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Lift as You Climb

Mark and Melanie Kidder smiling with their arms wrapped around one another

“Lift as you climb” is a phrase Mark (S’95) and Melanie Kidder have come to live by. “You lift somebody else up and help them climb to the top with you,” Melanie explains.

The couple has been working to lift up women in science at Purdue and beyond. After graduating, Mark regularly contributed to the Computer Science Excellence Fund, a scholarship fund for students in need. “It would have been hard for me to continue my studies at Purdue without the help of that fund,” he says. “My Purdue degree has opened a lot of doors for Melanie and me. Thanks to our success, we can help, and I feel we have a responsibility to do so.”

Mark and Melanie were first-generation college students, and they are proud to help those who may otherwise be unable to attend Purdue. “Obtaining a college degree is a game changer,” Melanie says. “We don’t want talented individuals to miss out on the opportunity to pursue their dreams because they can’t afford to do so.”

The Kidders have made annual gifts to the Purdue Women in Science Program (WISP) since 2017 and recently started a scholarship for students in the program. WISP serves students in the College of Science, creating a sense of belonging and facilitating personal and professional growth.

 “This program is unique in that it offers tutoring and mentoring by faculty and upperclassmen,” Mark explains. “I think everyone goes through times where they feel lost or discouraged. Having someone to go to may encourage students to stay in the program.”

Programs like WISP strive to increase the presence of women in science, technology, and engineering fields. “I’ve recognized a deficit when it comes to females in industries like information technology and software engineering,” Mark says. “I hope my participation in this program will help build a pipeline for females pursuing careers in science.”

Melanie sees the same challenges in her work with startup companies. “I don’t come across very many female engineers at these startups,” she says. “It’s hard to be the only woman in a room—I have experienced that in my own career. We want to do everything we can to change that.”

“WISP is ever grateful to Mark and Melanie for their passion to uplift and empower women in science,” says Connie Kaspar, associate director of science diversity and director of the Women in Science Program. “Our students will benefit greatly from the Kidders’ generous support.”

Although Melanie didn’t attend Purdue, she recognizes that WISP is something special. “You can see the quality of a university through its people,” she shares. “The warmth, grace, and intelligence that radiates off those I’ve met has shown me Purdue is an exceptional place.”

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