Phil LadenLa remembers his first few weeks on campus as a freshman as a time of wonder. Coming to UNH from his home in northeast India, as the foothills of the Himalayas, the change in culture and scenery made quite an impression on him.
“It was the first time I got to be entirely enveloped in a setting that was dedicated to nothing but education,” says LadenLa of the rural, picturesque college town of Durham. “Of course shortly thereafter, Mother Nature put on her greatest charm with the New England fall color show, which to this day evokes in me the deepest nostalgia.”
He was among a small group of international students that year, just about 20 of them, who found themselves navigating not just the rigor of college studies, but also the challenges of finding their place in a foreign culture.
Thankfully, there was Bertram Husch, a forestry professor who was tapped to be the university’s foreign student advisor.
“He was such a nice man. Just very compassionate and very thoughtful,” LadenLa recalls. When campus shut down for holiday breaks and foreign students had to find a place to stay elsewhere in town, Husch always welcomed LadenLa and other into his family’s home to celebrate and share meals.
“Dr. Husch was both perceptive and compassionate, and several times I would find a note in my campus mail notifying me of a grant to help with tuition expenses,” he says.
LadenLa notes that he “carried these happy memories” with him into the working world, where he found great success in engineering, sales and marketing and the photonics industries. He and wife Sophie decided that they wanted to return the compassion and care Phil received at UNH and named their scholarship for international students after Husch.
For the past 15 years, students who have received the scholarship say it set them on the road to academic and professional success.
Tom Kroll ’15, the scholarship’s recipient for the past two years, grew up in Tanzania before his family moved to Manchester in 2006. He first fell in love with the idea of studying robotics and a career in the STEM fields in high school, so studying engineering at UNH was a perfect fit.
And once here, he found himself expanding his learning and involvement well beyond the classroom. He joined the National Society of Black Engineers his sophomore year, eventually serving as president of the UNH chapter. He also did internships that focused on his interest in renewable energy, served as a resident assistant in the dorms, and took part in Culture Connections, a regular Friday roundtable where international students share information about their home culture.
Now, Kroll’s continuing his work in renewable energy with a job at Exa Corporation in Lexington, Mass., and setting his sights on a doctoral program
The Husch scholarship was one of the “huge contributions to helping me graduate and getting the future I was aiming for. This scholarship was a game-changer for me both last year and the year before that,” says Kroll.
Fellow scholarship recipient Procheta Mallik is putting his UNH experiences and education to good use on a global scale.
Mallik works at Innovation and Science Promotion Foundation, a nonprofit based in his hometown of Bangalore, India. He leads a team of five employees who make science and math toys out of trash and other easily accessible material in an effort to make STEM learning a part of everyday education for children in India.
As a teenager in Bangalore, Malik knew he would come to the U.S. for college, just as his father and brother did, and he thought he might end up at a state university, as they did, because he truly believed in what a liberal arts education could provide him.
He was drawn to the University of New Hampshire by the renowned physics program, as well as the fact that the university is known for its support of international students, both through scholarships like Husch, and on-campus programming.
“I can say now that I loved every minute of my time at UNH but those first few weeks were very difficult because I was homesick,” he recalls. “But the International Student Orientation, and residential life in Smith Hall [then the international dorm] and the vibrant student life made it very easy for me to adjust,” Malik says.
In addition to the Husch scholarships, he was also awarded named an IROP scholar, allowing him to do summer research in Glasgow, the presidential scholarship and at commencement, the Hood Achievement Prize.
Without this type of support says Mallik, “I would have found it really hard to pursue my dream of studying at UNH. I was extremely honored and privileged to have received the Bertram Husch scholarship, and the award ceremony for it is etched in my memory. I’m really thankful to such generous donors who make it possible for students like me to study at UNH.”
For Phil LadenLa, the continuing success of Husch scholars both at UNH and beyond is what makes the scholarship a worthy venture.
“These days, the world is small now, the world is all one. It’s so important to understand all these different cultures. We’re all going to work with one another,” LadenLa says.
Ariel Pueyo Encinas ’16, one of this year’s three recipients, says scholarship support has allowed her to pursue academic interests she is truly excited about. “Without scholarships like this, I would have stayed in Bolivia, and ended up studying something I’m not very passionate about,” she explains.
But here at UNH, she’s a triple major in political science, international affairs and French. She’s studied abroad, and serves an orientation leaders for incoming international students.
“It’s so nice to know that there are people like that in the world to help people like me achieve their goals,” Ariel says of LadenLa’s support.
And while he enjoys the thanks he gets from students, he really sees himself as someone working toward the greater global good.
“We can’t as individuals take credit for things that happen… all of us are just helping to provide the right atmosphere and the right opportunities,” he explains. “I’m one of many who are working in the same direction. That’s the way I see it, and that’s what gives me the greatest satisfaction.”