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UNI graduate provides potential funding for international students

Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010

Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2010 11:10



From left to right; Cheong (Lau’s brother), Ho Po-Siu (Lau’s mother), Lau Yui-Wa (Lau’s father) and Jason Lau. Being the first of his family to receive a college education, Lau is very appreciative of his time spent at UNI.

Jason Lau traveled from Hong Kong to the University of Northern Iowa to be the first member of his family to receive a college education. He hardly knew any English, had no money and brought just two suitcases of clothes with him. Now, thanks to him, each year an international student will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Lau, a UNI alumnus with a B.A. and M.A. in leisure, youth and human services, recently donated $30,000 to the UNI Foundation in order to create the Po Wa Opportunity Scholarship Endowment Fund for International Students.

"I was able to get to where I am and become who I am because of people around me who are willing to give and reach out to me," Lau said. "I am so thankful for their kindness and, therefore, I decided to give back to UNI and this community by making this donation.

"I was able to benefit from the generosity of others and now I believe it is my turn and my responsibility to reach out and to give back."

When Lau's mother died in August, he decided to donate most of her savings to UNI. In order to honor his parents, he named the scholarship fund after the typesetting business his parents had in Hong Kong.  

"My mom loved UNI and I know I am making the right decision to donate the money on her behalf," Lau said. "I wanted to do something meaningful with the money – something more powerful beyond its face value and that can make a difference in someone's life."

The donation could not have come at a better time, as UNI is currently trying to increase international student enrollment.

"The scholarship will allow the university to offer deserving international students the opportunity to enroll at UNI and receive the same kind of quality education and life-changing experience that Jason received during his degree," said Kristy Marchesani, assistant director for admissions for international relations. "The scholarship will assist in recruitment efforts to meet the university's goal of greater internationalization and to enhance the educational experience of all students."

Lau hopes that by this donation and by sharing his story, others will be inspired to support international students.   

The requirements for the scholarship include being an international student in any major in the school of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services, being at least a sophomore and having a minimum GPA of 3.0. In addition, applicants must complete a 500-word essay on the topic "I Have a Dream."

Lau, along with his business partner Winnie Wong, who is also a UNI alumnus, have created the Global Competency Consulting Research Fund for Early Developmental Education, which is designed to support the research activities of the Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education on the UNI campus. Lau and Wong will donate 5 percent of their new company's annual profits to the fund each year.

"I am hoping that this research fund can encourage both undergraduate and graduate students here at UNI to engage in research projects related to early developmental education," Lau said. "For example, the fund, once it is able to accumulate into a significant amount, could provide financial support for UNI students to attend professional conferences, to participant in training and professional development, or to conduct research projects in curriculum- and inquiry-based STEM education for pre-K through second grade teachers and child care providers."

Lau and Wong's company is called Global Competency Consulting LLC.

According to Lau, it is an educational and consulting firm that specializes in research, international academic exchanges and study abroad programs in higher education.

"We are committed to promoting cultural and global competency through our research activities," Lau said.    

"I believe that there are hundreds or thousands of people out there just like me who need our help," he added. "It's never too early to give and it really doesn't matter how big or small your gift is.  It is that you care about others and your actions that matter. One way for me to take action is by giving back and supporting other international students."


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