UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Emily Zheng, Penn State class of 2014, talks about the importance of education, she is quick to share that her parents emigrated from China.
“They relied on education to bring them to the United States and to create a better life for themselves and their children,” Zheng said. “My siblings and I saw firsthand how education could open doors to jobs and opportunities that we otherwise would not have had access to. So, I wanted to establish a scholarship that would ease the burden of tuition and help students -- who may come from less-privileged backgrounds, like my parents -- focus on the experience of being at Penn State.”
Zheng recently pledged $34,000 to create the Emily Zheng Open Doors Scholarship, which will benefit Penn State Smeal College of Business students who register with RaiseMe. RaiseMe is a third-party program that allows students enrolled at specific high schools serving low-income areas or those enrolled in the federal free lunch program, regardless of high school, to earn micro-scholarships toward their Penn State education by meeting goals that will lay a strong foundation for their future studies, such as “A” level work in their classes, perfect attendance, and participation in testing such as the PSAT. The University will match Zheng’s gift 2:1 through the Open Doors Scholarship Program.
A Schreyer Scholar as an undergraduate student, Zheng was a dual major in finance and economics who received financial support because of William and Joan Schreyer’s transformational gift to endow the Schreyer Honors College in 1997.
Zheng first learned about the program, which currently offers a 1:1 permanent match for endowed gifts to specific programs, last fall. After careful consideration, she decided to create her own scholarship in Smeal. In doing so, Zheng became one of the youngest Smeal alumni to endow a scholarship, though it’s not an accolade she gives much thought to. Instead, she said she hopes to inspire other young alumni to get involved at the University.
“Involvement doesn’t have to be strictly monetary," she said. "Mentorship, for example, is one great way to get involved, even as soon as the year after graduation. Though for recent graduates, and for all alumni who are so inclined, there are creative ways to make gifts workable with any budget, especially with the University’s current matching gift programs."
“I’m excited that I will have an opportunity to meet with so many more scholarship recipients than if I have waited 20 more years to establish a scholarship. Education is one of the few ways individuals can climb socioeconomic brackets and improve their lives,” Zheng said. “In particular, I wanted to find a way to help in-state students attend Penn State. A platform like RaiseMe differentiates itself by providing an incentive for students to set themselves up early for success.”
As a student, Zheng was president of the Nittany Lion Fund, Smeal’s $8.5 million investor-owned, student-managed hedge fund.
“The Nittany Lion Fund provides hands-on training that gives classroom work real-world context and gives its students a leg up when pursuing a career in the financial services industry,” said Zheng, who recently accepted a position with SB Investment Advisors, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She has been involved with the Smeal GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Council, a group that encourages recent graduates to build a life-long connection with the college, and has mentored students as part of Smeal’s mentoring program.
“Emily was a remarkable student and continues to set the standard for excellence as an alumna,” said Charles H. Whiteman, the John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal. “Her gift at such a young age is extraordinary and I hope other young alumni, particularly graduates of the last decade, see what Emily has done here and consider ways to begin their own philanthropic legacies at Penn State.”
This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.