New UMKC Scholarship to Help Female Students Explore STEM Fields

Program supports women pursuing careers in science, computing

A UMKC alumnus and his wife have established a new scholarship to support female students studying computing or engineering.

Nick and Soumya Simha have established “The Nick and Soumya Scholarship” to support women looking to pursue a degree in STEM-related fields at UMKC.

“We both believe that education is a gateway to a brighter future,” Nick Simha said. “but the issue was, how do we help that along? What can we do?”

The engineering field is flooded with men, Simha said, and encouraging more women to get involved in STEM fields is beneficial for everyone.

“A lot of products are designed by men for women,” he said. “If we get more women into the field, they can actually make things more accessible. I can see so many benefits to getting more women into engineering.”

Soumya Simha said the two have always encouraged their own teenage daughter to pursue an interest in STEM and wanted to extend “some of that support.”

“We wanted to do whatever we could,” she said.

The couple was inspired to establish the scholarship after meeting Kevin Truman, Dean of the School of Computing and Engineering, and “seeing the new energy he brings.”

“We’d been donating a little amount to the university every year, but when I saw him I thought, ‘this is somebody who is going to put this money to good use,’” Simha said.

Truman said he is “so grateful to Nick and Soumya for their donation.”

“Their support is deeply appreciated by me and the School of Computing and Engineering. Their passion to help young women pursue their dream, which is demonstrated through this scholarship, is evident. At the UMKC SCE, we are committed to recruiting and retaining talented female students. This scholarship will help guarantee those gifted, hardworking female students have the financial resources they need to complete their STEM education,” Truman said.

Nick and Soumya Simha with their daughter

After graduating with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in India, Nick began looking for schools to pursue a master’s degree in the United States. That search led him to UMKC in 1991.

“I looked at a lot of schools but one of the things that attracted me to UMKC was at the time there was a big telecommunications focus in Kansas City and UMKC was one of the schools that offered a specialty in it,” Simha said, “(UMKC) also gave me a scholarship, which helped us make the decision.”

A UMKC education gave Nick confidence in his field, he said, through hands-on work experience and internship opportunities.

“Attending the same classes as those already working in the industry helps you get a better understanding of the real world application of what we were learning,” Simha said.

After graduating and spending a handful of years working in the Kansas City area, Nick was recruited to Silicon Valley, where the two currently live with their daughter.

He now works for Amazon and Soumya is in real estate.

The two fully paid off their scholarship pledge this year, with an additional gift of appreciated stock. As the Simhas have included a gift provision in their estate plans to support the scholarship, the two are now members of the Robert W. Flarsheim Society.

“What we hope is more girls get into engineering and it turns into a  very normal choice. Many times people are not afforded the same opportunities. For example, let’s look at investment bankers. They are not necessarily smarter than the rest of the population, but they had an opportunity to study finance. A lot of girls don’t know about the benefits of engineering,” Simha said. “You can do engineering, you can go into sales, you can do marketing. That engineering degree opens all of those doors for you.”