Student stories

Meet just a few of our outstanding students who have benefitted from the generous gifts of visionaries like you.

Kara Kessling

Kara Kessling

Civil Engineering ’19

“My parents told us early on that they couldn’t afford to pay for college, so I started working multiple jobs and doing everything I could to get accepted to a good school and get scholarships. I attendedcommunity college for two yearsbecause it was the best financial decision. When I got accepted to Illinois, I didn't know if I would be able to afford it. I am so extremely grateful for this scholarship.”

Kara Kessling “couldn’t turn down the opportunity” to attend Illinois Engineering, especially when she learned about all of the classes in the highly-ranked Department of Civil Engineering that interested her. While her parents do all they can to support Kara and her four siblings, Kara is paying for college by herself, so receiving her scholarship support truly enables her to attend the University of Illinois. She even considered transferring to another school because of costs, but that would have been “very stressful” and it would have made her “extremely unhappy,” so “receiving this scholarship just solidified in [her] mind that Illinois is where [she’s] supposed to be.”

Kara loves the variety of disciplines offered by Illinois Engineering. She is able to integrate her interest in buildings and construction with her passion for the environment in her degree in civil engineering by pursuing concentrations in sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems and structural engineering. Kara is also involved in the Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, and Habitat for Humanity. Receiving scholarships has “exponentially” reduced her stress, allowing her to participate fully in these activities and perform her best in her courses.

Without the generous support of her scholarship donors, she would not be able to attend Illinois Engineering and pursue her passions.

Melina Megaridis

Melina Megaridis

Bioengineering ’19

“I want to make my impact on the world by working for a company that creates biomedical devices and helps people who have trouble just living life every day.”

Melina Megaridis is a junior in the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois. She chose this field because she wants to create biomedical devices that improve everyday life. Receiving a scholarship was the most significant factor in Melina’s decision to enroll at Illinois Engineering. Although the bioengineering program is fantastic, the tuition is a challenge for many students. The Engineering Visionary Scholarship helped Melina offset the cost of attendance.

Receiving the Engineering Visionary Scholarship also takes some of the financial worries off of her and her family. With scholarship support, Melina can focus on school. Melina is minoring in the Hoeft Technology and Management Program and will be traveling to Germany and China this year with the program for business plan competitions.

Melina is also a member of the Cancer Research Scholars program, where she gains experience solving real-world problems. Currently, she also works in Professor Roy Dar’s Noise Biology Lab with cell and tissue cultures.

Melina is honored to be a recipient of an Engineering Visionary Scholarship. This scholarship has opened up opportunities for her to grow and study bioengineering.

Laion Neves

Laion Neves

Materials Science and Engineering ’19

“I always strive to better myself as much as I can, and the world class education at the University of Illinois is instrumental in achieving my educational goals.”

Laion Neves is a junior in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois. Born and raised in a fishing town in Brazil, Laion has lived in the United States for more than seven years and is amazed at how welcoming this country, and the Illinois community, has been to him.

While Laion is currently undecided on a concentration for his degree, he is leaning towards a focus on metals or ceramics. He is very interested in becoming more involved in research. Receiving the Engineering Visionary Scholarship will help him achieve this goal.

His favorite class at Illinois Engineering has been MSE 307, Materials Laboratory I, which focused on laboratory testing instruments. After graduation, Laion plans to pursue a graduate degree. He would like to eventually work in research in the private sector or in academia. When he’s not busy with his coursework, Laion enjoys spending time with his friends, family, and his cats. He and his wife also enjoy playing board games.

Attending a world-class university like Illinois has always been a dream of Laion’s both because of the academics and the Illinois community. The Engineering Visionary Scholarship helps cover his tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, and it allows him to focus more on his studies.

Siobahn Fox

Siobhan Fox

Systems Engineering and Design ’19

“Receiving the Engineering Visionary Scholarship helped me to understand the benefits of collaboration and supporting others. Accomplishing any great feat in life is dependent on the team supporting us.”

Siobhan Fox, a junior in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, is grateful for her scholarship support as it is allowing her to continue her education at Illinois Engineering. Siobhan says, “If it were not for this scholarship, I would not have been able to afford this academic year and was considering taking time off to save money.” Siobhan has a younger brother who also attends the University of Illinois and her scholarship support allows her family to focus more on supporting him at the beginning of his studies.

Siobhan is involved with Alpha Epsilon Phi and with the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. In her free time, she enjoys playing the ukulele and writing poetry. Siobhan says, “Much of my time outside of schoolwork is spent running and hanging out with people in my sorority.”

