December 16, 2016

The Gift of an Education

Svetlana Kryukova (BS ’95, MS ’95) knows what it is like to have the talent to study at a top university but not the wherewithal to attend one. She credits Caltech for bridging that gap—providing her with a robust financial aid package and a quality education that has helped shape her career.

Now in a position to give back, Kryukova has done just that. She and her husband, Anatoly Baumstein (PhD ’97), have established the Baumstein-Kryukova Student Grant Endowment Fund to help future generations of exceptional scholars pursue their studies at Caltech, regardless of their financial means.

“Caltech’s assistance was critical for me because I was not in any position to pay for tuition,” says Kryukova, whose entire family was living on $100 a month in Russia at the time she applied to Caltech. Today, she is director of software development at Cisco Systems, Inc., in Houston (see Editor’s Note).

“Anatoly and I have never forgotten about Caltech’s generosity. We have given over the years, and establishing this scholarship was a natural progression for us.”
- Svetlana Kryukova

The couple was able to maximize their commitment to Caltech’s students thanks to Baumstein’s employer, the ExxonMobil Corporation, whose educational matching gift program supplements every dollar they donate to Caltech with an additional $3. This means that Baumstein and Kryukova’s plan to give $5,000 a year for five years will grow to $100,000 when complete.

“Through this match, our gift will turn into something that can benefit people for many years to come,” says Baumstein, who works as a research associate at ExxonMobil.

In 1992, Kryukova and Baumstein were a young couple studying at Moscow Aviation Institute just as the Soviet Union was dissolving. Baumstein, who was set to graduate that same year, was deciding where to continue his research in computational fluid dynamics. He had been reading the lectures of famed Caltech physicist Richard Feynman when, fortuitously, a visiting U.S. professor suggested that he consider Caltech. The professor’s recommendation and the Feynman cachet convinced Baumstein and Kryukova to apply.

Baumstein, who was accepted into Caltech’s applied mathematics program, knew that it was customary for graduate students in his field to be granted fellowships—and he was glad to receive support from both Caltech and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Kryukova, however, who was applying as an undergraduate transfer student, had more concerns. Admissions officers at many U.S. universities informed her that they did not award financial aid to international students.

But Caltech was different. Caltech has long observed a need-blind admissions policy, meeting 100 percent of each U.S. citizen’s and permanent resident’s demonstrated financial need. For international students, full financial aid is not guaranteed, but Caltech does extend assistance based on available funds. In Kryukova’s case, Caltech not only waived her application fee, but also offered a generous package that helped cover tuition and supplied a travel stipend.

To this day, Kryukova and Baumstein refer to Caltech as their second home, and the gratitude they feel toward their alma mater extends beyond the scholarship and fellowship support they received. When the couple reminisce about the Institute, they think of the sense of belonging they felt as international students, how they were challenged to think creatively and not to expect professors to break down information for them, and how faculty encouraged them to set ambitious goals, such as Kryukova’s aim to work concurrently toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied science and master’s degree in computer science.

“Caltech’s reputation is so huge that I think people forget how small it is,” Kryukova says. “But its size ensures that every student’s needs—whether academic or personal—are addressed in a meaningful way. Anatoly and I are glad to do our part to continue to make Caltech special.”

Editor’s Note: Svetlana Kryukova joined CollabNet as vice president of engineering in March 2017.

Caltech undergraduates who receive financial aid*
Average need-based aid awarded to undergraduates*

*Information based on the 2015–2016 academic year