Dr. Berch Berberoglu, sociology professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, has been teaching and conducting research at the University of Nevada, Reno for the past 37 years. He has worked with the Aybek family to create a memorial scholarship endowment for Neslihan Aybek, a former UNR international student from Turkey who unexpectedly passed away in May 2011 at the age of 31.
What is the story behind the Neslihan Aybek Memorial Scholarship?
Neslihan was one of my students from Turkey majoring in sociology. She graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Then she went back to Turkey and worked at a couple of schools teaching English to students from 2004 to 2011. In May 2011, I went to Istanbul for a few days to deliver a keynote speech at a conference for a few days, but I wasn’t able to see her. Upon my return to the U.S., one of her professors here at UNR told me she had died suddenly from an aortic aneurysm. I was stunned. Within days of the sad news, I felt we had to do something in her memory. So I started thinking about it and contacted her parents and thought a memorial scholarship endowment would be a good thing to remember her forever.
How much is the endowment?
The minimum amount to start an endowment is $10,000. Neslihan’s parents and I made the initial contributions to the fund and soon several others followed. We raised $3,500 in a few months. When we announced this throughout the community, others joined in the effort and soon we were able to meet our initial goal of $10,000. The fund is now at $11,000. The UNR Foundation invests the money and it brings in about $500 per year at around 4.5 percent return annually. We thought this way, we’ll have $500 every year, and we can at least give out one scholarship a year to a student and honor her name that way.
Did you raise the full amount for this year’s scholarship?
Although the last two scholarships we awarded (in 2013 and 2014) were $500 each, the UNR Foundation is now stipulating that the scholarship amount should be raised to $1,000 each. So to get $1000 interest from the endowment, we need to have $22,000 invested. So the $11,000 we now have has to go to $22,000 to accomplish this. We are doing our best to raise another $11,000 for the endowment so we are able to award a $1,000 scholarship each year. If we were able to raise the endowment to the $44,000 level, then we would be able to award two $1,000 scholarships each year.
Who is eligible for the scholarship?
It has to be a full-time female international student from Turkey with a 3.0 GPA. It’s open to any major, not necessarily in sociology. But it has to be a female student from Turkey, as Neslihan herself was.
Where do people send their contribution to the endowment?
They can log on to the UNR Foundation website http://giving.unr.edu and click the blue button “Make a Gift to Nevada” on the upper right hand corner, immediately a page pops up and right in the middle, where the gift amount is shown there is the “designation.” In clicking the down arrow, you will see that the third fund is the “Neslihan Aybek Memorial Endowed Scholarship.” After selecting that and deciding on the amount to give, the gift can be paid by credit card and from here it goes straight to the UNR Foundation.
What is your plan for the future of this endowed scholarship?
Our goal right now is to raise the endowment to the $22,000 level, and later, in couple of years, to double that amount to $44,000. The higher the level we reach with the endowment the more scholarships we would be able to award. This is a collaborative effort and we would like everyone to chip in no matter the amount and be part of the effort. It’s for a good cause.