The Big Bang Theory Provides New Scholarship Opportunity for UCLA Students

Posted By Eliana Osborn on June 2, 2015 at 10:06 am
The Big Bang Theory Provides New Scholarship Opportunity for UCLA Students

It isn’t often that real life connects with sitcom life, but a new scholarship opportunity from The Big Bang Theory is an exception.  Show creator Chuck Lorre, as well as more than fifty people associated with the popular CBS program, recently endowed a scholarship at UCLA.  The money will support students going into STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math—with $4 million already raised.

The Big Bang Theory is already unusual in network and cable television, focusing on physicists and including tons of smart (and accurate) science.  The scholarship won’t be based on fandom, sadly, but will address low-income students who face a gap between how much aid they receive and the actual cost of attending UCLA.

Why UCLA?  The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik earned her PhD in neuroscience there, and one of the show’s science consultants is a UCLA professor.  Being near the heart of the television industry in southern California doesn’t hurt, either.

The Big Bang Theory scholarship will begin fall 2015 with twenty students; each year, another five students will be awarded funds.  Yearly costs for UCLA range from $34,000 for in-state students to more than $58,000 for non-residents.  Even with Pell grants, work study programs, and other aid, low-income students are often left with a significant amount of money to come up with.  The Big Bang Theory will help bridge that funding gap, enabling more STEM students with limited means to begin their science education.

Scholarship recipients will be announced on the show set and get the chance to meet some of the stars.  Recipients must already be admitted to UCLA as part of the university’s extremely competitive admissions process.

As demand for engineers, scientists and technology workers grows, more and more students are needed to be trained in important fields.  STEM scholarships are available from a wide variety of sources, including the National High School Honor Society FoundationThermo Scientific, and many others.  Individual departments at colleges often award their own scholarships as well.

The Big Bang Theory scholarship represents the first time a television show has provided major funding for higher education, but perhaps other programs will follow their lead.  What about medical school scholarships from Grey’s Anatomy, or interior design funding from HGTV?  There’s a world of opportunity waiting for shows looking to target their specific audiences and help get viewers on their way toward careers that match up with their themes.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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