Applications are now being accepted for the fifth annual IBM Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship, a valuable program targeted at aspiring enterprise computing students seeking to alleviate some educational expenses, while simultaneously padding their resumes with an impressive mainframe-specific asterisk.

With several thousand dollars to be awarded, the scholarship program has grown increasingly competitive, with a record 29 students applying in 2011—a considerable jump from the six applications received in the program’s first year in 2008.

According to Mike Todd, who manages the scholarship fund on behalf of the IBM System z Academic Initiative, the number of scholarships awarded each year depends on the number of applications received, but over the years anywhere from four to 12 winners have been selected—in 2011, 12 scholarships were awarded.

Scholarship donors this year include Innovation Data Processing, PKWARE, Rocket Software, Trident Services, Velocity Software, Vicom Infinity and IBM. The scholarship judging committee is made up of representatives from the sponsor companies, and the criteria includes a proven mainframe interest and general enterprise computing coursework aptitude—participating in the Master the Mainframe contest is an excellent way to set yourself apart in this regard. A student’s intent to pursue a professional or academic mainframe career is also taken into consideration. Applicants must attend a Destination z member school in the United States.

Vance Morris, a West Texas A&M University student, scheduled to graduate in December, was the 2011 winner of the top-tier Greg Zaubi Memorial Scholarship—named for a Marist College systems programmer who was instrumental in connecting thousands of students and professors alike to the System z enterprise computing world.

While Morris has no plans to apply for the scholarship this year, he says the financial windfall definitely helped him to stay focused on his school studies by addressing some looming fiscal considerations.
“I used the money to help pay the bills,” says Morris. “I would advise future winners to apply the award money towards anything that will help them focus on their studies, whether that’s paying for school or purchasing supplies; just don't blow it on something inconsequential.”

Beyond the monetary benefits the scholarship entails, it can also act as a future employment beacon that sets recipients apart in the competitive computer science career field.

“I've added the award to my résumé and have gained a few comments from employers,” says Morris. “A number of people at IBM in particular were interested to hear more about it.”

The application deadline has been extended to Dec. 17. Completed application forms can be e-mailed to Mike Todd at todd@us.ibm.com. Scholarship winners will be announced in January.