Like millions of people across the country, students at UTA suddenly found themselves navigating an unfamiliar reality when COVID-19 began to spread throughout the U.S. in March 2020. That new existence meant adjusting to online learning, a change of environment as they sheltered in place, and, for some, sudden economic uncertainty.
Their stories are familiar: Decreases in income or complete job loss left several unable to pay bills; some were unable to afford access to internet and necessary technologies for remote learning; and others needed help traveling home.
Fortunately, UTA students in need had a source of refuge. Since 2015, students with unexpected financial setbacks have sought relief by applying to UTA’s Emergency Assistance Fund. To qualify for aid, applicants must have a temporary financial hardship resulting from a sudden emergency that jeopardizes their capability to attend UTA.
The program is made possible largely thanks to individual donor support. As of June 1, 514 donors had given more than $148,000 in direct response to the pandemic.
“Unexpected financial setbacks caused by short-term crises can make or break a student when it comes to completing their educations,” says Lisa Nagy, vice president for student affairs. “Donations to the Emergency Assistance Fund not only support affected students, but also show their community is behind them.”
Almost as soon as the pandemic arrived in North Texas, members of the Maverick community asked how they could help. When Lei Testa (’93 BBA, Accounting) saw the call for support, she was eager to do her part by making a donation.
“More than ever, it’s important we come together as a community to help one another,” Testa says. “I felt compelled to do whatever I could to support my fellow Mavericks during these challenging times.”
Some used their creative skills to garner support, such as Dan Cavanagh, professor and chair of the Department of Music, who hosted a live jazz concert from his living room in April. The hourlong event drew hundreds of viewers and raised more than $2,500 for UTA students.
The impact of this collective community support will not soon be forgotten by students. In a thank you note to staff, Thao Ho, a junior finance and economics major and Goolsby Scholar, summed up the fund’s profound impact.
“You have lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most crucial aspect of school—learning,” she wrote. “I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.”