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Students value scholarships at UWRF

November 4, 2011

UW-River Falls celebrates students’ achievements and donors’ generosity with the annual UWRF Foundation Scholarship Recognition Event. This year’s event took place on Sunday, Oct. 30.

“What a fine group of students we have with us tonight,” guest speaker, scholarship donor and UWRF alumna Shirley J. Christenson said as part of her planned speech at the event. “Our nation’s future is in great hands.”

Christenson went on to say that she relied on scholarships when she studied at UWRF years ago. As a first generation college student and the fifth of six children, she said that scholarships were a necessary and vital part to her college experience.

“I am so blessed due to others touching my life, contributing to my current comfortable lifestyle,” Christenson said. “With a steady income, I felt it was my turn to give back, to say thank you.”

Christenson gave her first $100 scholarship in 1961 and has continued to supply scholarships to students up to this day. “Currently, the scholarship is a little bit larger than that first year,” Christenson said in her speech.

Student speaker and recipient of the Robert B. Bailey III Memorial Scholarship, Grace Adofoli echoed many of Christenson’s sentiments. “If I receive now, I can be able to give back later.” Adofoli said. “It’s really seeing the affect of giving back and really being able to contribute to other students just like you.”

In her speech at the Scholarship Recognition Event, Adofoli said that her story was similar to many others on the UWRF campus. “[I am a] first generation college student, coming from modest means, [and have] a passion for learning, and a desire to better one’s self,” Adofoli said.

To wrap up her speech, Adofoli talked about one of her dreams. “My dream is that every student admitted onto the UWRF campus will have enough support to ease their financial disparities in order for them to venture into their destinies,” Adofoli said.

Adofoli encourages those who haven’t been chasing scholarships to jump into the fray. “Everybody is on it.” Adofoli said. “Everyone is trying to get this money so you kind of have to be aggressive.” She advises students to do their research ahead of time. “Most of them are due in January,” Adofoli said. “So I spend almost the whole winter break doing that.”

Chris Mueller, the executive director of University Advancement and president of the UWRF Foundation, stressed the importance of scholarships to today’s students. “In this day and time, scholarships are becoming more and more critical to students,” Mueller said.

Access and affordability are some of the key values of UWRF, according to Mueller. “Providing scholarships allows us to make the University as accessible and affordable as we can,” Mueller said.

When a donor gives a gift to the University, they are treating the University like they’re family, according to Mueller. “In some ways the donors treat the student recipients as almost an extension of their family,” Mueller said. “There are stories about donors who have taken in their scholarship recipients and almost treated them like their family.” Mueller said that he thought this was heartwarming.

Also a first generation college student, Mueller received scholarships in his time at school. “Having an event like [the Scholarship Recognition Event] really helps all of us focus on why we’re really here and why we do what we do,” said Mueller. Events like these also let donors know that their gifts are appreciated said Mueller. “It also provides an opportunity for those who are not donors to see the impact that these gifts have.”

Each Scholarship Recognition Event is a long time in the making according to Scholarship Coordinator Logan Spindler. “Planning starts about six months ahead of time,” Spindler said.

Spindler, Adofoli, and Mueller all said they agreed that students need to be applying for these scholarships, even if they think the competition is steep.

“I think in any given year, we’re going to have more students apply for scholarships than we probably have money for,” Mueller said. “But that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t apply. If they feel they’re deserving of a scholarship, go for it.”

Spindler noted that, “The surest way you’re not going to get a scholarship is by not applying.”