Michelle Dugan was amazed by the young women she met who had received scholarships from UConn’s new Women and Philanthropy group.
“They really wowed me as far as how worldly they already are at this point in life and how excited they are about the fields that they’ve chosen,” she said.
Inspired by the mission of the UConn Women and Philanthropy initiative, she decided to donate $50,000 to create an endowed scholarship that will help pay tuition for a female UConn student.
“In today’s world, women have better opportunities and they can become engineers and doctors. I’d like to be able to afford more women that opportunity,” she said.
Career options for women were far more limited when Michelle graduated from UConn in 1969.
“Basically, you could be a teacher or go into the health field in a supporting role. There were very few women who even thought about going beyond that because there just weren’t many opportunities for us,” she said.
Although UConn cost only $500 a semester when she went to college, Michelle is keenly aware of how much tuition has risen.
“I wanted to be able to help so that kids don’t graduate from college and find they have mortgage-like debt to pay off right when they are trying to get on with their lives.”
Upon graduating from UConn with a degree in Child Development and Family Relations, Michelle became a social worker at the Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City, NJ. She married Gary Dugan ’69 PhD, whom she had met at UConn. They had two children, and she became a stay-at-home mom for several years. The expanded childcare network of today was non-existent back then for career families.
Later, she went back to school and earned a master’s in Public Administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. During her 25-year career, she worked for two towns, most recently serving as a combination Borough Administrator, Chief Financial Officer, Tax Collector, and Recycling Coordinator for Midland Park, NJ.
“It was a small town and you had to wear a lot of hats,” she explained. “I really enjoyed being in the public sector, especially the finances, most public meetings and interacting with the public. It was a great career.”
Michelle identifies with the #metoo movement. Although she never experienced sexual abuse or harassment on the job, she endured a more subtle form of sexism, marginalization. She says she did not always feel she was being treated as an equal.
Michelle is very optimistic about the Woman and Philanthropy initiative and looks forward to seeing it expand to assist women with career choices and moral support.
“I encourage women to consider joining the group so we can grow the network and help support more female students while they’re at UConn and help them launch their careers afterwards,” she said.
Group photo during a Women and Philanthropy event at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center taken Friday, March 23, 2018
Find more information about joining or donating to UConn Women and Philanthropy.