The University of Indianapolis recently became the only private university to offer a scholarship to family members of fallen public safety personnel. The scholarship will be available to spouses, partners or children of fallen officers from the various offices in the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Executive Vice President for Campus Affairs and Enrollment Services Mark Weigand said that the scholarship will be a full-ride undergraduate tuition scholarship and that it would not apply to anyone who already has a bachelor’s degree.
“The idea is, if they don’t have their bachelor’s degree, we can help them get to that level and be employable,” Weigand said.
Weigand said that, essentially, this is the university’s way of telling families of fallen officers that UIndy will support the families in their time of need, so that they will be able to support themselves in the future.
“It is a comfort to know that the loved ones of our first-responders will have an opportunity to pursue additional security and opportunity through an education at UIndy in the event that they experience a tragic loss,” said Indianapolis Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs.
Weigand said that he and other administrators saw a need to show UIndy’s support to public safety officers because of the service they contribute to UIndy and the city as a whole. He said the scholarship idea came out of discussions with UIndy President Robert Manuel, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs Kory Vitangeli and others on campus.
Weigand said that Vice President and General Counsel Samantha Karn was a big help in the process of setting up the scholarship. He said she put in place all of the legal jargon and gave insight into which departments should be included, based on her experience with city government.
Weigand gave some insight into the decision to make the scholarship available for prospective students who are currently college age. He said that UIndy officials wanted the scholarship to be inclusive and embrace the families who could be out there right now and looking for a way to afford college.
“We chose to make this retroactive back to ’93, because if an officer would have fallen about that time and had an infant, that person would be an adult now,” Weigand said. “We wanted to go back that far because if there was anybody out there that age, we wanted to make sure they were eligible.”
Weigand said that prospective recipients do have to be up to par with UIndy’s admissions standards to ensure that the students can be successful in their classes, and they will, of course, have to be admitted. However, he said that he and others will help the applicants through the admissions and financial aid processes to ease their transition to UIndy.
Weigand emphasized that UIndy did not do this to seek good publicity but truly wants to make sure these individuals are taken care of in the event that a tragedy like this strikes.
“We wanted to wrap our arms, as a collegiate community, around those families,” Weigand said. “If they need to further [their] education, we are a place that will welcome them and waive the tuition for those family members.”
In the Feb. 19 DPS press release announcing the scholarship, Manuel said that the scholarship also serves to remind students, faculty and staff about how much UIndy relies on these officers and considers them part of the university community.
“In the wake of a tragic line-of-duty loss, we have seen the Indianapolis community rise up and put its collective arms around the loved ones of the fallen public safety servant,” Riggs said. “No community in the country does that better than the Indianapolis community. This expression of gratitude by the University of Indianapolis is an amazing illustration of that care and comfort.”