NASPA Foundation 2017 Jim Rhatigan Fellowship Scholarship Recipients

Meet Britt Spears and Brianna Ramirez, recipients of the 2017 NASPA Foundation Jim Rhatigan Fellowship Scholarship. Each year four graduate students pursuing a master's or doctoral program in higher education, student affairs, or a related field, are awarded a $500 scholarship to help defray the cost of attending the NASPA Annual Conference.


Britt Spears, graduate student, Missouri State University

Greetings to the NASPA Foundation! My name is Britt Spears and I have just completed my first year of graduate school in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program at Missouri State University. Upon joining NASPA as a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow in 2015, I realized that this organization is truly my home for all things student affairs related. In a project for my current master’s program I learned even more about NASPA, specifically the NASPA Foundation. I learned of all the wonderful opportunities provided to students and professionals, as well the recognition given to shining stars in the field. The Jim Rhatigan Fellowship gave me the opportunity to attend the 2017 NASPA National Conference and covered all of my expenses. As a graduate student, this scholarship was not only much needed but also much appreciated. I cherished the opportunity to attend this conference and network with colleagues – both old and new. I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with my fellow NASPA Undergraduate Fellow alums, as well as new colleagues in graduate school who share many of my similar experiences. I look forward to participating with the NASPA Foundation in the future.

One of the most exciting occurrences during this conference was becoming involved with knowledge communities. Knowledge communities were not highly stressed to me as an Undergraduate Fellow so I am thrilled to take advantage of these opportunities and communities. In particular, I joined the African-American Knowledge Community (AAKC) and met with many graduate students and new professionals who I was able to share testimonies and ideas with. This knowledge community gives me the chance to connect with others who share the same cultural background as myself. In the few months after the conference, I have found a great sense of community within the AAKC and look forward to my future involvement. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a Jim Rhatigan Fellow and I am so thankful to the NASPA Foundation for providing me with this scholarship. NASPA began my student affairs journey and I look forward continuing my journey with this leading organization.

Britt Spears' scholarship winning video, "Race Relations on College Campuses: Then and Now"


Brianna Ramirez, doctoral student, University of California, San Diego

As a first generation, U.S. born Chicana, my work centers on improving the educational experiences of students of color and immigrant youth. Attending the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference provided the opportunity to dialogue with educators, graduate students, researchers, and policy makers that also do this work. It was my first time attending a NASPA annual conference and I also had the opportunity to present the research I have been working on as a master’s student in the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education (SCAE) program at California State University, Long Beach. My presentation at the conference drew from my master’s thesis that explored the experiences of undocumented youth in their transition to college during the current political climate in the United States, a political climate that is clearly and increasingly more racist nativist than we have seen in decades.

I take my experience at the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference with me as I begin my doctoral program in Educational Studies at UC San Diego in the fall. My commitment to improving the educational outcomes of marginalized student populations underlies my motivation to obtain a doctoral degree. I will continue to utilize the tools, connections, and experiences I gained from attending the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference, intentionally for improving the educational experiences of first generation college students of color. Thank you to the NASPA Foundation Jim Rhatigan Fellowship, which made it possible for me to attend and present at the conference. I see this support as an investment in my aspirations as a first-generation graduate student that plans to be the first in my family to obtain a doctoral degree. 

Brianna Ramirez's scholarship winning video, "Undocumented Students in Higher Education"


Brianna and Britt were able to attend the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference thanks to NASPA members who give to the NASPA Foundation. You, too, can support and inspire the next generation of student affairs professionals. Donate to the NASPA Foundation here.