A Gift Across Generations
In funding a named scholarship, Jean A. Kovacs pays forward a debt of gratitude for the life-altering education she received at Northeastern
When Jean A. Kovacs, who graduated from Northeastern’s University College in 1983, left foster care in Wilmington, MA, at age 18, the career paths for a woman of her background looked extremely limited.
“As a female,” she told students and families at the 2022 CPS Undergraduate Scholarship Celebration, “you were either going to be a nurse or a teacher, or maybe you’d get a job as a clerk, typist, or a secretary.”
Kovacs started as a clerk-typist at a small company near Wilmington, and soon fell in love with the world of business. She knew she would need an education to rise in the field, and she started taking evening classes—marketing, computer science, accounting—at Northeastern’s Burlington campus. A few years later, thanks to the availability of evening and weekend classes, she finished her degree.
“I was learning things in class that I could then bring and apply at work, so it made the learning process so much more real for me,” Kovacs said. “My job got better, my work performance got better, but also the effort that I put into my classes got better, because I could see the application.”
“That,” she said, “is what I love about the College of Professional Studies.”
Decades later, the entrepreneur, venture capitalist, angel investor, and onetime finance major was present at the Scholarship Celebration to present the inaugural Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment she established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She has come a long way from those early days, and now she wants to pay it forward.
“My head and my heart go out to you and all the work you’ve done,” she told students. “My story is probably very similar to a lot of you.”
Among those in the room was Cynthia Thin, ’23, a finance and accounting management major and the first recipient of the Kovacs Scholarship. The daughter of Cambodian immigrants, Thin worked from a young age to support herself and her family. At 16, she recalled in the speech she gave at the reception, she was working seven days a week, even as she maintained her studies in high school.
One reason Northeastern has been such a good fit, Thin says, is that it has offered the flexibility her family needs. On a typical day, she’ll help her partner with his bakery until 7 a.m., arrive at the office by 8 a.m., work until 5 p.m. and then attend class in the evening. When she completes her degree next spring, Thin plans to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.
“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”
Reflecting on her scholarship in her remarks at the reception, Kovacs said she was thrilled to meet Thin, and that the experience “sort of brings everything back full circle.” As she introduced Thin, she also offered her an invitation to continue the circle of giving.
“I’d also like to challenge you that in 20 or 30 years you’re up here because you’ve established the Cynthia Thin scholarship,” she said with a smile. “Congratulations.”
Gifts to support scholarships for CPS undergraduate students in any amount can be made by clicking here .
Annual Undergraduate Scholarship Reception Honors Students, Benefactors
Supporting scholarships is all about giving back. Dozens of Huskies who received scholarships to support their education—dating back to the time of University College in the 1960s—have made the choice to establish named scholarships to support future generations of students following in their footsteps. Paying it forward is a long-standing tradition at the College of Professional Studies; so, it’s no surprise that in her speech at the annual undergraduate scholarship reception on August 23, 2022, Jean Kovacs, UC’83, challenged her own named scholarship recipient to do just that in the future when she is able.
Cynthia Thin, Class of 2023, is the inaugural recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, an endowment that Jean established in 2020 to support female students interested in pursuing careers in business or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Cynthia happens to be interested in both. Once she completes her degree in Finance and Accounting Management next spring, Cynthia intends to enter Northeastern’s accelerated nursing program so that she can combine skills in business and healthcare to start her own beauty and wellness salon.
“I still have a lot of work to do before I can achieve that goal,” Cynthia said in the speech she gave at the reception. “But I’m grateful to have mentors and role models to motivate me. As a recipient of the Jean A. Kovacs Scholarship, I have Jean as a role model now. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement I need. Thank you [Jean] for your generosity and example.”
The financial benefit of a scholarship is most often compounded by the human connection and encouragement of a benefactor. “There is no doubt in my mind that Cynthia has the passion and drive to achieve the lofty goals she has set for herself, just as Jean did before her,” added Dean Radhika Seshan as she closed the annual reception.
The College of Professional Studies celebrates 224 undergraduate students who received scholarships totaling $421,000 for the 2022-2023 academic year, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of Northeastern.
Huntington 100 Winners Reflect on Their Achievement
Four CPS students were honored this year as members of the Huntington 100, a group of Northeastern students recognized for their contributions to research, global engagement, athletics, entrepreneurship, community service, leadership and other areas that impact the campus or other communities and demonstrate a commitment to the values of Northeastern University.
Honorees Antonio Boyd (EdD ’21), Hien Linh Dang (BS ’21, Finance and Accounting Management), Sandrine Mallet (MS ’22, Commerce and Economic Development), and Kevin Stensberg (EdD ’21) were among a record 16 CPS students put forward for the award this year. Across the university, there were 819 nominations—the highest number in the 15-year history of the Huntington 100.
Boyd, whose work and research focus on experiential learning, afterschool programming, equity and access, diversity and inclusion, social justice education, and college and career pathways, serves as executive vice president at Future of School, a leading non-partisan education intermediary focused on access to quality education.
“I am most passionate about experiential learning,” he said. “Not only is Northeastern a leader in experiential learning, but our program is so focused on experiential learning that I have been able to work with several professors in the field, which has been an excellent experience. I am also passionate about equity and access and diversity, and inclusion. My research and work have fueled my passion for creating college and career pathways for students of color. I believe this is the civil rights issue of this generation.”
Mallet, a research assistant at Northeastern’s Center for Emerging Markets, investigates questions of equity through the lens of economics.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the question of why some nations are poor and others rich,” she said. “My studies in economic development at CPS has given me the opportunity to learn how to combine theoretical modeling and empirical studies to better understand such questions, allowing me to think critically about solutions to the challenges that face global economic and human development.”
Of her inclusion in the Huntington 100, Mallet said, “Receiving this honor means so much to me. My goal is to always be a positive impact on my surroundings and this recognition makes me feel that in some small way, I am succeeding in that goal—and this brings me a lot of joy.”
For Stensberg, who earned his doctorate in organizational leadership studies and has served as a site director for Northeastern in London and Thessaloniki, Greece, membership in the prestigious group represents a kind of personal and professional culmination.
“I’ve worked in student affairs and international education over the last 20 years in North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East,” he said. “So to have a highly ranked university’s student affairs division where I obtain my terminal degree recognize my contributions and value alignment as being exceptional—well, that is to me a great point of professional and academic pride. I think moving forward I also have great hope about what being a Huntington 100 alum may mean. As you might guess based on my profession, community and belonging are important values for me, and as I did my Northeastern degree from eight time zones ahead of Boston, this award affords me a new group of peers to call my second Northeastern cohort. I’ve already connected with everyone on LinkedIn and have joined the social media groups, and I do look forward to the ways in which we might support each other in the future.”
As an international student, Linh Dang says, she feels “blessed to always feel welcomed and supported by the faculty, mentors, and friends at Northeastern.” She has also treasured the range of opportunities available, noting that “Northeastern allows me to explore my diverse set of interests from impact investing, healthcare, consulting, entrepreneurship, and anything in between through our renowned co-op programs and student organization participation.” Being honored as a member of the Huntington 100, she says, has been a humbling experience. The only Vietnamese and undergraduate honoree, she said she hopes to preserve and instill a mentality of excellence in herself and those around her.
“Northeastern’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning, particularly at the intersection of strategy, healthcare, and entrepreneurship is what allows me to reach my full potential,” she said. “The College of Professional Studies is always known for its diversity and globality, which fosters an open and growth mindset for me and other international students to thrive in an increasingly global environment.”