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Alex Spartz, an engineering student and wheelchair user, sits in front of an airplane at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Aerospace engineering student Alex Spartz received a scholarship from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which supports research, education and quality-of-life programs for people affected by spinal cord injuries.

UArizona Launches Effort to Raise $50M for Student Support

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UArizona Launches Effort to Raise $50M for Student Support

Nov. 14, 2019
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The 360 Initiative, to which donors have already contributed $21 million in gifts, is intended to meet the financial, emotional and academic needs of students, including Wildcat Engineers.

The University of Arizona has launched the 360 Initiative fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise at least $50 million by this time next year to remove obstacles to students' success, enrich their experiences and prepare them to pursue meaningful careers.

"Everyone at the University of Arizona is committed to our students’ success, and in order to prepare every student with the skill set and mindset they need to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will need the partnership of our incredibly generous donors united around this vision," said UArizona President Robert C. Robbins. "Our supporters are an amazing part of this community and I look forward to working with them through this new initiative."

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which supports research, education and quality of life programs for people affected by spinal cord injuries, is one such supporter. The foundation has made a gift of $762,000 for scholarships.

The foundation provides students with funding for tuition as well as other needs that help them overcome "whatever acts as a barrier to their education," said Julea Juarez, program associate at the Neilsen Foundation. Students can use the funds for expenses such as books, child care, assistive technology and mobility equipment.

"It's our hope with these funds we can help students make their way through their education and move into professional fields," Juarez said.

One student who has benefited from the foundation's support is Alex Spartz.

When Spartz began his journey as a Wildcat, he was concerned about adapting his learning methods and making new friends. The previous year, Spartz had broken his neck in a swimming accident, which caused partial paralysis.

"I maybe knew one person in my entire dorm from high school. So I had to learn how to become friends with everyone again, but now I was a wheelchair user," he said.

Spartz found a supportive community and is set to graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering next month. He plans to stay at the university to pursue a master's degree in aerospace systems engineering.

Spartz was given a merit scholarship and an award from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation that filled funding gaps as costs changed each semester. 

"I've loved my experience here, in terms of the Disability Resource Center, the College of Engineering and the dorm community. I never expected people to be as welcoming or understanding," he said.

The Neilsen Foundation has been a longtime philanthropic partner to the Disability Resource Center and the Adaptive Athletics Program.