Catalyst for success

Portrait of Garcia Ramirez

Photo courtesy of Javier Garcia-Ramirez

First-generation student Javier Garcia-Ramirez received a lot more from the Catalyst Scholars Program than he was expecting when he came to Oregon State University in 2020.

“I knew I’d be getting financial support, but the program offered opportunities beyond that, opportunities that helped me develop as a whole person,” said Garcia-Ramirez, a senior in computer science and member of the scholarship program’s inaugural cohort.

In addition to $8,000 in tuition and fee assistance each year, Catalyst provides an orientation, social events, and frequent workshops covering topics such as internships, study abroad programs, and LinkedIn profile development.

“The Catalyst Scholars Program has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life,” Garcia-Ramirez said.

The program provides scholars an additional $2,000 for experiential learning activities, like participating in conferences, competitions, or undergraduate research. For Garcia-Ramirez, these discretionary funds enabled him to complete a 12-week internship in New York with Atlassian, an international software company that develops collaboration-oriented solutions for business, including the popular project-management tool Trello.

“Without the experiential funds, I would’ve done the internship remotely,” he said. “But because of these funds, I was able to live in New York City for the summer.”

As a software engineering intern, Garcia-Ramirez was part of a team focused on optimizing Trello’s efficiency by increasing the speed of server interactions. After graduation, he’ll be going back to New York to work full-time at Atlassian’s Manhattan office.

Looking back, Garcia-Ramirez sees connections between his courses at Oregon State and his future. “It’s incredible,” he said. “I feel very lucky we discussed Atlassian software in class. I was able to pursue their internship, and now I will work for them.”

As a way of paying forward his gratitude, Garcia-Ramirez spoke at the 2023 President’s Dinner and served as one of six Court Ambassadors at last year’s Homecoming. These events allowed him to meet with Catalyst Scholars Program donors directly. He says his work to promote the program is an act of compassion toward fellow first-generation students.

“Moving to a new town, paying for rent, paying for school, and working a part-time job are all difficult,” he said. “Being a voice for students, talking to donors, is important to me because I also didn’t come from a solid financial background. It’s great to be in a position to help.” As he nears graduation, Garcia-Ramirez says he’s leaving as a holistically minded engineer.

“Oregon State is a great environment to develop technical skills, but the university offers something else that’s equally important,” he said. “By giving workshops on the importance of diversity in engineering, providing a broad understanding of other disciplines, and offering networking opportunities, Oregon State creates well-rounded engineers.”

May 2, 2024