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As the largest college at Arizona State University, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is home to more than 25,000 students. The success many of them achieve during their time at The College is aided by the philanthropy of alumni, faculty and community members who choose to invest in the future by supporting students in the present.
From funding transformative internships and study abroad experiences to filling the gap left by textbooks costs and living expenses, scholarships ensure students focus less on finances and more on their studies. And since 2004, The College has celebrated that connection by bringing together donors and the students they support for the annual Hearts and Scholars event.
“Each year The College receives generous scholarship funds that help our students excel in their programs,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College. “The Hearts and Scholars event provides a platform for students to come face-to-face with that network of supporters.”
How does philanthropy impact students in real-time? We caught up with a few recipients to hear about their academic path and how scholarships have shaped their journeys so far.
As an undergraduate, Caddy started studying English as a starting point to a career in publishing. But a new idea emerged as he progressed in the program.
“It turned out that I really love teaching. I love showing people how to interpret and work with books and poetry,” he said. “Prior to starting at ASU, I taught for seven years in the Flint, Michigan, area. That made me want to take the next step toward getting a PhD so that I might go back with more expertise and knowledge.”
Now working toward a doctorate in The College’s Department of English, Caddy is a two-time recipient of the Wilfred A. Ferrell Memorial Fellowship. He said the award reinforces the value of the research and teaching initiatives he’s worked on so far.
“The award recognized not just the work I've done for the degree, but other projects I've worked on in the department and for the larger ASU community, and it really gave me the motivation to continue moving forward,” he said. ”I think for a lot of people, the barrier to doing great work or helping their communities out is often about resources — to me philanthropy means helping people move past those barriers.”
When Calixto first started looking into college, she wasn’t sure how or if she’d be able to pay for tuition at ASU. But encouraging words from an academic counselor helped her see a clearer path.
“My counselor helped me with financial needs and told me about all these scholarships that I could apply for,” said Calixto, now in her first year at The College. “Because of her, I'm here now and I see a much brighter future for myself.”
One of those scholarships was the PepsiCo Foundation Scholarship, which Calixto said has allowed her to pay for tuition and focus on her family and human development program at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.
“I was interested in this major because I’ve always had a passion for helping people, and I just knew that I wanted to be there for others just as others had been there for me when I was growing up,” she said. “This scholarship allowed me to not have to worry about financials, and because of that I was given more of a push to succeed in my studies.”
Growing up a dedicated reader and writer, Gadberry looked to put her passion for words into an English program at ASU.
“ASU has given me a lot of the tools I need to succeed,” said Gadberry, now a senior studying creative writing in the Department of English. “I think the main thing that I've gained from my time here is that I've become a much better writer than I would have ever been before.”
Gadberry received the John Doebler Memorial Award in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies last year, an award given for the best critical or scholarly paper written by an undergraduate student. Gadberry said the fund will not only help her graduate debt-free, it also serves as a reminder that her field is worth pursuing.
“Whether you take one class in Renaissance studies or you pursue it full time, you do it for the love of it, not necessarily for things like money,” she said. “Knowing that someone out there appreciates that enough to help out people like me, I'm just really thankful for the person who started this scholarship and continues to keep it alive. It’s helped me to focus on what’s really important.”
Some students don’t decide on an academic program until after coming to college. But Smola’s interest in psychology was ignited in high school, when moving from El Paso, Texas, to Arizona got her thinking about how life experiences shape the future.
“I went to two different high schools, one in Texas and the other in a nicer area in Arizona, and in the transition I noticed a lot of differences between students and their trajectories,” she said. “That got me interested in doing research on adolescents and (understanding more about) how it is a time of great risk, but is also a great time for opportunities.”
Today, Smola is in her final undergraduate year at The College’s Department of Psychology and the recipient of the Smith Marshall Scholarship. She said in addition to the award relieving financial strain, it also made her feel like her experience as a first-generation student was being seen.
“Philanthropy to me means empathy in a lot of ways. It is recognizing that some people need additional help … not only financial assistance but also recognition,” she said. “I felt really thankful and honored that somebody took an active role in my education.”
The annual Hearts and Scholars Scholarship Dinner will take place Feb. 6 on the Tempe campus for invited guests.