Tag: make way

The Brickers are loyal scholarship donors and active members of the WashU alumni community. Craig works in risk management as the head of portfolio management and credit risk review at UBS, and Stephanie is an assistant principal at Sayville High School in Sayville, New York. 

Tell us about yourselves and how you met.

Stephanie double majored in Spanish and Russian studies at Muhlenberg College before coming to WashU for graduate study in Hispanic languages and literature. Craig came to WashU from Laurel, Maryland, to study mechanical engineering and then decided to pursue his interest in business at Olin through the BS/MBA program.

We actually met at the DeMun Laundromat. It was a rainy night, and Stephanie was trying to open the door while holding a basket full of clean laundry. Craig was walking by, opened the door and offered to walk her to her car under his umbrella. Seriously. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary and have twins who are high school seniors.

Since 2016, you have supported two scholarships, one for an Olin student and one for an Art/Sci student. What inspired you to create scholarships at WashU?

We both benefited from scholarships at WashU, such as the Guller Scholarship Craig received when he was admitted to the BS/MBA program. Scholarships made it possible for both of us to attend WashU, which was transformational in our personal development and careers. When we felt able to do so, we wanted to help others have access to what was a game-changing experience for each of us.  

The opportunity to support a named scholarship gave us a way to remember two people who were very important to us. The Olin scholarship we have supported is named for Craig’s father, Thomas Bricker, who was proud to have both of his children graduate from WashU. The Art/Sci scholarship was named for Stephanie’s grandmother, Angelina Sousa, who came to the United States from Sicily as an infant and worked as a seamstress in New York City from a very young age. 

Your family shifted your support to Make Way: Our Student Initiative and created a new centralized undergraduate scholarship. What motivated you to make this change?

Make Way is very much aligned with what we hope to do with our scholarship support—increase access—and so we fully support its objectives. While our scholarships began with specific schools, it is wider access to the overall WashU education and experience that we really want to support. We want the resources to be used where they are most needed, and the centralized scholarship model allows for a more efficient market.

You also serve as WashU ambassadors and have recruited many WashU students. Will you share what these experiences have meant to you?

Our interaction with the students has helped us stay and feel close to WashU. Students at Stephanie’s high school come to her excited about WashU and wanting to learn more about it. Craig spent most of his career at Goldman Sachs, where he enjoyed recruiting WashU students, seeing them develop as professionals, and then give back to WashU with their time and expertise, coaching and recruiting students that follow.

Photo: Craig, Anna, Stephanie and Cole Bricker.

Writer Ginger O’Donnell of WashU Advancement Communications originally wrote this article for Make Way: Our Student Initiative.

Aaron Samuels defies labels.

He is a spoken word artist and a published poet, author of the 2013 collection Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps. He is a corporate strategist who worked at Bain & Co. and an entrepreneur who co-founded and served as chief operating officer of Blavity, the largest global Black media company for millennials and Gen Z. While a student at Washington University, he danced on the salsa team while delving deeply into his academic passions for economics and philosophy.

And yet, there is a central force that grounds and guides Samuels’ layered journey. It has to do with the pride he takes in his intersectional Jewish and Black identities and the lasting relationships he has formed with other people of color in their efforts to explore and affirm the Black experience in all its complexity. You might think of it as “Black gravity,” a term coined at WashU and adopted by Samuels and some of his peers in the John B. Ervin Scholars Program when reflecting on the powerful pull they felt toward each other as undergraduates on WashU’s campus. Over time, “Black gravity” has led to lasting, powerful connections in their adult lives. In Samuels’ case, he helped build an entire digital platform based on the concept, condensed to “Blavity,” together with three of his WashU colleagues.

“In many ways, how I came into adulthood, my understanding of values came directly from the Ervin program,” Samuels says. “When we created Blavity years later, one of our models was the strength of that community at WashU. We wanted that same feeling of love, of respect, of Black people looking out for one another.”

John B. Ervin Scholars Program

Named for the nationally renowned educator and first African American dean of what was then called WashU’s School of Continuing Education, John B. Ervin, the program offers full- or partial-tuition scholarships for the duration of students’ undergraduate careers. Beyond funding, it provides enrichment programming that fosters four pillars of excellence: academics, leadership, community service, and diversity.

Aaron Samuels does a cartwheel on campus.
Aaron Samuels told his dad he wanted to attend a university where he would feel comfortable doing a cartwheel in the quad.

Samuels describes the scholarship he received through the Ervin program as “game-changing,” noting the juxtaposition of growing up “on the lower end of middle class” while also inhabiting a world of academic and knowledge privilege as the son of two psychologists with doctoral degrees. “It was an interesting way to grow up, because both my parents were highly educated,” he says. “I was never worried where the next meal was going to come from, but it would have been very difficult to afford WashU. Getting a full scholarship to attend college was very, very impactful.”

