In a moment while riding the Metro, Galina Belolipetski’s path to college became clear.

“I was listening to ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay when I got the email,” said Belolipetski, a Maryland native who graduated from Virginia Tech this spring. “I sent a screenshot to my parents, and I started happy crying.”

The email received informed Belolipetski she’d been selected as one of four undergraduate students in Virginia Tech’s inaugural class of Stamps Leadership Scholars in the fall of 2014. The selection meant being provided full tuition, fees, room, and board each year, and receiving funds to support experiential learning opportunities.

“I really wanted to be responsible for my own finances, so it was a very emotional time because I knew this would really help my parents and it would really help me,” Belolipetski said. “It was a really great moment.”

The generous support cemented Belolipetski’s decision to attend Virginia Tech as an out-of-state student in the Honors College and set her on a path toward graduating with dual degrees in computer science and creative technologies with a focus in music composition this spring. Her studies and passion for the intersection of science and music have led Belolipetski to Sonos — an international electronics company known for producing smart speakers — for which she works in app development in Seattle, Washington.

Providing a path for exceptional students to thrive in such a way has been the goal of the partnership between the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation and Virginia Tech's Honors College since the partnership began in 2014. Next fall, the foundation will generously expand the undergraduate scholarships it provides each year to new students enrolled in the college.

“Our undergraduate experiences were keys to our future successes,” said E. Roe Stamps IV, who, along with his late wife, Penny, established Stamps Scholars programs at 44 partner universities across the nation, including his alma mater, Georgia Tech, and hers, the University of Michigan. The Stamps Scholars are part of Penny’s legacy.

“Through these scholarships, Penny and I envisioned a way to encourage exceptional students to achieve ambitious goals sooner and to realize the impact that they can have on a changing world,” Stamps said. “We’ve always been very impressed with the academic depth and breadth Virginia Tech provides students, as well as the staff’s high level of dedication to excellence and we’re beyond excited to expand our support.”

Since partnering with the university, five Stamps Scholarships have been available each year, resulting in Virginia Tech having a total of 19 Stamps Scholars, eight of whom have graduated. Beginning in the fall 2020, 10 Stamps Scholarships will be available each year, resulting in the possibility of having a total of 40 Stamps Scholars enrolled at Virginia Tech by fall 2023.

“We appreciate the Stamps Foundation’s partnership with the Virginia Tech Honors College over the past five years, and are extremely pleased they’ve chosen to expand their support,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The foundation’s ongoing generosity will make it possible to provide more outstanding students with a unique, interdisciplinary learning experience.”

A similar motivation led Virginia Tech to elevate its then University Honors program to a full-fledged Honors College three years ago. The aim of the evolution was to attract students of the highest caliber and provide them more chances to explore their passions and change the world in a meaningful way.

“Being able to competitively recruit top-notch, motivated students from all walks of life is critical to the development of our programming into that of a top-tier Honors College,” said Honors College Dean Paul Knox. “The Stamps Foundation’s generosity enhances our ability to do so at a time of important transformational growth, not only at the Honors College, but across the entire university.”

Paul Knox is the dean of the Honors College.
Paul Knox is the dean of the Honors College.

The expansion of the Stamps Scholars program means drawing more students, such as Drew Perry, who chose Virginia Tech over the University of Virginia, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others.

“The Stamps Scholarship solidified my decision in attending Virginia Tech,” said Perry, a sophomore studying engineering. “Without this, I would've struggled significantly more financially and socially. I wouldn't have been able to afford a four-year college.”

Perry said the scholarship also served to provide a personal boost during a turbulent season of life.

“The Stamps Scholarship gave me hope, a plan, and showed me that I was valuable," Perry said. "It helped me realize that people believed in me and that I should believe in myself. I'm thankful I was awarded this scholarship and I'm grateful it was to Virginia Tech. This has positively impacted my future in ways that would've been impossible otherwise.”

For Dana Mulligan, a senior studying crop and soil science, the Stamps Scholarship solidified her decision not to follow in her family’s footsteps to a different school in Charlottesville.

“It’s funny because both of my parents went to UVA,” Mulligan said. “I was in the Virginia Governor’s School for Agriculture at Virginia Tech and I had such an amazing time. That put it on my radar and of course once I got the Stamps Scholarship, it was like, well I’m not going anywhere else.”

After arriving at Virginia Tech, Mulligan was also named a Cloyd Fellow, a University Honors Odyssey Fellowship named in honor of Austin Michelle Cloyd, who died as a result of the tragic shootings on April 16, 2007. The fellowship allowed Mulligan to spend seven weeks this summer using her agricultural knowledge to improve increase crop production at a nonprofit farm that provides food to a village of children orphaned as a result of AIDS in Kenya, Africa.

“It was really an eye-opening experience,” Mulligan said. “Part of it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted and there were obstacles, but it was a real-life experience and my soil identification skills improved a lot.”

Her experience in Kenya, as well as at Virginia Tech as a whole, is something Mulligan said might never have happened if not for the Stamps Foundation's support.

“It’s definitely given me so many opportunities and so much freedom to use my time to do things I’m passionate about,” Mulligan said. “It’s changed my whole life.”

Written by Travis Williams