A Lifeline

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Madison, it didn’t just shut down the university’s classrooms. It also closed many places of business: stores, labs, restaurants, and more. It put UW students out of work, depriving them of often critical funding.

It was extremely significant, and I am exceptionally thankful for their help.

Karl Kleinschmidt x’21 was one of those students. Until early March, he worked at the Forest Products Lab attached to UW–Madison’s campus, earning income that would support not only his schooling but also his family — Kleinschmidt has two young children.

“I had a job at the Center for Wood Anatomy Research,” he says. “It’s actually the world’s largest scientific wood collection. I did a variety of things there when everything was ordinary. I’d polish wood samples, I’d catalog the wood in the archives, and I did kind of the things that maybe nobody else felt like doing.”

Two Young Children

The wages weren’t a lot, but they helped Kleinschmidt meet his obligations. As a Bucky’s tuition Promise student, his tuition is paid for, but there are the needs of his family: the children — a 12-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son — have to be fed and clothed.

As the university shut down, the Forest Products Lab did, too, and Kleinschmidt lost his job. But in short order, the UW reached out to him to offer help through the Student Emergency Fund. UW–Madison was the first university in the Big Ten to create a fund directed at helping students during the COVID-19 crisis.

A Huge, Huge Burden

And Kleinschmidt needed the help. He applied for an emergency grant, and within two days, $1,000 arrived in his checking account. A few weeks later, he applied for a second grant and received an additional $1,350. Kleinschmidt and his family were so relieved that his children created handmade thank-you cards for the UW’s Office of Student Financial Aid. He turned to the work of completing his semester online, and he will continue with full-time studies in summer term.

“I remember when I had received confirmation that I was going to be awarded the financial aid,” he says, “and it was an immense relief for me. It was a huge, huge burden from my shoulders. Just knowing I have my kids to take care of and a house to maintain for them to live in, I believe I may have cried. It was extremely significant, and I am exceptionally thankful for their help.”