Frontline worker to front of class: first recipient of scholarship


Photo Courtesy of OU News

David McCaullum uses equipment at Custum Biogenic Systems, where he is a CAD designer. He is the first recipient of OU’s frontline scholarship.

To support workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 in their educational journey, Oakland University has created the Frontline Workers Scholarship, an extension of the statewide Futures for Frontliners initiative.

“At Oakland University, we wanted to show our commitment and appreciation to all frontline workers who have contributed so tirelessly to keep our essential industries running during Michigan’s COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020, Dawn Aubry, vice president for Enrollment Management said. “We are proud to be offering a new award to frontline workers from the entire state of Michigan, as a way of thanking them for their tremendous efforts throughout the pandemic and to support them in the pursuit of their bachelor’s degree.” 

 David McCallum is the first recipient of the scholarship. He is a CAD designer at Custom Biogenic Systems. He helps design cryogenic equipment and supplies used in scientific and research laboratories to allow for safe storage and transportation of climate-sensitive materials.

“I use CAD technology to help generate designs for complex projects. Everything we manufacture, we first design in CAD. This helps us to identify any design conflicts, create assembly drawings for production and visualize the product.” McCallum said.

McCallum is working full-time as a CAD designer while also completing the requirements for an associate’s degree in mathematics from Macomb Community College. He plans on transferring to Oakland University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

McCallum learned about the scholarship through his sister and thought it would be a great opportunity.

“I have worked closely with the OU engineering advisor over the last two years to understand the transfer requirements and all the scholarship opportunities, McCallum said. “With the scholarships I have been awarded through OU in addition to my employer’s tuition assistance program, I have an amazing opportunity to continue my education.”

McCallum also shared that his boss thought an engineering program was something he could complete and encouraged him to continue his education.

McCallum described his educational journey as a winding road and was open about his previous struggles with alcohol and prescription opioid abuse.

 After being accepted into a sobriety program that provided access to a 12-step program, counseling, and recovery coaching, McCallum has been in recovery and has focused on his career and education.  

“I have been in recovery since completing this program. It encouraged me to want to stop using, introduced me to mentors, and during this time, I was able to regain mental clarity. While attending 12-step meetings, I heard other people share my story who were where I was and who had found a way out,” McCallum said.

McCallum plans to begin classes full-time at Oakland University during the upcoming summer semester. 

“I am really looking forward to getting on campus for the engineering labs and making new friends in my classes,” McCallum said.

For more information about the Frontline Workers Scholarship and to view eligibility requirements, please email [email protected]