Siobhan’s favorite class is ECE 473, Fundamentals of Engineering Acoustics, because “it connects the dots between so many different disciplines of engineering.” Siobhan is proud to be an Illini because “during my campus visit I felt like I was an individual that mattered.”

Ann Thomas

Ann Thomas

Computer Engineering ’19

Last spring, Ann (Annie) Thomas, a senior in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, took the semester off to have two complete hip reconstruction surgeries. These surgeries forced her to move back home to Virginia to recover with the support of her family. The medical bills from her operation combined with the travel expenses to and from Illinois were astronomical. This increased the financial burden on her and her family, making it difficult to afford college.

When Annie returned to campus in the fall, she found out that she was selected for the Kirkwood Scholarship. Not only did this scholarship alleviate some of her financial burdens, but it also allowed her to be involved with more student activities because she didn’t have to work off-campus. Annie’s scholarship support will enable her to focus more on her academics.

During the fall semester, Annie began working in a research lab in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She engages with many student organizations on campus. Annie is the corporate director for the iRobotics Club and the electrical lead for the Junior Robotics Team. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers and serves on their membership enrichment committee.

Annie’s scholarship inspires her to pay it forward. She volunteers with the Women in Engineering Orientation, leading groups of freshman computer science students. Annie is a mentor to these students during their first days on campus.

Annie is also an Engineering Learning Assistant, where she teaches incoming students about campus resources and mentors them throughout their first year on campus. Annie is honored to receive this scholarship because it enabled her education.

Sam Dotson

Sam Dotson

Engineering Physics ’19

“I worked really hard in my first two years at community college and it was nice to receive recognition for my effort through the Engineering Visionary Scholarship.”

Sam Dotson is a junior in the Department of Physics at Illinois. In 2017, he transferred from the College of Lake County, a community college in northern Illinois. Receiving an Engineering Visionary Scholarship helped Sam make a smoother transition from community college to the University of Illinois.

Sam loves being an Illinois Engineering student, and he loves to call campus his home. Sam says his classes are enjoyable and engaging, and the professors teach with enthusiasm and love what they do.

Currently, Sam is pursuing undergraduate research opportunities. After he graduates next year, he would like to pursue a master’s degree in physics or take a year off to work on research. He is interested in the intersection of three topics: quantum information systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and game theory. He believes the combination of these fields will pave the way for advances in many areas of technology.

Anna Rodriguez

Anna Rodriguez

Computer Science ’21

“It would be an honor if after I graduate I have the ability to give a donation to a student in my current position.”

Anna Rodriguez, a freshman in the Department of Computer Science, chose to attend Illinois Engineering because it has “one of the top Computer Science programs in the country, has a great female to male ratio, and it isn’t too far from home.” Originally from Bloomington, Illinois, Anna was an active member of volunteer organizations like Habitat for Humanity and was a tutor during high school. As a new student at Illinois Engineering, Anna plans to be equally involved on campus, and has joined Engineering Without Borders, Engineering Council, and Women in Computer Science.

In her free time, Anna likes to read, doodle, listen to music, and watch mystery shows on Netflix. She also enjoys working out and spending time relaxing in her hammock.

Anna shares, “Scholarship support, along with in-state tuition, greatly influenced my decision to enroll in Illinois Engineering.” Anna is grateful for the Engineering Visionary Scholarship as it allows her to have more time to focus on her studies and extra-curricular activities.

Eliza Wright

Eliza Wright

Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering ’20

“Most of my free time is spent giving back to the community to help other underrepresented minorities get interested in engineering. I hope to teach them that engineering is for everyone.”

As a sophomore in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, Eliza Wright chose to attend Illinois Engineering because of the people here. Eliza says, “As a prospective student, I was able to meet my future advisor, my department head, and several of my future deans. I feel respected and heard as a student at this university.”

Eliza is actively involved in the National Society of Black Engineers, where she serves as programs chair. She is also involved with the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee and is a co-founder of Women in Nuclear Engineering. In addition to her extra-curricular involvement, Eliza is busy learning Dutch. It’s her dream to one day move to the Netherlands, so she has been “practicing Dutch so I am ready once I get there!”

Eliza is grateful for her scholarship support. “Receiving the Engineering Visionary Scholarship has had such an impact on my education and extra-curricular activities. Instead of worrying about needing a part-time job, I am now able to participate in activities I know will help me professionally.”

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