Fund Created to Provide Direct Support to Students During Covid-19 Crisis

April 15, 2020

By Greg Abazorius

It was mid-March and President Mark Thompson had newly announced that the university would be moving to distance learning in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within hours, numerous alumni, parents, corporate partners and others reached out to ask how they could help.

In response, Wentworth established the Wentworth Cares Fund, which provides direct support restricted to steps taken by the university to care for all students and to assure the continuation of academic programs during this unprecedented time.

“It’s the right thing to do,” says Thompson. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility to support our students and if there are areas where we can help monetarily, or in other ways, we absolutely will do that.”

Gifts are being used to help support initiatives formerly approved by Thompson including refunding approximately 1/3 of full-time student costs for housing, board, and all auxiliary expenses that were not used; as well as providing work-study stipends to students working for the university, even in cases where they had to cease employment.

“The idea was put together very quickly, right after it was announced that we would be moving to a virtual environment,” says Dave Fraboni, interim vice president for Institutional Advancement.

The Wentworth Cares Fund coexists with the Student Emergency Fund. The latter provides direct support to individual students applying for relief as they experience personal hardships. The preexisting Wentworth Fund, meanwhile, provides unrestricted support for the operations of the university.

Fraboni notes a “wonderful response” thus far with more than $20,000 raised for the new initiative.

“Our alumni and students are the types of people who approach the process wondering how they can help, how they can make a difference right now,” he says. “It’s what’s tremendous about Wentworth.”

The sense of community that Fraboni has felt is well known to Annamaria Wenner, dean of students and VP of student affairs. Entering her 23rd year at Wentworth this summer, Wenner has grown accustomed to the can-do spirit that Fraboni notes.

“I cannot express the level of understanding and compassion students and families have shown through all of this transition,” she says. “Of course, there is sadness and disappointment, but kindness and patience are shining through.”

In addition to offering monetary refunds, Thompson and Institute officials provided current students the option of choosing either pass/fail or numerical grading options for their respective classes. Those who had to stop their co-op experience mid-semester will also be given an appropriate passing credit.

“We’re focused on offering the highest quality services available, while also doing what’s best in the name of safety and security,” says Thompson. “Through no fault of their own, our students had to adjust to new circumstances. But we’ve worked to maintain a high-value education and do what is fair for students, including offering a choice on how they are graded this semester.”

Other measures included moving all students out of campus housing and hosting a livestream event April 25 to allow graduating students to toast one another and hear from the president. Those students will also be invited to participate in the August Commencement event.

Wenner notes that Student Affairs is well practiced in crisis response and Wentworth groups have providing care and counseling to students who need extra support during this time.

“This crisis is impacting people both professionally and personally. Our students choose to spend an important part of their lives with us. The university shouldn’t and doesn’t take that lightly. We are invested in their health, happiness and well-being,” she says.

Supporting the Wentworth Cares Fund is the most direct way to help students and ensure the continuation of such programs, according to Fraboni.

“We’ve still got some work to do before this is all said and done,” he says, “but I see very positive steps being taken and I’ve talked with people who care deeply about this university and its future. This fund helps, and I think we’re going to pull through this stronger than ever before.”

To learn more about the Wentworth Cares Fund or give directly, visit the Wentworth Alumni Association website.

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