Irwin Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO Emeritus of Qualcomm, stood at the podium, took a look at the gathered audience of more than 330 people in the Hahn University Center Forums and made an observation that spoke volumes.
“When (SOLES Dean) Paula (Cordeiro) mentioned there would be a gathering of those who had given scholarships at USD, I envisioned a small setting. This is incredible!” said Jacobs, who was part of the featured speaker lineup for the University of San Diego’s 27th annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon on Tuesday. “It’s a pleasure to see everyone here and, I’m sure, to meet the students here and to be part of this event. And it looks like it’s overflowing, too, so hopefully next year they might need to find more space.”
Indeed, as USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, expressed, “I don’t want any of you to leave today thinking that for one minute we take for granted the importance of your gifts, the importance of your mentoring and your partnership with us. We are grateful to you and we try to express that gratitude not only in the quality of the men and women who we graduate and global citizens we send out into the world, but we also express our gratitude every day in our prayers.”
Scholarships, as Jacobs and his wife, Joan, know, create opportunities to advance research, to find solutions and, certainly, to give students the chance to define their own purpose and path to success.
“Scholarships have been very important to both of us over the years,” said Irwin Jacobs, who has electrical engineering degrees from Cornell and MIT. “I probably would have never gotten to San Diego and had the position I did with Qualcomm and other successes. Education is very important. The ability to provide scholarship support to our undergraduate and graduate students is critical and it is critical to our success as a nation.”
The Jacobs provided an initial grant in 2011 and, in 2013 gave a $3 million gift to the School of Leadership and Education’s (SOLES) Mobile Technology Learning Center (MTLC), which has produced scholarships for three current SOLES doctoral leadership studies students, Kai Thomas, Andria Shook and Maria Kelly (pictured, left to right at top with Jacobs), each of whom are research assistants in the MTLC. Cordeiro said the center is expected to add a fourth doctoral scholarship and a post-doctoral fellowship scholarship in the near future.
Tuesday’s program spotlighted the MTLC, the only university-based research center specializing in mobile technology in K-12 education. The center provides research, training and services to support school districts wanting to significantly change the way learning is delivered through this medium. Through research and practice, the MTLC is an international thought leader in K-12 mobile learning and provides resources locally, regionally and nationally.
Jacobs spoke about the growth of wireless technology access and mobile technology’s use to improve education. He recalled a Qualcomm study done six years ago with schools in North Carolina to gauge the impact of classes with and without smartphones. One notable outcome was that students in a class with access to smartphones had a 100 percent passing rate on an Algebra 1 test. Only two-thirds of another class without smartphones passed the same test, Jacobs noted.
“We’re now convinced that the ability for students to have devices at all times is very important,” he said. “It’s also important to have a university research group provide digital technology education and take a harder look to see what is and what isn’t working.”
Kelly and Thomas, both second-year doctoral students, spoke during Tuesday’s program.
“My scholarship through the Mobile Technology Learning Center has allowed me to pursue research in quality educational environments and in resource-scarce environments, aided by affordable technological tools,” said Kelly, who already has a bachelor and master’s degree from USD. “My recent research endeavors concern teacher practice, student learning and the structure of learning environments and it’s all threaded with the integration of technology. This opportunity and the relationships I’ve established have been integral to my continued development, the development of my work and the position at the MTLC has been fundamental to my success in the doctoral program.”
Likewise, Thomas expressed her gratitude to the Jacobs for their support of her education and work to assist underrepresented students. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, she worked for four years as a grant coordinator for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Thomas also created an online education business start-up using media-based learning tools.
The biggest concern to Thomas was a lack of access to information for minority, disadvantaged and underrepresented students. It inspired her to look closer at how modern technology could affect and increase the success rate of underrepresented students. In her role with the MTLC, she’s gaining more perspective.
“We’re actively researching the use of technology in K-12 environments, how they respond and interact with different forms of communication and better incorporate technology into traditional classroom settings and to better design learning mediums,” she said. “I hope through my experience in the MTLC and my research I can assist in creating a reputable alternative to traditional pedagogy for students of various learning styles to learn through interactive media.”
Thomas expressed gratitude to all USD scholarship donors — “the power of all of your donations means that stories like mine can be multiplied across disciplines through the campus” — and concluded with a quote from Mbali Creazzo that, like Jacobs’ observation of USD’s tremendous scholarship support, spoke volumes.
“Giving of any kind … taking action … begins the process of change and moves us to remember that we are part of a much greater universe.”
— Ryan T. Blystone