Moving UNH Forward

Scholarship donors play vital role in UNH’s diversity, equity and inclusion action plan

ast summer, as national events brought issues of racial injustice to the forefront, President Jim Dean promised an action plan for the UNH campus. In August, Nadine Petty joined the university as chief diversity officer. A month later, Dean announced several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including the creation of a more diverse student body and a more diverse faculty and staff and the creation of “an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, especially people of color.”

Scholarship donors play a vital role in that important work, as UNH aims to definitively address its longstanding struggle to foster diversity in its campus community.

The benefit of diversity-focused scholarships is two-fold, says Petty. First, and most obviously, the scholarships help UNH recruit and retain diverse students. “The wider net we cast, the better chance we have to bring excellence to our institutions,” she explains. The second benefit is to deliver on the university’s mission to prepare its students for the real world they’ll enter after they graduate.

“These students are going to work and live in an increasingly more global society. Diversifying our campuses provides meaningful interactions for students who might not otherwise have them with people who are different from them,” says Petty.

One such fund, the Jay McSharry ’90 Diversity Scholarship, was created in 2009 to support students with financial need — especially individuals whose diversity of background, viewpoint, and life experience will advance the university’s goal of enhancing the educational experience through enrollment of a diverse student body.

McSharry, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, restaurateur and 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist, is widely credited as a driving force behind a rejuvenated Seacoast restaurant scene with ownership in Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café, Moxy, Vida Cantina, The Franklin and Street, as well as other Seacoast projects. He has served on the board of The Music Hall, The Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“Portsmouth and the Seacoast are such special places, but the one key ingredient that’s missing is diversity. It’s something I was thinking about when I was deciding where to open my first restaurant, where the ideal location would be,” he says. “I’ve got such big appreciation of my time at UNH, I wanted to combine those two things to help students attend UNH and truly see what a beautiful place it is and what the Seacoast and the state of New Hampshire have to offer.”

For students like Cassandra Amarello ’18, scholarships like McSharry’s are the reason she’s a college graduate.

“Without this scholarship, I honestly would not have been able to afford to go to college,” says Amarello, who was accepted at every college she applied to but struggled to find funding.

Student Cassandra in Covid lab
“Without this scholarship, I honestly would not have been able to afford to go to college,” Cassandra Amarello ’18, says of receiving the McSharry scholarship. Amarello, a genetics major, works full-time in UNH’s COVID-19 diagnostic lab.
With a genetics major and anthropology minor, Amarello says, UNH prepared her well for a post-grad internship at Mass Eye and Ear, where she conducted genetic research on a vision disorder.

Last year, she began considering graduate school, and wanted to talk it over with Kelley Thomas, director of the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies and scientific director of UNH’s state-of-the-art COVID-19 diagnostics lab. Thomas recruited Amarello to work full-time in the COVID-19 lab, where’s she been a medical laboratory technician for several months.

In addition to a rigorous academic schedule, Amarello’s undergrad experience also included her participation in the multicultural sorority Delta Xi Phi.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
UNH has a bold strategic plan around DEI and donor support will be critical to accomplishing those initiatives. You can help in the quest to make UNH a more inclusive and welcoming community for all by supporting this work with a gift to one of our DEI funds.
“The sorority was focused on understanding other people’s cultures, in the sense that by learning we can grow and develop greater understanding of each other,” says Amarello.

For McSharry, students like Amarello confirm that his scholarship is meeting an important need.

“My hope is that the scholarship goes to students who have different experiences and perspectives, and who are ready to contribute by sharing those.”

— Michelle Morrissey ’97