University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Peters Gift to Benefit Career Services and DPO

UMass Amherst alumni Charles and Karen Peters of Weston, Massachusetts have pledged $100,000 over four years, to be divided evenly between the university’s College of Engineering and the Isenberg School of Management. The gift is officially named the “Charles and Karen Peters ’87 Engineering and Management Student Support Fund.” In the College of Engineering, this gift will support the Career Planning and Student Development Center and the Diversity Programs Office, enabling both programs to provide workshops, networking, and experiential learning for undergraduate engineering students. The fund will also support the Isenberg School of Management and provide stipends toward experiential learning opportunities through internship scholarships. 

Chuck and Karen Peters met while studying at the UMass Amherst campus. Chuck studied in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, and Karen studied political science. Currently, Chuck is the president and owner of New England Wire Products, a wire display manufacturer. New England Wire has factories in Fitchburg and Leominster, Massachusetts, Kingfield, Maine, and Greensboro, Georgia.

Chuck and Karen have six children, and their oldest daughter, Kristin, is a junior studying finance in the Isenberg School of Management. They are incredible advocates for both engineering and business and have chosen to support both disciplines with this gift.

“We value the education, friendships, and experience we had at UMass and are excited to have the opportunity to give back to a place that had so much to do with our happiness and success today,” says Chuck Peters.

In the Career Planning and Student Development Center, the gift will be used in two main areas: to help students develop their professional skills, and to connect the students with industrial members. 

“Through a variety of workshops, students will learn resume and cover letter writing skills, gain knowledge on how to use networking and social media sites for job-hunting, and practice their interview skill,” says Cheryl Brooks, the center’s director. “Our Career Development Handbook reinforces those skills and serves as a hands-on tool that students can carry with them throughout the year. The gift will also help to connect students to engineering representative by providing travel expenses for facility tours and sponsoring corporate information sessions, technical talks, and networking events, where industrial representatives can meet one-on-one with students to discuss full-time and internship opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Paula Rees, the director of the Diversity Programs Office, explains that the gift is arriving at just the right time.

“This generous gift will help us launch two new initiatives to enhance the experiences of students in the college,” says Rees. “Our Afternoons with Alumni series will bring three-to-four alumni to campus each year for lunch and small group meetings with students and staff to learn about research and education initiatives on campus while providing mentoring opportunities. Our Synthesis Challenge initiative will bring alumni and industry representatives to campus to pose a series of interdisciplinary engineering design challenges to small student teams.”

During each Synthesis Challenge, these visitors will critique answers, and student groups will get to hear multiple responses, gaining comfort and learning how to think outside the box and respond to “big questions” that don’t have one right answer, but varying levels of good answers.

Rees adds that “The donation will also help us underwrite professional development seminars, workshops, and conference travel support for our students.”

Fifty percent of the gift will be used to establish an account in the College of Engineering managed by its dean. The remaining 50 percent will be used to create an account in the Isenberg School of Management administered by its own dean. (June 2012)