Student stories

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

Anthony Crawley

Anthony Crawley, Jr.

Mechanical Engineering ’22

“This scholarship makes it that much more important for me to fulfill my dreams so that the people that believed in me and have helped me in my academic journey can feel that their contributions did not go unanswered. The have helped to change not only my life, but also the world. Furthermore, it makes me want to do the same for the next generation after I leave this university.”

Anthony Crawley Jr., freshman in Mechanical Engineering, has just started his journey at the University of Illinois. When asked why Illinois Engineering, he eagerly states that “I chose Illinois Engineering because of the prestigious nature of the programs here. World-wide, Illinois is known to produce some if the finest and brightest engineers and that was a major point of my interest here.” Over the course of the next 4 years, Anthony is excited to explore his future here at the university.

Anthony’s passion for engineering started young, with the interest developing quickly after learning how to build model cars and planes. Anthony credits this interest as a key factor in determining his major, because mechanical engineering would allow him “the opportunity to make real cars in the future.” In order to achieve his goal, Anthony has joined Formula SAE, an organization that encourages students to team up and build a small Formula-style race car. Anthony is excited to learn more about the process and states that “since I can remember, Formula One was an integral part of my life and having the opportunity to work for an F1 team is my largest motivator every day.”

Anthony’s favorite class is currently ME 170, or Computer-Aided Design. In his free time, when he is not actively working on Formula SAE, he enjoys volunteering on weekends to help the local community around the university. Anthony is grateful for the support this scholarship provides him, stating that “this scholarship will help my family and I pay for my education.” He is honored to be a 2018-2019 recipient of the Engineering Visionary Scholarship.

Benita Ning

Benita Ning

Mechanical Engineering ’19

“This scholarship has allowed me to maintain a healthy and balanced life in college, which is an amazing feat to accomplish while at a highly competitive university like Illinois. I’ve been able to study abroad, conduct research domestically and abroad, and play a large role in clubs by volunteering my time to mentoring underclassmen.”

Benita Ning, a senior in Mechanical Engineering, chose to attend Illinois Engineering because she, “wanted to be surrounded by a diverse group of people, so I wanted to attend a large university like Illinois which excelled in multiple areas. I also wanted to be surrounded by engaged and intelligent peers. The prestigious and competitive Engineering program at Illinois provided me that and then some.”

Benita currently teaches an orientation class for freshman in Engineering and conducts research on thermoelectric materials. Benita formerly served on the executive board for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and cited her reason for leaving as, “I wanted to let underclassmen have the opportunity to lead and be an outstanding member of the organization.” She felt that it was right for her to pass the torch. Benita is a strong advocate for empowering other students, “I love mentoring students and hope to join the Teach For America corps and encourage young students to pursue STEM careers in the future and aid in improving diversity within engineering.”

Benita loves to dance, take scenic walks, and go bouldering. Benita also has a deep sense of commitment to her friends and says, “I like reaching out to a friend I haven’t seen in a while and then catching up.”

Benita is thankful for her Engineering Visionary Scholarship, “I am so grateful for my decision to study at Illinois and feel that my life would be vastly different had I not attended or received this scholarship. Thank you.”

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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