The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
Wallin Scholars find
REFUGE AT UMD
Many of UMDs 26 Wallin Scholars are refugees from other countries.
That creates a unique set of problems and challenges for student advisor,
Kim Roufs, and her assistant, Leigh Berglin. They dont have
the luxury of answering simple career questions. Instead, they are
dealing with students who have been victims of torture, who have seen
the horrors of war, some of whom are orphans, and many who cant
return to their home country. It is an honor for me to serve
as the Wallin Scholarship contact, says Roufs. I have
learned an incredible amount about countries around the world. The
cultural differences are enriching. I learned that one student was
showing respect to me by not raising her head when she talked to me.
I learned that because the Hmong culture has a different way of thinking
about the future, I need to send reminders to those students closer
to the date when things are due. It also means that I have met many
students who inspired me.
The Wallin Scholarships are not awarded through UMD. Over 800 Wallin
Scholars have come from Minneapolis high schools and are in post secondary
study in Minnesota and surrounding states.
The Wallin Scholarship has an interesting history. After Winston
Win Wallin retired as Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic
in 1996, he and his wife, Maxine, who is a Duluth native, established
a Wallin scholarship at his alma mater, Minneapolis South High School.
Started in 1991 The scholarship exemplifies my parents
personal commitment to education and opportunity for everyone.
said Rebecca Wallin. Rebecca is the daughter of Win and Maxine, who
came on board to run the foundation when it expanded from South High
School to all of the public high schools in Minneapolis, as well as
over 20 alternative high schools connected to the Minneapolis public
When the scholarship fund expanded, we had no idea how much
work it would be. We wanted to set up an organization that would help
guarantee success. We set up a selection committee with a scholarship
chair, a scholarship coordinator and a payment coordinator in every
high school. All the high schools each have foundations that
raise money and cultivate interest with the high school alumni.
A total of two million dollars a year is distributed, based on senior
class enrollments and the percentage of ethnic population at a school.
Each student receives $2,500 per year toward post-secondary education.
Most of the scholarships are renewable to help fund a full four-year
college education, provided students meet specific academic requirements.
A key factor in the scholarship's success is that each student is
assigned a mentor who keeps in constant contact through their college
career. These young people are all low income, first generation college
students, so their need for support is high. Rebecca Wallin said,
We make sure they have mentors that they feel comfortable with,
who can make the transition from high school to college along with
Janet Benson, former English as a Second Language teacher at Edison
High School in Minneapolis, serves as the advisor to the Wallin Scholars
from Edison. She said, It's great to help to these deserving
kids, but it's too bad that we cant help them all. The Edison
Wallin Scholarship is in its fourth year. When it began, it meant
a huge leap in the opportunity for the students I worked with.
At Edison, most students are under the poverty level. There is also
a huge refugee population and a large African American population.
Benson tells a story of a boy from Sudan who was hesitant to see
an employer about a job. Her answer was to tell him, You left
home when you were twelve. You walked a thousand miles. You swam through
crocodiles to cross a river. You cannot possibly be afraid of a man
who might give you a job.
After the September 11 attacks, one UMD Wallin scholar, a Muslim
from Somalia, was afraid to leave her Duluth apartment. She was afraid
that she would be somehow blamed through association, afraid because
she had seen acts of terrorism in her home country. It took phone
calls and a visit from Roufs and another UMD Somalian student to reassure
While some of the UMD Wallin scholars are Minnesotans, most are thousands
of miles from their birthplace. They come from places like Sudan,
Somalia, Laos, and Kenya. They are now enrolled in a wide range of
studies, including international relations, pre-med, business, pre-pharmacy,
electrical and computer engineering, education, criminology, mathematics,
computer science, and biology.
This isnt a free ride, says Roufs. They have
to apply for work study jobs and financial aid. Win Wallin's
philosophy is to give scholarships to as many students as possible,
and at the same time award students enough to succeed.
It is amazing how these students survive, said Rebecca
Wallin. I visited one talented young man who was living solely
on our grant. The grant is not that large, so in his room he had no
bed, no comforter, no lamp, and no towels. He just had a floor and
heat and it was all he needed to earn a 4.0 grade point average. Every
day, I am amazed how these young men and women do it, without family
and resources. They persevere.
Cheryl Reitan and Amelia Anderson