It was a tremendous honor to be chosen as the Hannah Fitch Shaw Founders Memorial Scholarship recipient the summer after my junior year. At that time, each chapter nominated one junior class member to apply for the four Founders Memorial Scholarships. Just to be nominated by my chapter as their designated “outstanding junior” was an honor, but this scholarship became more to me than just an accolade. This scholarship—made possible by fellow Theta sisters who have given to Theta Foundation—enabled me to expand my education beyond the walls of the classroom and impacts my world view even today.
My field of study, architectural engineering, was an atypically lengthy undergraduate pursuit. While most degree programs can be completed in four years, architectural engineering at Kansas State takes five. This extra year of study didn’t mesh well with most scholarship programs, so I had to save up funds for a full year of tuition, books, and fees for that last year of my undergraduate studies in addition to having enough for each semester leading up to it. Summer employment was essential for me to meet this goal.
Being awarded the Hannah Fitch Shaw scholarship allowed me the freedom to pursue other options with my summer plans of my senior year. A spring semester study abroad opportunity became available in the Czech Republic that was a perfect fit for an engineering student. The timing of that study abroad term meant that it would last into June and would make me ineligible for most summer internships offered in my field. I could take advantage of the study abroad program only because of the generous funding from my Theta scholarship.
My semester in the Czech Republic broadened my engineering education by exposing me to European building methods and design processes, as well as teaching styles that are different from what is typically offered at American universities. My semester abroad also helped me grow as a person. It gave me perspective on what it is like to live in a country where the native language is wholly unfamiliar and difficult to master, and what it feels like when one is disconnected from the comforts, familiarities, and traditions of your own life experience.
I treasure the time I spent abroad during college, and I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone take advantage of opportunities to live and learn outside of your home country. It was only through Theta that I was able to have this study abroad experience, and I am forever grateful to Theta Foundation and the donors who support it for the scholarship that made it possible.
Theta Foundation’s first Founders Memorial Scholarships were awarded to four outstanding undergraduate Thetas at the Centennial Grand Convention in 1970. Our flagship scholarship program has grown significantly since then, and the Founders Memorial Scholarships serve as the centerpiece of this program. Through much-needed and well-deserved support, the Founders Memorial Scholarships have provided 188 women with the opportunity to focus on the academic pursuits that will prepare them for a lifetime of positive impact in the world. We are featuring four of these outstanding Thetas through this Founders Memorial Blog Series. Read the first post by Karen Lafferty Hendricks here, and the second post by Dr. Hilary Gerdes here.