NASPA Foundation 2017 Jim Rhatigan Fellowship Scholarship Recipients Continued

Meet Jemilia S. Davis and Stacie Brodie, 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.

Jemilia S. Davis, Ph.D. student, North Carolina State University

When I applied to my doctoral program, I knew that there would be no perfect time to start because there would always be a mountain I would be waiting on to move. Along with preparing to get into the mindset of a full-time student after being seven years removed from my master's program, I prepared myself to scale back on professional development opportunities because of the time and money. NASPA has been my professional home for my entire "full-time" work life. I haven't known life without it and pulling away was going to be difficult.

Working with my knowledge community in various volunteer and leadership roles has brought me joy, challenge, and perspective – things that would have been very hard to leave. So naturally, I had to make it work. Before I applied for the Rhatigan Fellowship, I committed to presenting two pre-conferences and assisting with various Knowledge Community (KC) duties at NASPA 2017. I saw the opportunity to apply for the Rhatigan Fellowship and thought, why not? I was thrilled to be chosen to receive this financial assistance from the NASPA Foundation, knowing that this gift provided much relief and helped me make it work. Quite frankly, I was able to take a deep breath and focus on what I love about each NASPA conference I have attended – learning, connecting, and volunteering – instead of running back to my room to have cereal for my three meals each day just to minimize the impact on my already tight budget.

Both pre-conferences went well and I was able to learn so much from those who attended. I also enjoyed attending sessions where current or recent graduate students discussed their research and how it is impacting their role as a practitioner. As an added bonus for attending the conference in person, it was also a delight to receive the Distinguished Service award from my KC in person. This fellowship truly helped me “move a mountain” out of the way so I could attend and soak in as much NASPA 2017 as I could. I am humbly and extremely grateful for my NASPA colleagues and those who seek to fund this fellowship. 

Jemilia S. Davis' scholarship winning video, "Student Activism"

Stacie Brodie, Master's candidate in Higher Education Leadership, University of Texas at Austin

Going into my second year of graduate school, I wrote out a list of goals: 

1. Ph.D. or nah…

2. Use your voice and speak up for what is important

3. Connect and contribute to your networks

There were other desires, plans, and action items on my list, but these three were most prominent. They were derived from the experiences I had during the first year of my masters program and lingered in my mind as I moved toward completion. These three goals spoke to both the remainder of my time in graduate school and the future of my academic and professional paths. 

As a graduate student in the Program in Higher Education Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin, the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference was right down the road in San Antonio. It would have been remiss of me to not attend, but the financial feasibility of going on my grad student budget was making it less and less likely. Still, attending the conference addressed my goal of connecting and contributing to my networks. In this case, connecting with other student affairs professionals, colleagues, and graduate students. I knew I needed to find a way to get there. 

When I came across the Rhatigan Fellowship, I looked back at the goals I wrote some months prior and saw a connection. For one, the fellowship was a way for me to attend the conference. However, what was most captivating to me was the fellowship application process. The call for a video highlighting a current hot topic in student affairs was a way for me to use my voice on the need for identity-based mental health support services at predominantly white institutions, an issue I hope to continue exploring, potentially through a Ph.D. program. In producing my application, I was also able to receive feedback on the value of my work and the space it holds in student affairs. I felt, regardless if I was awarded the fellowship or not, through this process I was able to further research and share my perspective on a timely and important conversation. 

I was awarded the fellowship! For me, it was confirmation to hold fast to your goals and be confident in the work that you are passionate about. I attended the conference with excitement and thankfulness. I proudly walked around with the “Foundation award recipient” ribbon on my nametag!

Of the numerous sessions I attended, there was one that had a resounding effect. #SisterPhD featured a panel of four second-year, Black, women, doctoral students. I was again brought back to my list of goals. Throughout their session, they broke down the fortress surrounding academia, addressing hidden curriculum and showing me that there is a network of individuals who share my identities and the universality of being part of an underrepresented population in graduate school. Individuals who supported each other and validated “me-search." But most importantly, individuals who were candid about the realities of challenges faced in pursing a doctoral degree and ways to persevere. This session helped ease some of my hesitations on being fit for a Ph.D., having the questions needed to do scholarly work, and where to even begin in the process. These women helped show that there is space for me. I was only able to experience this because the Rhatigan Fellowship made it possible for me to attend the conference. 

While I continue to work on completing my list of goals, I am thankful to have been awarded the Rhatigan Fellowship. In so many ways, it has helped me address some major goals and decisions in my life. It came at a pivotal time in my academic and professional journey and has served as a catalyst to my maturing perspective of the space I currently and aspire to hold in the field of student affairs.   

Stacie Brodie's scholarship winning video, "Metal Health Support for Underrepresented Students of Color"

Jemilia and Stacie 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.