TACOMA, Wash. – Tia Bottger of Berkeley, Calif., and Eliza Koch of Wonder Lake, Ill., are the University of Puget Sound’s two newest Matelich Scholars. The pair were awarded the prestigious scholarship in recognition of their outstanding potential to excel academically and to succeed as inspirational leaders. The award covers tuition, fees, and room and board at the university for up to four years.

The scholarship is funded by a generous gift from George E. Matelich ’78 and Susan E. Matelich. Ideal applicants are students who have the character and commitment to make a difference, and who demonstrate the motivation to positively impact their communities. Bottger and Koch are members of Puget Sound’s Class of 2024 and are part of a cohort of Matelich Scholars named since the program began awarding scholarships in 2012.

Tia Bottger ’24 (Berkeley)

Tia Bottger ’24Tia Bottger was interested in Puget Sound because of the relationships and personal attention she found on campus. "I was drawn to the collaborative atmosphere of Puget Sound, where students quickly become family, and faculty [members] make themselves available in and out of the classroom," she says. "I appreciated the small class sizes and strong support system available to all."

With a plan to pursue a double major in environmental policy and decision making (EPDM) and physics, Bottger believes Puget Sound is the perfect place for her studies. "The intersection of natural and human-built environments in the Puget Sound area is ideal for studying the environmental issues that arise as a result," she says. Bottger is excited to join the EPDM program, which she has found to be unique to Puget Sound, saying: "It recognizes that environmental issues are political and that communication across boundaries is necessary to address them, and so it is very interdisciplinary and has a strong service-learning aspect."

In her years attending a German school, Bottger received a certificate for reaching the highest level of German language proficiency. In addition to her academics, she was the co-founder of the Berkeley High Climate Activists club, an intern with the California Coastal Commission, and the co-founder of RefugArt (an organization that raises awareness for refugees through art activism). Bottger is also a musician and an athlete. She played the clarinet both as a part of her school band and as a soloist. She ran cross country and served as team captain and a member of the mountain biking club.

Eliza Koch ’24 (Wonder Lake)

Eliza Koch ’24Eliza Koch chose Puget Sound because of the community she saw on campus and in the School of Music. "Ever since the first time I stepped on campus, I felt like I belonged, as everyone I met was incredibly welcoming. I was also excited by the close connections I knew I would form with my professors, advisors, and peers," she says. "The music students I met on campus were friendly and helped me see that the ensembles were tight-knit groups of dedicated students."

In addition to music, Koch is interested in psychology. "I find it fascinating how complex and unique every person is,” she says, “and studying psychology helps me understand how those complexities arise. I hope that I am able to use an understanding of people and their differences to draw communities together, whether that be on campus, at home, or in a future workplace."

In high school, Koch played the flute as a member of her school’s pep band and marching band, and was a leader within this community, serving as the bands’ president and librarian the past few years. Her music involvement extends beyond school, as she attended an all-summer music symposium in 11th grade and the Illinois Summer Youth Music flute symposium in 12th grade. In her spare time, she taught middle school students and prepared them for their concerts and recitals.


About the Matelich Scholars Program

The Matelich Scholars Program was established in 2010 through the generosity of George E. Matelich ’78 and Susan E. Matelich, who wished to provide future generations of students with the opportunity to pursue a life-changing Puget Sound education. Both were the first members of their families to graduate from a four-year college. George Matelich is a senior advisory partner and managing director of Kelso & Company, chair of the American Prairie Reserve, a past member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council, and a trustee emeritus at the University of Puget Sound. Susan Matelich serves as a member of the American Prairie Reserve Board of Directors and the New York Botanical Garden Board of Trustees. She is also board treasurer and an emergency medical technician-B and driver for the Town of Mamaroneck/Larchmont Volunteer Ambulance Corps, among other volunteer activities. Two Matelich Scholars are selected each year from the incoming first-year class.

For information about eligibility for the Matelich Scholars Program, contact the Office of Admission at 253.879.3211 or visit Scholarships and Grants.