When the Indiana University Surplus Store started having a surplus in savings, Craig Porritt, assistant director of IU Document Service Centers, and Surplus Store manager Todd Reid decided they wanted to use the funds to give back to the surrounding communities.
The IU Surplus Store scholarship will be awarded each year to an incoming freshman with financial need from the 11-county region that is the focus of the work being done by IU Bloomington’s Center for Rural Engagement. Recipients receive $5,000 each year for a total of $20,000 over four years and are selected internally through a collaboration between the Office of Scholarships and IU Surplus.
The store’s recent prosperity is the result of strategic and innovative management by Reid, according to Porritt. He said Reid has been instrumental in increasing the community’s awareness of the store and connecting with students.
Reid has also been an advocate of giving back to the community whenever possible. He jumped completed administrative requirements so that the store could donate excess dorm room mattresses to local homeless shelters and partnered with a local boy to provide refurbished laptops to teens in foster care. Funding a scholarship for local students fits perfectly into the mission and nature of IU Surplus.
“We want to make our customers feel even better about shopping here, because we’re doing some really good things,” Porritt said. “We want them to know that we’re good stewards of the money we’re receiving.”
The idea for an IU Surplus Store scholarship had been with Porritt for three or four years before coming to fruition. When he got the green light from his supervisors and the affirmation that the venture was financially possible, he started working with the Office of Scholarships to make it happen.
“When Craig approached us about the scholarship, we thought, ‘Well, this isn’t the traditional way scholarships are set up, but why not?’” said Emily Arth, senior associate director of the Office of Scholarships. “Everyone involved, including Provost Robel and our vice provost, David Johnson, has been very supportive. It’s a great collaboration between two units.”
The two entities decided to focus on students from the local 11-county region because most of IU Surplus’ customers live in those counties. The community contributed to the IU Surplus Store’s success, and now the store is putting the money back into the community. This scholarship will make an IU education more accessible to a student who otherwise might not be able to afford it or would have to take out loans to make an IU education possible.
“Students need to know that there is support from all facets of the university,” Arth said. “General campus funds, the IU Foundation, donors, alumni, academic units and departments, clubs and organizations – scholarships are coming from all of these places. The IU Surplus Store scholarship proves that college affordability is a priority for the university as a whole.”
Solei Garland from Brown County is the inaugural freshman to receive the IU Surplus Store scholarship. To celebrate the scholarship’s first year, IU Surplus Store and the Office of Scholarships also chose a senior to receive a one-time gift of $5,000.
Alec Iruri-Tucker, a senior from Bloomington studying animal behavior, anthropology and biology, was on a research trip studying primates in Uganda when he got an email from the Office of Scholarships alerting him to contact them immediately.
“When I first read the email, I thought something had happened that was making me lose scholarship money I already had,” Iruri-Tucker said. “I was so relieved and super-excited when I found out I was actually getting more money.
Iruri-Tucker, who plans to spend a few years as a lab tech at IU after graduation, said the scholarship will be able to function as a mini-research grant for him. He plans to put it to use traveling for a research project before he starts applying to Ph.D. programs.
Porritt said he hopes IU Surplus will continue to make education more accessible to local students like Iruri-Tucker and Garland for many years to come.
“From idea to inception, I can honestly say that this scholarship offering is the proudest moment to date in my 25-year career here at Indiana University. I can think of no better long-term investment than our Hoosier kids,” he said. “It is a terrific feeling knowing that this has the potential to change the lives of not only the students who receive it, but their families as well. I hope that this scholarship will be making a difference for many years to come. “