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Q&A: Graduate student Russell Stong IV shares hope for future Bruins with scholarship

Russell Stong IV is pictured next to the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science Building. (Zoraiz Irshad/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Abigail Siatkowski

June 10, 2024 3:55 p.m.

Former UCLA basketball player Russell Stong IV is tallying new assists off the court through a scholarship for low-income engineering students.

The mechanical engineering graduate student announced in March the creation of the Russell Stong IV Engineering Scholarship, which will be used to support low-income students in the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Stong, who walked on to the UCLA men’s basketball team during his time as an undergraduate, said the scholarship will open once its endowment reaches its $100,000 goal.

Stong sat down with the Daily Bruin’s Abigail Siatkowski to answer questions about the scholarship, its foundation and its future.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Daily Bruin: How did you come up with the idea for this scholarship?

Russell Stong IV: It’s been a long time in the works. I knew once I finished basketball and I finished my undergraduate career at UCLA, I wanted to give back in some manner. I wanted it to last for a long time to help future generations, hopefully leave a legacy for myself, while also helping others.

The first idea that came to mind was to help out fellow walk-ons. But then I realized without engineering, I would never have had the opportunity to walk on. I looked toward the engineering department – how can I help them out? I looked toward undergraduate applicants that might be lower-income, and their only barrier to becoming a Bruin was the fact that they couldn’t afford to come here. I didn’t think that that was fair, honestly. I was given an opportunity through engineering, and because of that opportunity, I was able to live out my dreams. I want to give others that opportunity as well.

DB: What made you decide to pursue engineering as your major in undergrad and now as a grad student?

RS: Engineering is very broad, but at the same time, you get an in-depth understanding of how the world works. Along with that, you get problem solving skills, critical thinking abilities. Whatever you do, whether that’s in the engineering field or any industry, you can apply those skills. That was the biggest thing for me in a college degree and a master’s degree – being able to use your skills in the future for whatever industry might arise or any of your interests.

DB: How did your own personal experiences shape the formation of this scholarship?

RS: I’ve always been in a very fortunate position. I grew up in a family that went to college, secured financial stability and was able to provide for me to go to college. Without being a mechanical engineer at UCLA first, I wouldn’t have been able to live out the dreams that I did on the basketball court, make lifelong relationships with my teammates or even have the opportunity to go to UCLA.

I know students with similar brilliance, academic prowess all want to come to UCLA. If the only thing stopping them is the ability to pay for it, I think that they should be given the opportunity.

DB: Who has helped you as you’ve developed this scholarship?

RS: Lots of different people, but it started with Greg Turk and the (UCLA) Alumni Association. He got the San Fernando Valley Bruins involved – the Engineering Alumni Association has been a big part of that. Even the athletics department (helped) – my basketball team has been helping out in terms of connecting me with donors. I’ve also had (help from) Caretta Harris, who’s part of the Engineering Alumni Association, and Sylvia Robledo, a big UCLA alumnus who tries to find ways to raise money for the institution.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. They are my foundation for the connections I’m able to make. They’ve set up different campus events for me to arrive and talk about my campaign.

DB: While you were an undergraduate, you were involved in the basketball team and passionate about that. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how your former teammates and coaches have supported you as you’ve developed this scholarship.

RS: Being a part of the UCLA basketball team has advantages on and off the court, specifically becoming friends with the guys that are now in the NBA or playing overseas. They have the finances to contribute. Although I haven’t reached out to them as hard as I probably should, I’m sure that time will come when they can make their financial contributions. They all support me in their different ways.

When I was on the team, they were always great teammates, and I miss them being around on campus, but they were always very supportive of me academically. They understood that I make my impact a little bit more off the court than I do on the court. They’re all for that and they support me in whatever I bring to them. They’re the best.

DB: How do you hope that this scholarship will grow over time?

RS: Ideally, I want it to grow exponentially. It’s not necessarily a personal goal for it to grow as big as it can be – it’s more of a focus on the impact that I make on UCLA and the future students coming to the institution. Hopefully, contributions keep being made to my endowment, it grows to as big as it can be and I can help everyone that comes to UCLA.

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Abigail Siatkowski | Managing editor
Siatkowski is the 2023-2024 managing editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 PRIME director, the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections. She is also a fourth-year communication student with a minor in information and media literacy.
Siatkowski is the 2023-2024 managing editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 PRIME director, the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections. She is also a fourth-year communication student with a minor in information and media literacy.
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