Scholarship Students Continue Donors' Legacy

Pictured (L-R): Stephanie Gereffi, Catalina Rodriguez, and Alison Parente

Recent graduate Catalina Rodriguez is moving on to medical school with hands-on experience after assisting a surgical transplant team in Austria. Biology major Stephanie Gereffi is pursuing her goal of becoming a dentist and opening a practice to patients in need. English major Alison Parente is chasing her dream of becoming a literature professor and helping other women realize their dreams through education.

These students from the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences were among those recognized in 2012 as recipients of several memorial and recognition scholarships. These diverse scholarships were established by university and college donors to honor their family members while supporting students from multiple disciplines in pursuit of their academic goals.

The Stolzenberg-Doan Scholarship supports students, such as Rodriguez, who expand the scope of their academics through the college-sponsored Travel Study program. The Ellen Dix Thompson Living Legacy Scholarship assists high-achieving English majors, such as Parente, who are selected by college faculty members to receive the award for up to two years. The Madden Family Changing Lives Scholarship is intended for students, such as Gereffi, who excel in the college's Division of Math, Science, and Technology and submit a thoughtful essay on the anticipated impact of their college education.

Rodriguez, a 2012 graduate of the college's Bachelor of Science in Biology program, spent seven weeks as an intern at a hospital in Graz, Austria, where she shadowed a team of transplant surgeons.

As an undergraduate, Rodriguez was a member of the college's Undergraduate Honors Program and past president of NSU's Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association. Her travel study experience in summer 2011 gave her a new perspective of medicine and on her goal of becoming a surgeon in osteopathic medicine.

"This experience was unique and eye-opening," Rodriguez said. "The scholarship helped pay for my travels and my room and board. It was a major contribution, enabling me to go to Austria."

In the operating room, Rodriguez assisted in organ transplant surgeries as well as orthopedic procedures, heart pacemaker insertions, and the Caesarean delivery of a baby.

At the hospital, her routine included daily rounds during which she learned to draw blood, change bandages, and start IVs on patients, most of whom spoke German and communicated with her by smiling or hand gestures.

"This experience allowed me to feel what it would be like to be a third or fourth-year medical student," said Rodriguez, who was on call for the emergency transplant surgeries. During her first assistance, "I remember holding a kidney in my hand, and it was gray. When they connected it with the [patient's] arteries and veins, it immediately turned pink.

"You learn how delicate and important life is," she said. "You develop a better understanding of the world. You meet people from different cultures. Although the patients spoke a different language, we grew very close to them."

This experience, supported by the Stolzenberg-Doan Scholarship, "opened my eyes to the surgical world and the fact that there are so many specialties and sub-specialties. It helped me make a better decision about what I would like to do," Rodriguez said.

James Doan, Ph.D., professor at the college, said the scholarship was founded in honor of his mother and grandparents "who supported me in my own study abroad in college and graduate school, and I wanted to share this with NSU undergraduate students. I'm very happy this has been so successful and that the recipients [such as Rodriguez] have found this to be a life-changing experience."

As a recipient of the Ellen Dix Thompson Living Legacy Scholarship, Parente is excited about continuing her English studies and lifelong love of literature. A junior and a member of the Undergraduate Honors Program, Parente is majoring in both English and psychology, and she plans to complete a minor in gender studies.

"I chose to be an English major because I love literature and I always have," Parente said. "During my first two years at NSU, I was actually a biology major, attempting to become a doctor per my parents' request. I was miserable. My heart wasn't in the work.

"I missed reading, and I missed writing about my reaction to pieces. I was no longer moved or inspired by what I was learning. That was not the kind of college experience I wanted to walk away with."

So, Parente changed her major to English. "I could think of nothing that would make me happier than to be a professor of literature. "I instantly felt revived," she said, crediting the scholarship in part for her renewed interest in her education.

"I believe that this scholarship is incredibly important because it provides recipients with an avenue of opportunity that might not otherwise be available," Parente said. "Author Mary Wollstonecraft asserted the importance of improving the lives of women through access to education, and that is precisely what this scholarship does.

"The Ellen Dix Thompson scholarship helps women realize their full potential so that they, in turn, may aid others in doing so. I am honored to have received this award and grateful to be part of such an enriching cycle."

Biology major and junior Gereffi believes the Madden Family Changing Lives Scholarship gave her the extra push she needed to pursue a career in dental medicine and offer health care to those most in need.

"My goal is to attend NSU's College of Dental Medicine," Gereffi said. "I chose dentistry because I want to reach out to the community and help provide good health to those who aren't always given a chance. They might be jail inmates or patients with HIV or children with special needs...who I want to help in any way and every way I can."

Gereffi hopes to pay tribute to the Madden family and scholarship donors by making a difference in the community.

"I feel my NSU degree will change my life and the lives of others," she said. "Scholarships take away some of the financial stress and allow students like myself to put their full heart into their dreams and goals. The Madden Family scholarship helped me continue my journey in a less stressful manner...helped give me the extra push that I needed to continue my journey at NSU.

"It is exceptional to know that there are still people who help dreams come true."

"Education is a gift that will last a lifetime," said H. Dan Madden III, who founded the scholarship with his wife, Penny, to "return something to the community. We have such appreciation for all the wonderful teachers our son had in school and for all the dedicated and conscientious teachers who helped me as I went back to school at NSU.

"There is no better way to invest such a small amount and reap such a large return," Madden said. "We are only too happy to give Stephanie the chance to achieve her goals."