Philanthropy under 30 | University of Nevada, Reno

It’s never too early to start planning for the future. Two recent graduates, Zachary Brounstein ’16 (mathematics and chemical engineering) and Kevin Kurek ’14 (biology), ’16 MS (finance), from the College of Science exemplify this principle.

Brounstein recently completed his Ph.D. in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering from the University of New Mexico and is now an Associate Principal Engineer in Product Development Research and Development at Lonza, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. Kurek recently launched his own hedge fund, The Infinity Fund, and previously worked as a lead machine learning engineer for cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase. They both attribute much of their early career success to the University and felt the best way to show their appreciation was to give back.

“In many ways, the University changed, transformed and matured who I was,” Brounstein said. “I knew I wanted to give back. In my mind, a scholarship was one of the most direct ways to give back and help other people experience what the University has to offer. All the extracurriculars that made up my experience, I honestly don’t think I could have had that anywhere else. It is unprecedented.

At age 25, Brounstein made a five-year commitment through payroll deductions to create the Zachary R. Brounstein Scholarship Endowment.

“University is expensive. Although the University is much more affordable than other universities, it still offers a very high quality education,” Brounstein said. “But the cost of tuition continues to rise most years. From the student’s perspective, a little help can go a long way. I wanted to help students while they paid for school. It was mostly in my head. »

Kurek, inspired by Brounstein’s story, chose to start the Kurek Family Scholarship Endowment through a planned gift at age 29.

“I always knew I wanted to give back, but I didn’t know how,” Kurek said. “Zachary was actually one of the people who inspired me. I read Zachary’s story about giving and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I’m in my professional career, I should give back.’

Kurek worked with Leigh Fitzpatrick, Director of Development at the College of Science, to develop a unique giving plan that would evolve with the University.

“When I opened my hedge fund, I knew my rates of return were high and I had the risk to afford at a younger age,” Kurek said. “I wanted to be able to sponsor a scholarship with a starting amount, but I wanted to be able to increase it to get better returns. This is where I worked out the details with Leigh. Kurek tailored his donation based on his interests to support the University in a variety of long-term ways.

Much of Kurek’s work at Coinbase was in data science and machine learning, and he argues that data communication is a very valuable skill for everyone.

“I absolutely wanted the scholarship to go to ambitious people,” Kurek said. “I’ve probably taken a course in every department there is. The trip was pretty amazing. I wanted someone else to experience it, and I just know people will hit the data in the long run. With this in mind, her scholarship highlights a preference for students pursuing a degree in mathematics, statistics, and computer science, where they will develop the skills necessary to communicate data.

For Brounstein, a diverse education is essential to a post-graduate foundation.

“I designed the scholarship criteria for someone who was incredibly diverse in their interests,” Brounstein said. “I think it’s important as you become an adult to have a great interest in the world. It could be anything from literature to politics to history to science. I wanted to give someone with broad interests reflected in his studies.

The College Development Team was an integral part of the gifts of the two alumni.

“I think it was extremely important for Leigh to be part of the process,” Brounstein said. “Because he’s so personable and trustworthy, the process was much smoother and I could rest assured that everything would be fine.”

Kurek echoed that. “One of the big things was Leigh’s communication throughout the process. There was never any stress, punches or cold calls. I can’t thank him enough for his time. This scholarship and endowment would not be here without Leigh.

The alumni hope their stories will inspire others to give back to the University, just as Brounstein’s story inspired Kurek. “Because we are young graduates embarking on their careers, the only way is to go up,” Brounstein said.

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