The Iridium Scholar program was launched in 2013. This is the Iridium Scholar program story as told by Tom Jones, President of Iridium Technology.
In 2013 Iridium decided that we wanted to expand our “Giving Back” efforts. Our goal was to make a huge impact, and our key requirement was that we wanted to be directly involved in whatever efforts we were making rather than just writing a check to an existing organization. We started brainstorming for ideas, and after a lot of false starts we came up with the idea of a university scholarship for students whose families had no chance to cover the cost. We decided to focus on Thailand, since that is where my wife Kanitta is from, and we thought that her connections there might make it easier to administer the program. Thailand is a wonderful country, but a lot of people there are impoverished with no real alternatives to improve their lives. Sending one deserving student to the university could literally lift up an entire family in the coming years. We refined the scholarship to focus on the areas of study that are the focus of Iridium’s business operations: computer science, accounting, and law.
Now that we had defined our goal, you would think that finding our first Iridium Scholar should be pretty easy, right? It actually ended up taking about six weeks of searching and dozens of interviews, reviewing GPAs, learning about the applicants, etc. before we found Yuwadee (“Yu”) Srichinlers. How did we find her? Facebook! Kanitta kept broadcasting to her Facebook connections about our search for a student and our problems in locating someone suitable. She reconnected with a childhood friend who is now a high school teacher. Her friend has been Yu’s math teacher for several years, and was familiar with both Yu’s academic capabilities and her family story. Yu is a high school senior with a 3.87 GPA, great at math, and her dream is to be a lawyer. Her father earns subsistence wage working as a janitor and her mom cannot work due to health issues. Her family does not have the financial means to pay for her to attend a university, and in Thailand they just don’t have the scholarship opportunities that are available in countries like US, UK, NZ, AUS, etc. Once we had interviewed Yu, we knew that we had a perfect match, so we selected her as our first Iridium Scholar.
Iridium has formally committed to covering all of the expenses for Yu’s four-year university education: tuition, room and board, books, living expenses and so on. To maintain the scholarship, the scholar must:
- Keep their major in either accounting, computer science, business, or pre-law
- Enroll in an English language course each semester
- Get excellent grades – at least 3.4 GPA
- Provide receipts for all expenses
- Provide copies of all grade reports
- Send regular update emails about their progress. These emails will be in English.
We are hoping to expand the program and select additional Iridium Scholars in coming years. We offer our congratulations to Yu, and send her our best wishes for her upcoming studies.
Update: August 2014 – First day at the University!
Once Yu was selected as the first Iridium Scholar, we worked to help her apply to three universities in Thailand. She narrowed her choice to Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, which is the same university that Tom’s wife attended. Yu will be majoring in Accounting, and classes start on August 5th. The Iridium Scholar program covered all the expenses for the application process, provides the rent for the dorms, registration fees, uniforms, books, etc. We also set her up with a laptop. And yes, students in Thailand wear uniforms when attending the university: