Scholarship from Asha Augustine ’07 supports students of color studying in Luxembourg
BY JOSH CHAPIN, Associate Director of Content
Luxembourg inspired her professional path.
The story of Al Bright inspired her to give back.
Now, Asha Augustine ’07 is doing what she can to inspire other Miamians.
Asha and her husband, Paul Gibson, recently established the Al Bright Diversity and Inclusion MUDEC Scholarship. This fully expendable gift offers scholarship support to high-need students of color hoping to study at the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg.
Asha’s scholarship is the first fund in MUDEC’s 50-plus year history specifically to support students of color.
Her own MUDEC experience shaped a career that led to her current position working overseas for Apple.
Now living in London, both Asha and Paul work in finance for the multinational technology company.
“Luxembourg may be my most favorite memories from college,” Asha said. “I met such amazing people.”
Learning the story of Al Bright – the lone Black member of a Youngstown, Ohio, Little League team in 1951 who was denied access to a community pool while his teammates were allowed in – moved Asha and was the motivation behind the name of her scholarship. Lifeguards refused Bright entrance to the pool, so he instead had to watch the party from outside, through a fence. Eventually, the parents of his teammates negotiated Bright’s admittance but only under the condition he be the only one in the pool at the time.
Featured in the book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson, Bright became an artist and art educator and was the first full-time Black faculty member at Youngstown State University, establishing the school’s Africana studies.
“It was a heartbreaking story,” Asha said. “I really thought of that fence outside of the pool as a symbol, a barrier to opportunity because of the color of your skin.”
Growing up in Columbus, Asha applied to only two colleges – Miami and Ohio State. Once she toured the campus in Oxford, though, Asha was set on coming to Miami.
As a first-year student, Asha lived in Emerson Hall. She joined the Indian Students Association and was a member of Pi Sigma Epsilon. Studying abroad was not something she thought about.
Her parents, Paul and Stancy, immigrated to the United States from India in their 20s. Paul studied abroad in Germany for four years, but Asha said the idea for her own study abroad experience came when a friend applied to Luxembourg.
Paul and Stancy were supportive of the idea, and Asha left for Luxembourg in the spring of 2006, the second semester of her junior year.
Asha studied French in Luxembourg and was inspired to add an international business minor. It was during a tour of an office building in Amsterdam with her finance class that Asha noticed several American expats working there.
“That was the first time that dawned on me, working overseas,” Asha said. “I thought, ‘Wow, maybe that’s something I could do.’”
During her time in Luxembourg, Asha got an appreciation and understanding for the ways other people live. Her Portuguese host family did not speak English, so Asha communicated with them in French.
While it was a little uncomfortable at first, Asha found it helped them communicate better.
Asha already had been motivated by her parents’ story of moving to the U.S. Her time studying at MUDEC only fueled the passion to travel the world even more.
She had been dreaming of returning to Europe since studying at Luxembourg. It was a dream Asha realized in February 2020 when she and her husband moved to London. She had only been in the office for six days, and Paul for one, when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic resulted in lockdown restrictions, and both began working remotely from their home in London.
After the May 2020 death of George Floyd and the growing Black Lives Matter movement across the globe, Asha and Paul joined Apple’s inclusion and diversity efforts in London, and Asha reflected on her own experiences.
“At the time, I was only one of a handful of students of color who decided to go to Luxembourg,” she said. “Those opportunities are out of reach for so many students because they can’t afford it. I was lucky and grateful to be able to do something like that. I wanted to really help support students of color with a high financial need to do something similar, because it changed my life. It really changed the course of my life.”
Expendable funding is in place for four years for the Al Bright scholarship with the hope of endowing the fund in the future, which would provide support in perpetuity. Asha and Paul were looking to make an immediate impact with their gift and to give underrepresented students with a financial need the opportunity to study abroad.
“My hope is that 30, 40 years from now, we don’t need to have a scholarship specifically targeted for students of underrepresented backgrounds because we don’t have this big of a gap for opportunities,” she said.
Contributions to the Al Bright Diversity and Inclusion MUDEC Scholarship can be made at any time or as part of #MoveInMiami, the university’s annual day of giving traditionally held each year during move-in day. This year’s #MoveInMiami is Aug. 19 with a goal of 2,025 gifts in 20 hours and 25 minutes in honor of the Class of 2025.
For Asha, her time in Luxembourg was an impactful experience that influenced the course of her life. She wants to help others have that same opportunity.
“I think it’s on all of us to improve the system,” she said. “I just wanted to do my part.
#MoveInMiami is a fun, fast-paced fundraising event on move-in day to welcome the incoming first-year class to Oxford. On Aug. 19, 2021, follow us throughout the day with live and pre-recorded content around campus and Uptown. Our goal is to raise 2,025 gifts in 20 hours and 25 minutes in honor of the Class of 2025 – no gift is too small! Learn about the projects you can support and donate now at MoveInMiami.org. Because sometimes the smallest act makes the biggest impact.