For the next two years, CAHNR will be helping pave the way for some undergraduates’ futures with a new scholarship initiative called Difference Makers, which will award a total of $150,000 to fifteen student scholars pursuing majors in the College.
This noteworthy scholarship will provide each recipient with $10,000 for one year toward the cost of their education. The scholarship is for rising CAHNR seniors who have financial need and who have made considerable academic and co-curricular achievements at UConn. Eight students have been selected to receive the Difference Makers scholarships during the 2015-16 year and seven are expected to receive them during 2016-17.The eight student recipients selected this year come from six departments in the College. They are Dominique Dimaria (Allied Health Sciences), Kimberly Grendzinski and Olivia Korte (Animal Science), Carl Underwood (Kinesiology), Bailey McNichol (Natural Resources and the Environment), Kacey Hale (Nutritional Sciences), and Diana Corjuc and Monica Ambrozej (Pathobiology and Veterinary Science).
The Difference Makers scholarship program was made possible in December 2014 when the UConn Foundation received an anonymous donation of $150,491.53 for the purpose of supporting CAHNR students in pursuing and completing their education. The School of Pharmacy and the Foundation also received $150,000 gifts from the same anonymous donor. The scholarship was developed shortly after receipt of the gift by Cameron Faustman, associate dean for academic programs; Gregory Weidemann, dean of the College, and Amy Chesmer, the College’s liaision to the UConn Foundation.
Faustman, Weidemann and Chesmer sought to create a scholarship that would have a major impact for a small pool of students facing student debt. Most CAHNR scholarships amount to one or two thousand dollars, but Faustman says Difference Makers was designed to be more substantial. “This is our way to address the challenge of the cost of higher education,” he says. “We know $10,000 makes a big difference.”
CAHNR students were required to submit a scholarship application to be qualified for Difference Makers. In March, the CAHNR scholarship committee, made up of faculty representatives from each department in the College, met to nominate rising seniors who they thought had shown strong academic and co-curricular achievemen–in short, the difference makers of the College. Following the March meeting, final selections were made using information regarding financial need from the Office of Financial Aid.
The student “difference makers” who will benefit from this gift come from a wide range of backgrounds and are making a difference in the College in a myriad of ways.
Carl Underwood is a double major in kinesiology and ecology and evolutionary biology. Elaine Choung-Hee Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and member of the CAHNR Scholarship Committee, nominated Underwood. Lee, who recognizes Underwood as a frequent volunteer contributor at her lab, says that he “is one of the few students I’ve encountered in my career who has a vision for how he wants to serve the community in his future career. I have no doubt that he will make a difference in both human and environmental health in his professional and personal future.”
Like Underwood, Bailey McNichol is a double major, in natural resources and Spanish. Former UConn rugby team captain, she is passionate about ecosystem restoration, forest restoration and permaculture and says that she sees herself teaching in her future. McNichol decided to stay at UConn for one extra semester this fall in order to finish her two majors and says the Difference Makers scholarship will help her fund this important leg of her college career. “Any amount of help is really strongly appreciated, probably more than the donor realizes,” says McNichol.
First-generation college student Diana Corjuc, who has been getting professional experience while working in the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, will graduate next May with two majors, pathobiology and molecular and cell biology. The Difference Makers scholarship will help Corjuc as she goes on to pursue an MD and PhD.
Amy Chesmer, senior director of development with UConn Foundation and CAHNR alumna, says that the anonymous donation that funded Difference Makers is one of the largest gifts for scholarships ever made to the College. “This was an unsolicited gift intended to help students without even a request for recognition,” she says. “We’re hopeful the donor will see the lasting impact of their generosity.”
Chesmer is also hopeful that in addition to providing financial support to the scholarship recipients, this gift will help teach the students the value of philanthropy and will one day inspire them to support future students.
Stay tuned for more posts on Naturally@UConn about the Difference Makers students and the impact the scholarship is having in their lives.
By Michael Clausen