Earth and Mineral Sciences

Alum invests in improving diversity in STEM fields to aid students, society

In the third year of investing in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) Millennium Scholars program, Tony Hutchinson is beginning to see his efforts paying off. Credit: Photo providedAll Rights Reserved.

In the third year of investing in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) Millennium Scholars program, Tony Hutchinson is beginning to see his efforts paying off. The program – which began in EMS in 2016 and is designed to put diverse individuals on a path to a doctorate in STEM fields – has grown to 21 scholars and five graduates, the majority of whom are currently enrolled in doctoral programs at elite universities.

One goal of the Millennium Scholars Program is for graduates to find roles in leadership positions and serve as inspiration for others. Since beginning at Penn State in 2013, the program has graduated 116 scholars, 71 currently enrolled in doctoral or professional programs, with several more earning master’s degrees.

The program boasts success stories like that of Ana de la Fuente Duran, who is now in her second year at Stanford after graduating from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in materials science and engineering. At Stanford, she’s researching organic semiconductors that could one day replace those created using rare-earth elements. Bryttani Wooten, another graduate of the program who has a degree in meteorology and atmospheric science, is now a doctoral student in geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She researches the affect heat waves have on Black mothers.

Hutchinson, who graduated from Penn State in 1990 with a degree in geography, supports the program through a 1:1 match up to $5,000 in EMS’ annual GivingTuesday event. Each year, EMS uses GivingTuesday to raise funds for an additional millennium scholar. This year, the campaign features several matches, potentially increasing gifts 4:1.

For more on the campaign, visit the college’s GivingTuesday website.

Hutchinson said he supports the program because it’s a win-win for both scholars and society. These students, he said, are willing to learn and excel. A lack of financial means should not hold them back from becoming leaders in STEM fields who could help society meet great global challenges.

For decades, Hutchinson has enjoyed a career using data analysis to drive home-lending decisions as the director of government and industry relations at Freddie Mac. Along the way, he’s learned that diversity improves outcomes for all parties.

“We know that companies that have more diversity in leadership positions are more profitable,” Hutchinson said. “We need to harness that same energy and outcome when it comes to STEM fields. When we bring this diversity of thought and experiences into the fold, we’re creating an environment where people who want to bring change are given the means and the tools to do so.”

As the Millennium Scholars program continues to produce positive results, Hutchinson said he hopes it inspires others to lend their support.

“It’s great to see this program is already having a positive impact. But I’d like to see that increase by tenfold,” Hutchinson said. “Over the next few years, my goal is going to inspire others to follow my path in helping these young, bright minds become leaders in their fields.

Growing up in a segregated part of Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, Hutchinson didn’t see a lot of the kids in his neighborhood going on to college. Even though several members of his family had graduated from teacher’s colleges, for him it didn’t seem like an option. That all changed through the help of role models in his life.

“Penn State provides opportunity,” Hutchinson said. “This is a place that gives you everything you need so that you can be successful later in life. It gives you the skills that you need to be able to navigate the world of business or education or whatever you want to do. It was really fundamental in providing me the building blocks that I would need to begin my career as a geographer.”

Gifts to GivingTuesday 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 serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated November 24, 2021