in research with mentors and exemplify the kind of robust student experience for which the University of New Orleans is widely known.
The Privateer Undergraduate Research and Scholarly UNO Experience (PURSUE) program matches students from any class level and academic discipline to faculty mentors with shared academic interests and provides an award of up to $1,500 for a student worker position focused on research, scholarly or creative activity to be conducted under the guidance of the mentor. Students earn $15 per hour and can work as many as 10 hours per week, up to 100 hours per semester. Students must have a minimum 2.0 grade point average and maintain at least half-time enrollment, which is at least 6 credit hours during the spring and fall semesters.
The College of Sciences Undergraduate Research Program (COSURP) is similar to PURSUE but designed specifically for students pursuing an undergraduate degree from the College of Sciences. Students can earn $10 per hour and work up to 10 hours per week in the fall and spring semesters on research projects in areas such as biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, earth and environmental sciences, physics or psychology.
“It is not an overstatement to say that the University of New Orleans changes lives when we are able to directly engage our students in research early and throughout their undergraduate studies,” said Matthew Tarr, vice president for research and economic development at the University of New Orleans. “Engaging in scholarly activity and working closely with a faculty member can sometimes spark an interest in graduate school or a career in research that the student couldn’t have otherwise imagined. These programs are also highly effective in keeping students on track in their academic careers and motivating them to persist through to graduation when outside obstacles present retention challenges.”
Beyond the benefits associated with mentorship and career exploration, these undergraduate research programs sometimes produce a more immediate impact on the student’s academic career. For some students, the opportunity to spend time in a laboratory reinforcing concepts presented during a classroom lecture wouldn’t be possible without the financial award.
“That’s why we are so pleased to have this new support from the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust to help us expand and enhance the life-changing work we do here at the University of New Orleans,” added Tarr. “We look forward to naming the 2019 class of Tolmas Scholars.”
Oscar J. Tolmas was born in 1920 to parents who entered the United States through Ellis Island in New York in 1915. He graduated from Tulane University in 1941 and Tulane Law School in 1943. A WWII Veteran, he was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Tolmas was married in 1963 to Ms. Marjorie Ella Skinner, who served as chief of nursing at two different hospitals in the New Orleans area. They were married until her death in September 2013, and his death quickly followed on December 2, 2013. Throughout his life in New Orleans, Tolmas was an active businessman, attorney and real estate developer. But his real passion was horse racing. A regular at the New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack for decades, Tolmas was a member of the Louisiana Racing Commission for 12 years and served as its chairman for four years. He left his entire estate to the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust, which supports various charitable organizations.