Of the sense of community and family that the Ervin program fostered, Samuels says, “Ervin wasn’t just a scholarship program. The scholarship was great, and being able to have a full ride was a huge blessing that made a big difference. But in addition to that, it was very much a training program in love. And a training program in leadership and service, all of which was designed to promote a certain type of excellence that was very selfless in the way that it was applied to community.”

‘Family dinners’

He recalls the rigorous orientation Ervin provided when he first arrived on campus as a first-year, noting that he was supported “from day zero.” This programming included an Ervin orientation, pre-orientation, one-on-one meetings with mentors and advisers, logistical help with moving into the dorms, and more. As Samuels’ first year at WashU unfolded, this intensive support continued in the form of biweekly “family dinners” led by James McLeod, WashU’s vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the time. “I was so nurtured, supported and prepped to succeed at WashU from the very beginning,” Samuels says. “That permeated my entire time at WashU.”

Another memorable feature of this community-focused, service-oriented culture of excellence was a strong chain of students mentoring other students, Samuels says. Indeed, this collaborative spirit came to be a defining element of his WashU experience.

“There was very much a kind of expectation that once you crack something, once you figure something out, it’s your job to then mentor the next generation of students, even if they’re just one year younger than you,” he says. “It was a really nice four years to spend under that type of mindset of collective victory.”

Collide Capital

Today, Samuels is adding a new layer to the proverbial onion, taking his multi-faceted career in yet another new direction. As founder and managing partner of the venture capital firm Collide Capital, he focuses on giving entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented groups — particularly women and people of color — more equitable access to funding that will help them bring their ideas to market. While young, Collide looks to have a promising future, having earned early support from several major institutional investors, including the University of California’s endowment, Amazon, Alphabet, Twitter and others.

In this way, Samuels continues to live out the values he cultivated in the Ervin program and at WashU more broadly. With Collide, he is further expanding the concept of “Black gravity” and the Ervin program’s emphasis on creating empowering, inclusive and uplifting spaces for talented students. “Each one, teach one, give and receive. … It was the culture of the Black community and the culture of the Ervin program,” he says. “But I think more broadly it was also the culture of WashU.”

Your gift of any amount in support of Make Way: Our Student Initiative will help future trailblazers like Aaron Samuels find support, mentorship and inspiration at WashU.

Learn more about Make Way.

Drake Shafer, BSBA 2023, grew up in Glasford, population 834, near Peoria, Illinois, and attended high school with 50 graduating seniors. With his mom’s encouragement, he became the first in his family to go to college and the first student from his high school in generations to attend a top-20 university.

“Something felt different when I toured WashU,” said Shafer, who visited more than a dozen campuses. “Instead of trying to see myself fitting into the campus and student life, I immediately felt at home.”

Shafer enrolled at Olin School of Business, but he felt behind as soon as he started. Some classmates had business experience, and some had parents with successful business careers. Fortunately, he said, “many of the professors in the Olin Business School that I’ve had aim to help every student succeed academically and professionally, no matter their background.”

Scholarship support made it possible for Shafer to attend the university. It “has given me the opportunity to solely focus on my education and the experience of being a learner, something I’ll never find the words to completely express my gratitude for,” he said. “More privileged and higher-income students can’t begin to think about the implications and struggles that come along with being from a lower-income background.”

Last fall, the university launched Make Way: Our Student Initiative, a fundraising effort to increase financial resources for undergraduate scholarships, graduates scholarships and fellowships, and a best-in-class student experience. Through Make Way, WashU aims to increase access and opportunity for students at every level of need.

A chance to delve into the student experience

In his second year, Shafer was chosen to participate in the inaugural class of the Chancellor’s Career Fellowship program. The program provides career-oriented opportunities for first-year or sophomore students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. The skills Shafer gained helped him land his first internship, and the university provided a stipend to help offset housing costs during the experience.

Now in his senior year at Olin, Shafer has delved deeply into the student experience. He’s majoring in marketing, operations and supply chain management, and he’s minoring in the business of entertainment. He participated in the student-owned consulting firm Bear Studios. He opened Gallery 314, a retail store on campus. And he completed a global management internship at Anheuser-Busch.

“Thanks to my Olin experience, I now feel just as capable as my classmates to take on a high-caliber career.”

After graduation, Shafer will head to Chicago to join the Kraft Heinz Company’s trainee program.

He said he hopes his collegiate success will lead to a fulfilling career and enable him to give back to those who supported his journey—especially the WashU community and his family.

“WashU has helped me learn how to take on—and succeed in—multiple roles. I’ll keep these experiences with me for the rest of my life.”

The Spirit of Washington University newsletter recently published this story.

