Alverno Fellowship Honors Powers’ Legacy

Mary Ellen Powers carved out an impactful career in business and committed her time and energy to making Milwaukee a better and more equitable place to live. She was also passionate about science and about helping women advance in fields where they have been historically under-represented.

Powers passed away in 2018, and it is in her name and her memory that her husband, Frank Miller ’10, this year established the Mary Ellen Powers Research Fellowship Program. The fellowship pays stipends to Alverno STEM students for their participation in faculty-student research projects, allowing them to develop hands-on experience and to build the skills necessary for graduate studies and STEM careers.

Miller earned a master’s degree from Alverno and was a longtime employee and instructor, making Alverno a natural place for the fellowship to be established.

“Frank knows our students, knows our students’ needs, knows our faculty and knows our faculty’s strengths. He decided to invest in us,” says Angela Frey, biology professor and chair of Alverno’s STEM program.

The fellowship is open to undergraduate students majoring in any math or science major at Alverno. This summer, 18 Powers fellows participated in one of two campus research projects: water chemistry and water analysis or biomathematics. (To read more about the projects, click here.)

In fact, the fellowships became in high demand as many students found that the internships they had secured earlier in the year were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty adapted the work to implement new safety procedures, delivering students a modified but no less valuable summer research experience.

“A lot of things were ruined because of COVID, and opportunities were taken away. This was one of the bright spots,” Frey says.

Dani Tallman is one of the 2020 Powers Fellows.

The fellowship builds upon the foundation laid by several prior summers of grant-funded summer research projects, an innovative way to keep STEM students engaged in their disciplines over the summer. Offering stipends ensures students don’t have to choose between paying jobs and seizing valuable academic and professional development opportunities.

“When I changed my major from nursing to human biology, my faculty encouraged me to learn more about this field through an internship,” says Alverno student and Powers Fellow Dani Tallman, who is exploring health-care focused careers in science. “I learned how microbiology testing methods are used to determine if beaches are safe or not. I also learned a lot of data analysis. I have learned so much that I can apply to my future internships and research.”

Additional supporters for Alverno’s student-faculty research projects include Alverno’s Center for Academic Excellence, the Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and Alverno’s New Futures in Mathematics and Science program, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.

To learn more about how you can support Alverno students, please visit

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