“I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines”
A former scholarship recipient helps prepare future social workers to address pressing issues of racism and inequality
Scott Polansky remembers the day the letter arrived from the University of Minnesota. “I was a little confused because I had already been accepted,” says Polansky, who was a senior at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minnesota, at the time.
When he opened the envelope, he was surprised to learn he had received a four-year Bentson Family Scholarship. “It was a very generous scholarship. It was going to mean I would need much less in student loans,” he says.
Polansky went on to major in actuarial science in the Carlson School of Management. Today, he works as an actuary for Moody’s Analytics and lives in Denver, where he enjoys skiing, hiking, backpacking, camping, and being close to the mountains.
As he was getting ready to graduate in 2009, Polansky kept thinking back on the impact the Bentson Scholarship had on his life. “There was the financial impact,” he says, “but also the emotional aspect of someone believing in me and what I could do at the University and take with me after receiving my education.”
He knew he wanted to one day give back, and the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd got him thinking about how he could do it in a way that helped both students and society.
“The pandemic didn’t hit society evenly. Some people were impacted much more than others economically, and certain groups were more likely to be infected [with COVID-19] and less likely to get quality care,” he says. “Even before George Floyd, I saw how the sins of our past affected groups of people.”
After considering his personal and financial situation, Polansky decided the time was right to create an endowed scholarship for graduate students in the School of Social Work in the College of Education and Human Development.
“I have a couple of friends who graduated from the School of Social Work,” he says. “I knew the school was preparing their students to deal with these issues. They aren’t new, they just became more obvious. I wanted to do something to address them. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines any longer.”
Kim Kiser is editor of Legacy magazine.