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VCU students meet with scholarship donors via Zoom

In light of the pandemic, VCU scholarship recipients are introduced to the donors virtually to get to know one another.
student meets with two scholarship donors via zoom

For the last several years, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences has hosted an informal breakfast reception to introduce scholarship recipients to the donors who invested in their education. This year, however, in light of the pandemic, the event has gone virtual. Instead of a campus event, scholarship donors and students were offered the chance to meet online and get to know one another from a safe distance.

Laerissa Reveil, recipient of the Dr. Teri Stockham Scholarship in Forensic Toxicology, expressed how meaningful it was to connect with the scholarship donor amid the pandemic.

“With technology today, it was a great opportunity to be able to meet and express my thanks virtually, but I hope one day we will be able to meet in person. I enjoyed talking to Dr. Stockham about my current research and life at VCU as well as hearing about her experiences. Dr. Stockham’s story is so inspirational, and I admire the achievements she has accomplished and the obstacles she has gone through to obtain the success that she has today.”

Connecting with scholarship donors provides an excellent networking opportunity for students. Students can ask questions about the scholarship donor’s career, industry, and experience at VCU while expanding their professional network.

When asked about her meeting with scholarship donor, Peter Zucker, Ph.D., doctoral student Danyel Smith says, “Dr. Zucker was so incredibly supportive and inspiring, instantly. He requested that we be on a first-name basis, as he is used to people formally addressing him as Dr. Zucker. Throughout our conversation, he reiterated how impressed he was with my work in graduate school. He inquired on how I got to VCU as a graduate student, and my post-doctorate aspirations, and offered wisdom on how to achieve those goals.”

The purpose of the virtual meet-ups was to foster connections between the students and donors while creating a space for open dialogue about student goals and aspirations. Smith shared how impactful this experience was to her especially during these unprecedented times.

“Honestly, receiving the scholarship and my introduction with Dr. Zucker was a morale boost. Graduate school can be very challenging and to receive an award from an individual who was impressed with my work was affirming and has served as motivation for me to keep pushing.” 

Many of the scholarship donors offered advice and well wishes. Dabney and Joseph Cortina made sure to tell Logan Cooper, the recipient of their scholarship awarded to a rising junior or senior pursuing a degree within the VCU Robertson School, “Soak up all the learning and life lessons you can during college because you can’t predict how and when it will come back and help you, and if you are struggling financially to get your degree it is important to know that there are many scholarships created to help you get through.”

Receiving a scholarship gives students the opportunity to focus more on their educational and career goals and a little less on the financial burden of tuition. 

Martin Agency Scholarship recipient Shayla Bailey (‘20) noted that “winning this scholarship means that there is just a little less stress on my future finances. It also translated into allowing me to start my own online shop called Pay What You Can RVA over the summer. Without this extra money, I would have been more stressed knowing I didn't get a summer internship due to COVID-19. I was able to raise over $460 for a nonprofit organization in RVA. I could not have been able to spend this time working on a passion project had I not had this money.” 

Students have shared that meeting their donor is more than a chance to express their gratitude--it has been an opportunity to hear valuable perspectives and have a meaningful discussion about a particular career field.

“I am so grateful for Dr. Stockham’s generosity. With her support, I am able to alleviate some of my financial burdens so that I can focus on my academic and research work. It is evident that Dr. Stockham is genuinely committed to the success of the next generation of forensic toxicologists. Moreover, the Dr. Teri Stockham Scholarship in Forensic Toxicology champions the importance of diversity in the advancement of the forensic toxicology field. I am honored to be recognized by a donor who advocates for such an important message.”

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