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STEM Grows

Mary Decosta

Mary DaCosta ’15

Biology, Chemistry Minor

Hometown: Syracuse, New York

Role: Possibility Scholarship Recipient

Fueling the flame: Possibility Scholarship Donors

“Having this scholarship gave me just what the name implies—opportunities for success and possibilities for the future. Since day one, I was part of a group that was well-connected and supported. I thank everyone who donated to the scholarship, and I hope to make them proud.”

Mary DaCosta ’15 has set out on her life’s path determined to live up to a message she believes applies to her: “Much more is required from those to whom much is given.”

As a recipient of the Possibility Scholarship, she believes she was given an opportunity of a lifetime at Oswego. She now wants to make the most of her experience by helping others as a doctor in a high-needs area.

DaCosta, who moved from Ghana to Syracuse, N.Y., at age 3, is now studying to become a doctor at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. 

“I’m so excited,” said the former treasurer of SUNY Oswego’s Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC) and vice president of Multiethnic Christ Fellowship. “What I’ve been working for is finally at my doorstep. And their goals align with mine. The Possibility Scholarship has given me a lot and I’m going to go forward and do that much more.”

Her passion and success at Oswego has already inspired others, including her younger brother, John, who talked about his sister’s influence in his personal statement on his college application.

“Knowing that my success motivates people—the rest of my family—to do well and go for their dreams really means a lot to me,” she said.

DaCosta is one of a select group of students who have received a Possibility Scholarship, created by President Deborah F. Stanley in 2009 to support students who want to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

The Possibility Scholars program packages all the qualities of a SUNY Oswego education into a transformative life experience for selected students in science-related disciplines who demonstrate significant financial need. The program offers students much more than financial aid. It takes a three-prong approach:

  • Financial Assistance: Scholarships cover all tuition, fees, room and board for up to four years, in coordination with any other grants or scholarships awarded.
  • Summer Research Institute: Recipients are assigned a faculty mentor even before they arrive on campus as freshmen. They receive a stipend and room and board to engage in a rigorous, laboratory-based summer research experience supporting year-round knowledge building. Working closely with a faculty mentor matched to their academic interests and career goals, Possibility Scholars exercise critical thinking skills and enter into valuable professional relationships for the future.
  • Global Laboratory: Scholars receive support for an international experience. Being embedded in an international community help develop richer understanding and creative ideas for building a better world.

“It’s an amazing program,” said Possibility Scholar Justin D’Antonio ’16 M’18, a physics and mathematics double major from Jamesville, N.Y. “I feel almost too privileged. I wish everyone could have the experience I’ve had, and delve so deeply into the things you want to without having to worry about monetary restrictions or working off tuition. I am grateful to the donors who made this scholarship possible.”

That freedom from financial burdens enabled D’Antonio to forge strong ties with electrical and computer engineering Associate Professor Adrian Ieta. Instead of working a campus job, D’Antonio spent hours in Ieta’s Applied Electrostatic Lab exploring electrohydrodynamic wind.

“I didn’t get a grade or get paid,” said D’Antonio, who presented their research at three national conferences. “I just knew we were doing something special. I’ve learned so much about what it means to be an experimental scientist from him. I learned how passionate people can be about their work, about learning science and the phenomena that occur every day that nobody understands yet. I’m honored to have worked with him.”

Developing close ties to faculty mentors was also a highlight of the Possibility Scholars program for DaCosta.

“From the beginning, we just had a lot more mentorship from the professors,” DaCosta said. “Then going forward they just really encouraged us to try research and different opportunities. When you have a strong community to help you, it makes it that much easier. The Possibility Scholarship definitely pushed me and drove me forward.”