Scholarship Is a Team Effort
Once at WPI, it didn’t take long for Jean (Salek) Camp ’84 to take charge—of not only her education, but her entire WPI experience. “I took the reins starting at Orientation,” she says, explaining that the icebreaker activities allowed her to embrace her natural leadership qualities.
Now Camp is building upon the years of leadership roles that followed, through a generous donation to the Jean Salek Camp ’84 Endowed Scholarship.
“I think it’s a team effort,” she says of the college experience. “People helped me, and it’s my responsibility to help the next group.”
The New Jersey native originally had big dreams of becoming an artist, but an introduction to engineering by a fifth grade guidance counselor turned the idea on its head—although not at first.
“I asked her, well, why would I want to drive trains?” Camp recalls with a laugh. “I had no idea what engineering was about, but that summer my dad took me to a pre-college program, and after meeting engineers and learning more about their careers, I decided it sounded great.”
Combine the newfound interest in engineering with a preference for hands-on learning, and Camp, a first-generation college student, found herself at WPI, where she and her drive and passion flourished.
“It led to so many wonderful things,” she says. “It’s a good place; I want to share that.”
While her educational experience was entirely her own, she’s quick to acknowledge the help and generosity of others that also played a pivotal role in her success. On top of her own work-study job on campus, her parents worked multiple jobs and regularly went without to ensure that she’d graduate without debt; she received scholarships from WPI and a New Jersey engineering society; and a dean offered her a place to stay during summer classes.
Thanks to her own steadfastness, combined with the generosity of others, Camp’s resume is brimming with accomplishments—from roles in public and private sectors, to forming and running her own project management consulting firm in Hawaii. She has built a home that can withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, and termites, and has already been in touch with WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering head Albert Simeoni about the details and how to potentially involve WPI students in a future project in a high-risk wildfire area.
There’s no doubt she’s led an impressive life, and she’s more than confident that WPI students will be able to build such lives for themselves in their own ways, regardless of their paths.
“Students learn to solve problems and think at WPI,” she says. “The project centers and project work … they’re all helpful in getting exposure for students to see things on a broader level, globally, and figure out how to address problems. They have the communication skills to share what’s happening, and the problem-solving skills to find solutions. As future political and business leaders, these students will learn to use data and science as their basis and guide for good decision making. These kids just get it.”
Camp’s merit-based scholarship will be offered to those with financial need as well as to first-gen students like herself. While she’d love to see scholarship recipients use their talents and passions to help address some of the most pressing problems of our time—including environmental sustainability and climate change, both of which are especially close to Camp’s heart—she’s equally thrilled to be able to give more students the ability to experience WPI like she did.
“I’d love to play a part in students going to WPI, in knowing they’ll make a major impact, enabling them to have a better life in multiple ways,” she says. “I hope students can benefit from it and get what they need … because keeping people down doesn’t help anyone. Lifting them up is what does.”