Endowed scholarships are donated to Taylor University every year for students who have a financial need. These scholarships are given by many different generous donors who want to assist Taylor students.
In previous years, the university has asked students to write up a thank-you letter to show gratitude toward the donor that gifted them their scholarship. This year, things have been significantly simplified.
“So now a student only has to communicate what their campus involvement is, and to write a thoughtful thank you note,” Michael Mortensen, director of scholarships said. “When they hit submit, it comes into our office.”
This is all made possible because of the system created by Senior Director of Strategic Analytics and Insights Mark Lora. The system is called ES3 (Electronic Scholarship Selection System) and was developed by Lora and his team in 2020.
ES3 was designed to help the financial aid and admissions offices recommend endowed and annual scholarships.
The scholarships department had been using inefficient ways of collecting students’ thank-you letters for years, so Mortensen asked Lora if he could develop a system which would make it more simple. Lora and his team added another feature to ES3 which allowed thank-you notes to not just be collected but created on Oct. 24, 2022.
“So we built a system for students to log into a system we’d already been running for two, three years to basically show them all the awards they’ve received, annual and endowed scholarships,” Lora said.
Once a student is logged in, they can view what they have been awarded and are then asked to share how they are involved on campus and write a note of gratitude to the donor.
The thank-you letter process means a great deal to donors. Mortensen recalls a story of a former Taylor graduate that started a scholarship who received some thoughtful thank-you letters. He then sent the letters to his uncle, who was so moved by the letters that he decided to make a donation.
Without consulting the university, the uncle sent Taylor a check for $250,000. He was sent more thank-you letters and, in response to those additional letters, he proceeded to send a stock transfer gift of half a million dollars.
“So do you think thank-you notes are important?” Mortensen said.
ES3 exists for many more reasons than just thank-you letters. The financial aid office uses the system daily. It saves them time as the system includes everything they need to know about a student’s requirements when it comes to who is eligible for scholarships.
Assistant Director of Financial Aid Beth Fisher uses the system every day to determine what students are eligible for specific scholarships. She also uses it to add the students that have received scholarships in the database.
“(ES3) saved a huge amount of time for me, because before like I said, it was very manual,” Fisher said. “I was having to send emails back and forth with departments and professors and to determine eligibility was a very manual process.”
Both Fisher and Mortensen are extremely thankful to Lora and his team for developing a system that has been helpful and time-efficient.
According to Mortensen, ES3 has also freed up student workers’ time so they can focus on other things of importance to the university.
“I just could not be more thankful for Mark Lora and his team, because not only is this a game changer for us, but this also helps the students and the donors,” Mortenson said. “So it is a win-win.”