Sounds of happy voices, plenty of smiles, and feelings of appreciation and joy were on display at the Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences scholarship recognition dinner on Nov. 10. The event was back in person this year at the Lory Student Center, the first since 2019, after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scholarship donors were able to meet student recipients in person to hear about their plans, hopes, and dreams for the future, and students had the opportunity to express their gratitude for the scholarship gifts provided by donors. View photos from the event on flickr.
Congratulating students – thanking donors
Although she was unable to attend in person because of her important role serving on the CSU Presidential Search Committee, Dean Lise Youngblade spoke to event attendees via a prerecorded message. She addressed the student recipients: “Congratulations on receiving your scholarship. I know this represents important financial support to you. But I hope you also know how much this represents our belief in you, our confidence that you are going to make a difference, and our donors’ commitment to assisting you on your journey.”
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Jen Aberle also spoke at the event: “To all the donors in the room, you help so many students in our college – and your commitment to their education and success is evident. This year, we awarded almost $1 million in scholarships to nearly 300 students. That is truly amazing!” The College’s scholarship totals include funds and students representing all eight academic units. (The Department of Construction Management held its annual Awards Banquet to celebrate scholarship donors and recipients and award winners in the department on November 8.)
Two students told their personal stories, sharing their backgrounds and how the gift of a scholarship has impacted their lives. And Jody and Mike Werner provide their perspective as scholarship donors.
Advocating for community needs
Valeria Valles Castenada, a junior in majoring in social work with minors in ethnic studies and interdisciplinary leadership studies, served as the emcee for the event. Valles Castenada is a first-generation student whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. She is the recipient of the Fornaro Family Scholars in Social Work Leadership scholarship. In her future career, she plans to provide communities with advocacy and support for basic health needs and mental health.
“For many students with non-traditional identities, we don’t have the privilege of choice,” said Valles Castenada. “That is why it is essential for land-grant universities to be accessible because they allow students the opportunity to create academic experiences of their dreams. CSU has given that to me.”
She continued with a heartfelt message to the donors in the room: “I am filled with gratitude for the donors who make scholarships possible. You are the bridge that allows students’ hard work and efforts to be seen and heard. I hope to one day follow in your footsteps and help future generations feel the support that I feel today. And for this gift, I want to say thank you.”
Using fermentation to build community
John Wilson is a non-traditional Ph.D. student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition who received the Stephanie Smith Memorial Scholarship in Food Science and Human Nutrition. Wilson is focusing his research on sustainable food production, specifically edible insect fermentation, which is a more sustainable source of protein than conventional meat production.
Wilson grew up in the South fermenting beverages with his grandpa and his dad, and he went on to attend Morehouse College for his undergraduate studies. He taught English in Japan where he learned to ferment sake. He earned his master’s in international relations and African development, joined the Peace Corps, and lived with a host family in Africa, connecting with them around their fermentation activities.
“Fermentation is a communal activity,” said Wilson. “It’s an activity that bonds people together and creates well-being, love, and trust. I always felt a sense of warmth and hope coming from a space where fermentation is what we did as a family and seeing that families all around the world that were doing the same thing.”
After many years of working in international public health development in southern Africa, he decided to come to CSU to pursue his passion for fermentation. Wilson thanked donors for their role in supporting students in the College and potential their philanthropy has to change lives.
“We’re in the College of Health and Human Sciences, and the entire purpose of this college is to serve, enrich, and empower the communities around us. The professionals that graduate from this college will go out and make significant impacts. And we could not do that without the donors here tonight. We’re all very grateful for being given that opportunity – so thank you. “
‘An opportunity to give back to CSU’
Jody and Mike Werner graduated from CSU in 1970. Jody graduated from the Occupational Therapy Program, and Mike graduated with a degree in outdoor recreation from the Warner College of Natural Resources. They support two scholarships at CSU, the Jody Werner Clinical Education Scholarship in Occupational Therapy and the Michael and Jo Karen Werner Pingree Park Scholarship in the Warner College.
The Werners described how their hands-on learning experiences at CSU were critical for their ability to apply classroom knowledge to real-life settings. Jody had a number of fieldwork opportunities and clinical rotations in OT, and Mike spent an impactful eight weeks at the CSU Mountain Campus doing hands-on activities and collaborating with other disciplines to understand the natural environment. When they saw an opportunity to give back, they seized it.
“We never envisioned ourselves as folks who would endow scholarships at CSU,” said Jody, “but after years of practicing OT and teaching OT to students in Kansas, I saw an opportunity to give back to CSU. These scholarships allow us to support experiential learning opportunities for current students. And it provides a way for Mike and me to invest in those who are going to carry on the professions of OT and outdoor recreation.”
Mike added, “Ultimately, Jody and I don’t see ourselves as major donors. We fund tuition for one experiential learning course for five students each year. We are just trying to contribute a piece that helps these current students graduate from CSU. We know this support makes a significant difference for those five students each year. Many thanks to all in the college who have helped us in the process to make this opportunity a reality, one student at a time.”
Learn more about the inspiration for and impact of the Werners’ scholarship support.