The scholarship is the first baccalaureate scholarship in the School of Public Health.
It was announced by WPN chair Ray Uttenhove during An Evening with President Mark Becker, an educational program which discussed the president’s accomplished tenure and insights into the future of Georgia State.
The merit- and financial-need based award, officially known as the WPN Scholarship in Public Health in Honor of President Becker, will be awarded to a rising Georgia State junior or senior who is studying toward a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) degree. The student must also have an interest in pursuing a career in the field. With the State Way Match, the Georgia State University Foundation matched WPN’s gift of $50,000 to create the $100,000 scholarship.
“We are grateful to the Women’s Philanthropy Network for their generous support of our growing and vibrant undergraduate program,” said Dr. Rodney Lyn, interim dean of the School of Public Health. “This scholarship is a fitting tribute and will serve as an enduring legacy for President Becker, whose leadership and commitment were instrumental in the establishment of the BSPH program and the School of Public Health.”
The scholarship is fitting given that President Becker is a statistician and has had a prominent career in biostatistics and public health sciences. Prior to his appointment as president of Georgia State in 2009, Becker was executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, and dean of the School of Public Health and assistant vice president of public health preparedness and emergency response at the University of Minnesota.
During his deanship, President Becker recalled his advocacy for baccalaureate public health programs at a time of national debate for keeping the program as a graduate degree.
“I was one of the deans that was most vocal that public health should be an undergraduate major because it can prepare students for so many opportunities in life,” Becker said. “It means so much to me that not only have we have gotten past these hurdles, but we’re leading here at Georgia State.”
The BSPH program began in 2016 with 45 undergraduate students. It now enrolls more 475 students and boasts a 73 percent minority and 81 percent female population.
“Diversity of this kind is so important if we’re going to make a difference in the health disparities in underserved populations,” said Uttenhove. “We hope this will establish an important legacy for President Becker’s work.”
The President has led Georgia State through a dynamic period of growth and advancement. Under his leadership, the university has pursued a 10-year strategic plan through which Georgia State has emerged as one of the nation’s leading higher education institutions. This past fall, he announced his plans to leave the presidency at the end of June 2021. The University System of Georgia is conducting a national search for his successor.