Making Dickinson Possible: The Impact of Scholarships
February 16, 2010
Marissa Folk chats with Ann Conser Curley during the annual Donor-Scholar Luncehon.
Today things seem to come easily to Marissa Folk ’08. As a strategy and change consultant for IBM Global Business Services, the former economics major has jumped head-first into daunting projects at NASA, The Indianapolis Airport and the Department of Homeland Security, never afraid to learn quickly on the job.
“In consulting, every time you start a new contract, you have to pick things up very quickly,” she explains. “For example, being fresh out of college, it’s hard to wrap your mind around the complexity and level of effort required to open up a new international airport or transform an organization’s business. So it’s important to be able to come up to speed fast—and I really think my education at Dickinson prepared me to do that.”
But that Dickinson education didn’t come so easily at first. In fact, there was a time when it seemed impossible.
“I can still remember when my high-school guidance counselor pulled me out of my honors English class to tell me I should withdraw my application,” Folk recalls, noting that she came from a single-parent home where money was tight. “He said ‘a girl who comes from a family with an economic background like mine would never get into a school like Dickinson, and even if I got in I would never have the money to go there.’ ”
Instead of taking the advice to heart, Folk took it as a challenge and applied to Dickinson. After being accepted, she earned the Ann Conser Curley ’63 Scholarship along with several other scholarships that made attending Dickinson financially possible.
Naturally, she made the most of her four years, taking advantage of the small classes and close faculty relationships she would have been forced to sacrifice without the help of donors like John ’60 and Ann Conser Curley.
“If it wasn’t for the scholarships, I would have had to go to a state school,” says Folk. “And then I wouldn’t have had that one-on-one interaction with amazing professors, the close community, the deep understanding of so
many different subjects.”
Those aspects of the Dickinson experience, says Folk, empowered her to become a leader. She served as senior class president, a student senator and a member of the Career Center’s Student Advisory Board during her time at the college. She also picked up the skills and intellectual flexibility that her colleagues at IBM have recognized as rare but vital attributes.
“I was talking to one of my supervisors on a recent project, and she said my ability to interact with anyone and everyone and my ability to manage intense work streams on a deadline are qualities most college grads don’t have,” says Folk. “And that’s exactly what my Dickinson education gave me.”
For John and Ann Curley, that’s also exactly why they chose to support Dickinson with an endowed scholarship. “I definitely believe Dickinson graduates are better prepared for today’s world,” says Ann, who met Folk during the 2008 Donor-Scholar Luncheon. “They graduate with a broader view, the ability to adapt and a global perspective.”
Accordingly, Curley sees her contribution to the scholarship fund as more than a gift for students. “The letters that we get from students often stress how they feel prepared to make an impact because of their education,” she says. “So we definitely see that the gift goes beyond the campus.”
But Curley admits she also was motivated by a sense of gratitude. “I had a scholarship to go to Dickinson, and I can really appreciate what it means to a family and a student to receive a scholarship,” she says. “So one reason we support scholarships is appreciation for our Dickinson experience.”
That appreciation is shared by Folk. “Thank you for giving me a great education and a very strong foundation to step out into this greater world and be able to find success,” she said in a recent e-mail to some of the faculty, administrators and donors responsible for her Dickinson experience. “I can say that each of you played a fundamental role in my development as a scholar and a corporate businesswoman.”