Gift will boost diversity in UO's education and business colleges

Thanks to a generous gift from a pair of alumni and longtime friends of the University of Oregon, two new scholarships funds will provide greater support and open doors to students of underrepresented communities.

Jim and Andi Sandstrom have pledged $250,000 to be divided equally between the College of Education and Lundquist College of Business with the aim of helping increase diversity at the UO.

“We feel very strongly that anything that could be done to provide more access — especially now with what we've witnessed in our society — we think is very important,” Jim Sandstrom said.

“If there is something we can do to help bridge that gap by providing support to those less economically fortunate in having access to the university, then that's a win-win for society,” added Andi Sandstrom. “It’s sad to lose a talent pool of students just because they lack the funds to pursue their future dreams.”

Andi and Jim Sandstrom Jim Sandstrom is an alumnus of the Lundquist College of Business, earning a bachelor’s in accounting in 1964. Andi Sandstrom earned her bachelor’s from the College of Education the same year. The Sandstroms have been ardent supporters of both colleges and other university initiatives over the years.

As part of their donation, the Sandstroms have pledged $100,000 to establish the Tasia M. Smith Excellence Scholarship Fund at the College of Education, which will provide scholarship support for students from underrepresented populations and first-generation students.

Smith joined the UO faculty in 2016 as one of four Evergreen Assistant Professors in the College of Education as part of the donor-funded Health Promotion Cluster Hire Initiative. Smith focused on reducing the risk of chronic diseases among communities experiencing health disparities among underserved populations, and taught classes on counseling diverse populations. She died unexpectedly in 2018 at the age of 32.

“The gift by the Sandstroms to establish the Tasia M. Smith Excellence Scholarship represents a merger of wonderful people and families,” said College of Education Dean Randy Kamphaus. “Tasia bore her way into our hearts with her determination and grace. And the Sandstroms have done the same. It is only fitting that they are the ones to help us celebrate and remember Tasia’s extraordinary contributions to our college.”

Students in the counseling psychology program  where Smith was a faculty member had been meeting to discuss ways to honor Smith’s memory in the college by starting a scholarship.

When the Sandstroms learned of that effort, they chose to honor Smith’s memory by naming the College of Education scholarship in her name, to leave a lasting legacy honoring her.

“So with our seed money, we hope that other donors will join us and, by giving, will recognize someone who made a significant contribution to the College of Education,” Jim Sandstrom said.

“On behalf of myself; Tasia’s father, Nathaniel Baker Smith III; her sisters and brothers, it is an honor to be a part of this historic event,” added Smith’s mother, Rev. Jessie McLendon. “We would like to personally thank Jim and Andi Sandstrom for their donation,” she said. “We hope this donation will help underrepresented and first-generation COE students in the future.”

That portion of the gift is part of a challenge on Ducks Give 2021 on May 13 with the goal of inspiring 100 donors to give in honor of the Sandstroms’ commitment to increasing student diversity at the college.

In addition, the Sandstroms have pledged $25,000 to support the Dean’s Academic Venture Fund at the College of Education, which will provide funding for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and cutting-edge programs, such as the Network for Equity in Education Policy and the Social Systems Data Science Network.

“The Sandstroms’ gift to our venture fund allows us to do what our faculty do best – innovate,” Kamphaus said. “These funds will provide seed funding for academic, research or outreach initiatives that otherwise would not get off the ground. I do not have adequate words to express my deep gratitude and warm regard for Jim and Andi Sandstrom.”

The Sandstroms have also pledged $125,000 to the Lundquist College of Business, with $100,000 going toward the Excellence Scholarship for students from underrepresented populations and first-generation students.

“This generous gift from the Sandstroms will have a tremendous impact on the Lundquist College of Business, advancing our diversity efforts and helping bring the best and brightest to the University of Oregon,” said Sarah E. Nutter, Edward Maletis Dean of the college.

The Sandstroms have also pledged $25,000 toward the college’s Investors Fund, which allows for flexibility to help support the college’s most pressing needs and priorities, such as funding initiatives and retaining faculty.

Both of the funds given to the Lundquist College of Business are challenge gifts as part of Ducks Give 2021, and will be unlocked once a goal number of gifts are reached.

By Jim Murez, University Communications