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Two engineering students earn SMART scholarships

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Kevin Yang, at left, and Jared Snyder.

Two Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering undergraduates have received the prestigious Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship, an award from the U.S. Department of Defense that supports the education of the country’s top science and engineering students.

As SMART scholars, Jared Snyder, a student in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, and Kevin Yang, a student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will receive full tuition, room and board, stipends, summer research internships and postgraduation employment with DoD agencies.

These exceptional students have already achieved milestones that most students aspire to when they are in graduate school.

“To receive the SMART scholarship, these exceptional students have already achieved milestones that most students aspire to when they are in graduate school,” said Afroditi V. Filippas, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Engineering and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The environment at VCU inspires students like Kevin and Jared to thrive, through undergraduate research programs like Vertically Integrated Projects and the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Initiative, the care and attention of their faculty mentors and the services provided by our National Scholarship Office.”

For Snyder, the SMART scholarship means a chance to pursue his studies at a more deliberate pace than was possible during the three semesters he spent working full time and taking classes in community college before transferring to VCU.

“I am getting an opportunity to focus solely on learning and applying new skills, without having to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills,” he said, adding that he and his wife are new parents to a baby girl.

His award is especially meaningful for another reason.

“I’m a four-year Army combat veteran,” Snyder said. “This scholarship will give me an opportunity to serve for the Army again, but in a different way.”

Yang also looks forward to serving the military, where he hopes to develop computer systems after graduation. At VCU, he has conducted research as an undergraduate student and participated in regional competitions such as the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest — experiences he credits with laying the foundation for academic success and intellectual discovery.

“Coming into VCU, I knew I wanted to do something with hands-on engineering in the computer field, but not exactly what,” he said. “After participating in several opportunities and experiences, I realized the benefits and the results of those opportunities carved the path to my decision to work on computer systems and software development. The outcome greatly outweighs the efforts of putting in the work.”

Students who are interested in learning more about the SMART Scholarship or other opportunities are encouraged to contact VCU’s National Scholarship Office. The NSO supports VCU alumni, graduate students and undergraduates who wish to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships. Interested students and alumni can contact VCU’s NSO at natlscholar@vcu.edu or 804-828-6868.