UMD: A Globally Connected University

Roberta Ma Scholarship Helps UMD’s International Students Achieve Their Goals

Roberta Ma Scholarship Helps UMD’s International Students Achieve Their Goals

May 18, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international students who study in the United States. These students are experiencing a ripple effect of challenges, ranging from rapid changes to immigration policies and vaccine requirements, to unexpected financial costs and long separations from family. Financial hardships have been further underscored by the fact that, until recently, U.S. federal relief efforts have excluded students who hold F-1/J-1 visas from applying for aid. 

In response to these challenges, the University of Maryland’s International Student & Scholar Services is proud to announce that 158 students have been selected to each receive a $1,000 award from the Roberta Ma Scholarship fund for international students. This financial support helps to lessen financial burdens, supporting international students’ ability to focus more clearly on their academic and professional goals.

“The scholarship is the boost I needed to focus more on my research by having less financial worries,” explained Javier Carpinteyro-Ponce, a Ph.D. candidate studying biological sciences in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. 

Amanda Gowa graduates in May with a Master's in Engineering. “Achieving this scholarship is instrumental in enabling me to finish my program with less financial concern,” she said. “Now I can focus better on finishing the program strong.” 

When it comes to her career, Gowa found the scholarship an inspiration to work harder and become the best engineer she can be in order to give back to her community. ”As a woman of color in a male dominated field like engineering, I believe it’s important to encourage other candidates who look like me that they can achieve anything that they put their mind to,” she added.

For many students, the Roberta Ma scholarship enables access to additional resources, tools, certifications or research opportunities that will help them to develop key skills for professional success. 

“I am really grateful for the Roberta Ma scholarship since the funds will help me buy robotics components and other resources to hone my skills and create new projects. It is extremely essential to keep gaining new skills and achieve my career goals,” said Aman Virmani, a graduate student studying engineering. 

Po-Hsien Chu, a Ph.D. candidate studying Theatre Literature, History and Criticism in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, said, “winning this scholarship provides me with timely financial support and allows me to pursue summer graduation as planned. Therefore, I would like to express my profound gratitude to the Roberta M. Ma Fund and the University of Maryland.”

The Roberta M. Ma Fund was established in 1985 and provides scholarships and other forms of assistance to international students at UMD. Roberta M. Ma came to the U.S. in 1924 from China to study botany and plant physiology at the University of Texas, eventually becoming a biochemist for the FDA. In 1960, she opened her Maryland home to international students from UMD. It became a place where they could study, share meals, and generally find a home away from home. 

Over time, the group evolved into a non-profit organization called Koinonia Agapes, Inc., or “Fellowship of Love.” Dr. Ma’s goal was to open an international fellowship center to accommodate the growing community and carry on the tradition, but she passed away before her dream was achieved. The board decided that an international student scholarship would fulfill Dr. Ma’s dream of building international understanding and contributing to the achievement of world peace by assisting international students.

Every year, UMD’s International Student & Scholar Services connects eligible students to the funds that the Robert Ma Scholarship provides. To learn more about eligibility requirements, please visit