Stipend by students
From Beneficiary to Benefactor
Tobias Jäger’s life is marked by a sense of gratitude. He is grateful to his parents for making it possible for him to study, although he is one of seven children. He is grateful to the senior students who helped him to find his feet in Munich and at LMU during his first semester. And now he is particularly grateful for the fact that the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s Alumni Association agreed to sponsor the Deutschlandstipendium to help him to finance his studies. Now Jäger (30) is intent on giving others the sort of assistance that he himself has enjoyed and profited from.
“Surely, you’re not serious?” That was Jäger’s immediate response when he learned that no other recipient of a Deutschlandstipendium had come up with the idea before him. For although he is now in his 11th semester at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and has little enough to spare himself owing to the high cost of living in Munich, he decided to finance a Deuschlandstipendium for other deserving students. Details of his initiative (Dankbarkeit schenken – Stipendiaten für Stipendiaten) are available on Facebook.
The Deutschlandstipendium model enables commercial firms, foundations, professional associations and private individuals to finance a monthly stipend of 150 euros for students who, in addition to having a good academic track record, have demonstrated social commitment or have successfully overcome disadvantages in the course of their personal lives. The Federal Ministry for Education and Research then matches the donor’s contribution, and the total is paid out to awardees (free of deductions).
Jäger’s first impulse was to finance the stipend from his own income. “But I soon realized that, even with my student‘s maintenance grant and part-time jobs, I would be unable to set so much aside,” he says. So he has now turned to crowdfunding and is trying to attract support from others who have benefitted from fellowships and stipends. “So far, the feedback has been very positive,” he tells me. Obviously, many people have had similar ideas, but none of them was in a position to transform the impulse into practice.
Stipend financed by sales of lecture notes
Jäger’s initiative has already resulted in the sponsorship of a stipend by students. Financed by the Skriptenverein in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, it was first offered to students of the subject in this past Summer Semester. The members of the Skriptenverein produce lecture notes, which they sell to their fellow students. Inspired by the current Chairman of the Association (none other than Tobias Jäger), they agreed to contribute part of the proceeds they earn from the sale of these learning aids to fund the stipend. “Since the Skriptenverein is a recognized charity, the decision to do so was fully in accordance with our statutes,” he explains.
But this initial success wasn’t enough for Jäger. He felt there must be other sources of financing to be tapped for such a worthy cause. So together with two other students who had benefited from the stipends sponsored by the Alumni Association, he wrote to a variety of potential donors, extending from manufacturers of veterinary pharmaceuticals to makers of toys for pets. With aid from Alejandra Riedmiller, Coordinator of the Deutschlandstipendium Program at LMU, no less than 60 letters were dispatched to commercial firms. “And thanks to the campaign, we were able to recruit further patrons,” he says.
So what motivates him in this endeavor? “I just want to be of help,” he replies simply. Although he will sit for his final exam this year, he still intends to act as a tutor in the orientation phase for first-year students of veterinary medicine – as he has done in previous years, with the exception of his own practical year. The orientation course is designed to ensure that the new crop of students gets off to a good start in the unfamiliar university environment and has ample opportunities to make new friends in a strange city. “I am extremely grateful to the students who looked after me in the early days,” he says, and he feels it’s only natural that he should do the same for others in the same situation.
Helping out in the family firm
Jäger’s approach to life is also a boon to his parents. Although neither of them has an academic background, both steadfastly supported his ambition to attend university, despite the fact that he was one of seven siblings. In return, he continues to assist his father, who runs a horticulture and landscaping business. “That helped me to realize early on that it takes hard work and continuing commitment to attain one’s goals,” he says.
This attitude also explains why having to wait for no fewer than 12 semesters before he could take up his studies failed to scare him off veterinary medicine. In the intervening years, he worked in the film industry as an assistant cameraman. “I always had this combination of animals and film-making in my head,” he recalls. As a child, his ambition was to become an expert on T. rex, but by the time he left school he wanted to be a film-maker. In the end, he was able to follow his passions for animals and films. And when he was finally able to embark on his veterinary studies, he was very happy, in spite of having enjoyed his stint as an assistant cameraman.
So what are the chances that he will personally sponsor a Deutschlandstipendium when he qualifies? “My first priority then will be to do my doctorate,” he says, so his disposable income will remain limited. But he is determined to finance a student stipend as soon as his earnings are sufficient to make that possible. And having profited so much from the support that he received, “I certainly won’t forget the significance of the issue just because I have finished my studies,” he avers.