Philanthropist and entrepreneur Susan Dell, co-founder and chairman of the board of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, visited The University of Texas-Pan American in late April and met with a group of high school and university students whose lives have been impacted by the generosity of her organization.
Dell, who visited the Edinburg campus for the first time, said the trip gave her an opportunity to hear from Dell Scholars in the Rio Grande Valley and learn more about UTPA. According to the Foundation, UTPA serves a high number of scholarship recipients, which includes 16 existing Dell Scholars. Another 17 of the 67 new Texas scholarships recently announced by the Foundation have been awarded to Valley students, all of whom have selected UTPA as their first university of choice.
"You've been chosen because of what you've accomplished, not because anyone felt sorry for you," Dell said. "You've shown that despite all odds and despite whatever you maybe didn't have to help you advance, you've shined and you've surpassed all the difficulties that might have been in front of you. You've jumped over the obstacles and you're continuing to go forward. You guys are the future leaders and we're more than thrilled to support you."
During her meeting, Dell also heard several emotional stories from the students about the family and educational hardships they face on a daily basis.
"There's going to be things that are going to happen along the way that are going to distract you. Whether they're family distractions or friend distractions or things that are completely out of your control, but you're going to have to always have this attitude of no matter what gets thrown on my path, I'm going forward and I have a goal that I plan on reaching and nothing is going to stop me," Dell said.
In addition, she challenged the students to give back to their communities.
"What I hope is that everybody in this room can reach their greatest potential and get to that point of success where they feel like 'you know I can actually do something to help others.' That's another way that I see you being leaders," she said.
Also in attendance during Dell's visit were UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas and Vice President for External Affairs Dr. Roland Arriola, who both expressed their gratitude to the Dell Foundation for their financial support of Valley students and the University. Over the years, Arriola said the Foundation has provided $3 million in grants to UTPA to fund the GEAR UP program on campus and develop an Internet mobile bus unit.
"We owe a big debt of gratitude to Mrs. Dell and Michael Dell. What they're doing nowadays is something that is going to be emulated by hopefully a lot of other foundations because they have a very strict requirement that there be measurable effects and impacts. These kids are all going to be helped so that they can all succeed, so we're very happy with this," Arriola said.
The high school students along with several UTPA students, who had the opportunity to meet Dell, said they were excited to not only meet the woman behind the man of the world's leading computer systems company, but also fascinated to learn about her life as an entrepreneur, fashion designer, marathoner, and triathlete.
"I don't have to think about how I'm going to get to college because it's already helped me by saying, 'you have the money, you can go anywhere you want, and study what you want.'" Casanova said.
For Maria Pina, a UTPA junior, the meeting gave her the chance to thank Dell for making her dreams of a college education come true.
"Even though I had a lot of problems when I was graduating from high school, a lot of hardships and obstacles, I wanted her to know that she changed my life, her Foundation changed my life," Pina said.