Russ Flicker, BSBA 1994, is dedicated to staying engaged with his alma mater. Among other volunteer positions, he is president of the Olin Business School Alumni Board. Over the years, he has followed the university’s decade-long effort to attract and enroll the most talented students, regardless of their background.

When he learned about Gateway to Success, WashU’s $1 billion investment in financial aid that enabled the adoption of a need-blind undergraduate admissions policy in late 2021, he was inspired.

“It was such a fabulous announcement,” Flicker says. “It was the right thing for the university to do, and it made me so proud to be a WashU alum. My wife, Lisa, and I had been making gifts for annual scholarships at Olin for many years, but after the announcement, we wanted to participate in a bigger way.”

‘Better career outcomes’

The Flickers committed to increasing their giving for undergraduate scholarships through Make Way: Our Student Initiative, a fundraising effort the university launched in late 2022. They also shifted their support to universitywide scholarships, which allow WashU to award the funding to students in any school. This type of scholarship gift—a Make Way priority—aligns with the interdisciplinary pursuits of the university’s undergraduates, 80% of whom complete double majors or minors.

“I’ve become convinced that in the interconnected world we live in, pooling scholarship resources makes sense,” Flicker says. “We want students to be fulfilled and successful. So many 18-year-olds shift direction by the time they are 20 or 21. The WashU approach of encouraging undergraduates to take courses across different spectrums will lead to better career outcomes and happier alumni.”

“My scholarship made a big difference. Someone changed my life, and if I can help the next generation in the same way, I am thrilled to do it.”

Russ Flicker

Flicker’s insights stem from his interactions with today’s students. AWH Partners, the New York-based real estate investment firm he co-founded, has hosted WashU interns. In addition, Flicker has been a mentor, competition judge and mock interviewer for Olin students.

Closer to home, his daughter, Molly, is a member of Olin’s Class of 2026.

Flicker says WashU students are exceptionally bright, driven and sophisticated, which motivates him to help them professionally and financially. A scholarship recipient himself, he is determined to pay it forward.

“I don’t kid myself about how lucky I’ve been,” he says. “My scholarship made a big difference. Someone changed my life, and if I can help the next generation in the same way, I am thrilled to do it.”

Photo: Longtime scholarship sponsors Lisa and Russ Flicker recently increased their support through a pledge for Make Way: Our Student Initiative.

The Spirit of Washington University newsletter recently published this story.

Merry Mosbacher, Olin MBA 1982, agreed to serve as one of four co-chairs of Make Way: Our Student Initiative in July. She and her husband, Jim, began discussing how her role as a standard-bearer for the recently launched fundraising effort would affect their giving. Longtime scholarship donors, their total contributions for that purpose at the time topped $1 million.

“Our mindset was, ‘OK, this is a leadership role. We need to lead by example,’” says Mosbacher, a retired partner at St. Louis-based financial services firm Edward Jones.

Their multiyear commitment to Make Way is their largest gift to date. They’ve pledged $2 million for undergraduate scholarships as well as internships through the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.

Mosbacher’s work as a member of the Student Access Advisory Committee (SAAC) shaped the gift. Chancellor Andrew D. Martin convened the SAAC in summer 2021 to help develop the university’s plans to improve access and lay the groundwork for Make Way.

“Getting under the hood with university leaders and learning how WashU compares with peer institutions in terms of scholarships and student support changed how I think about philanthropy,” she says.

Annual and endowed scholarships

The Mosbachers opted to split the scholarship portion of their gift between annual scholarships, which are immediately available to help students, and endowed scholarships, which provide a permanent source of funding over time.

“Previously, we had a bias for annual scholarships because we wanted to put our dollars to work for more students right away,” Mosbacher says. “But my involvement with SAAC helped me see that endowed scholarships are equally important and will allow us to have an impact in the long term as well.”

“Getting under the hood with university leaders and learning how WashU compares with peer institutions in terms of scholarships and student support changed how I think about philanthropy.”

Merry Mosbacher

The couple also designated part of their gift to enhance the student experience. Their funding for the Gephardt Institute will finance paid summer internships for undergraduates who work with St. Louis area nonprofits.

“It’s a win-win,” says Mosbacher, whose 38-year career at Edward Jones began with an internship. “It will provide students with meaningful work experience and benefit the St. Louis region, which is an important goal for Jim and me.”

Invest in the legacy

Mosbacher is well suited for her position as a Make Way co-chair. Her volunteer service at WashU includes a stint as president of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, the university’s giving club for donors who make Annual Fund gifts of $1,000 or more. Along with her fellow co-chairs, Mosbacher champions Make Way by speaking at events and helping organize volunteer networks.

Her message to alumni and friends is simple: The quality of students and alumni ultimately define the university. “When you support Make Way, you invest in the legacy of WashU.”