Dressel Scholars Program

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The University of Washington Tacoma Dressel Scholars Program recognizes and rewards exceptional scholarly achievement, community engagement, and leadership potential for any student enrolled at UW Tacoma. The Dressel Scholars Program was created to honor the legacy of Melanie Jan LaPlant Dressel by creating a robust scholarship and mentorship program that affords our students the opportunities to develop their leadership skills and community connections while giving them the financial freedom to fully participate in their UW Tacoma experience.


 Students currently enrolled or applying for enrollment for Autumn Quarter in any UW Tacoma undergraduate program. This includes: 

  • Currently enrolled UW Tacoma students not intending to graduate prior to Spring quarter.
  • Current high school seniors applying for acceptance for Autumn quarter.
  • Community college students applying for transfer to UW Tacoma for Autumn quarter acceptance.

There is a strong expectation that the student will have completed the necessary credits and other requirements to be admitted to UW Tacoma for autumn quarter to complete their baccalaureate degree. Should a prospective student accept the scholarship and then not qualify for transfer or enrollment, the award will be withdrawn and may go unfilled that year. 

To be eligible, students must be pursuing their first baccalaureate degree, having earned a high school diploma (or equivalent) before enrolling. Those who already have earned a bachelor’s degree, or are pursuing graduate study, are not eligible for the Dressel Scholars Program. The Dressel Scholars application is open to students who are U.S citizens or permanent residents.



A team of mentors is paired with each Dressel Scholar to serve as that student’s personal mentors for their duration in the program. We recruit mentors from across campus and across the community, representing a variety of professions, backgrounds, and perspectives, and we provide mentor training on an on-going basis in order to create a common understanding and to maximize the potential for our students.



Dressel Scholars are expected to participate in campus and community events that will increase their understanding of our community’s diverse ecosystem of business and nonprofits, as well as increase their exposure to business, civic, and community leaders.

About Melanie Dressel

Melanie Dressel (1952-2017) was a dedicated community leader, building Columbia Bank into a regional banking power, and engaging in the greater Tacoma community in a way that will have impact for generations to come. In Melanie’s honor, the Dressel Scholars program is designed to offer UW Tacoma students financial assistance and a robust mentorship network that will help them engage with this community in ways not available or known to them.

A University of Washington alumna, Melanie Dressel joined Columbia Bank’s founding team in 1993. She became CEO of Columbia Bank in 2000 and CEO of parent company Columbia Banking System Inc. in 2003. Under her leadership, the bank grew from one branch to more than 140 branches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. She was an active community leader with involvement on numerous boards including Puget Sound Energy, Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, Washington Bankers Association, Washington Roundtable, and the Washington State Historical Society. She received countless awards and recognitions including UW Tacoma's Milgard School of Business Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. She was also named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker Magazine multiple times.