Professor funds new engineering endowment to help students travel for success

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A. Ravi Ravindran, professor emeritus and a Provost’s Emeritus Faculty Teaching Scholar for the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME), has worked in a collaborative effort to establish a $25,000 endowment to fund conference travel expenses for the department’s graduate students.

Named the Ravindran Matching Travel Grants, the endowment will provide as much as a one-to-one match with funds provided by IME.

“I’ve always thought about how I can help students afford travel because I knew I had to do something for them,” Ravindran said. “It is very expensive to attend and present at conferences nowadays. Registrations that used to be free for students can now be more than $300, and they simply don’t have that kind of money.”

Ravindran said that travel to conferences and presentations is crucial for graduate students to grow their industry network, learn from established professionals, present their research and find peers with similar goals.

“The students are rather thrifty,” Ravindran said, noting that students will often find a less expensive hotel further away from the conference site to save money. “Usually, they’ll stay a block or so away in order to save more money, but accommodations are still not cheap.”

For many years, Ravindran helped students by funding their travel expenses. Ravindran said that he would pull money from his funding in order to help his doctoral students cover the costs.

External funding sources can be prohibitively competitive or involve extraordinarily difficult applications for a relatively small grant, according to Ravindran. With his endowment, he strived to make it accessible to all students. Recipients do not need to have a specific grade point average or meet any criteria.

“The endowment is rather straight forward,” Ravindran said. “There is no special application required to get funded; the student just needs to fill out a departmental application.”

Vittal Prabhu, professor industrial and manufacturing engineering, assisted Ravindran to fundraise for the endowment.

Prabhu said that this endowment could make a significant difference for students because attending a conference can approach or exceed $1,000, after factoring in air travel, local transportation, room accommodations, food and registration. He asserts that it can easily cost $1,000 for the students. That price can take up a significant portion of what a master’s or doctoral student earns in one month with a typical stipend.

“Ravi has always considered student welfare to be a primary priority,” Prabhu said. “He’s a fantastic teacher, and his students love his classes. He cares about their success, and attending conferences is one of the best ways to build connections. This endowment is a very important to help students succeed.”

The fund is continuing to accept contributions. Visit to learn more.

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

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Last Updated July 30, 2019