LAWRENCE — Two students who have overcome significant personal hardships in their young lives are the 2015 Jerry Bailey Educational Opportunity Scholarship awardees at the University of Kansas. The scholarship program, now in its second year, is part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute’s (AAI) Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) and was established to support underrepresented and first-generation students with limited income as they pursue undergraduate degrees at KU.
The 2015 recipients:
- Van Lian, a former refugee from Myanmar and 2015 graduate of Wyandotte High School, who will begin classes at KU this fall with aspirations of earning a master’s degree in architecture and, ultimately, building sustainable housing in developing countries.
- Bailey Rendzia, a 2014 graduate of Desoto High School who just completed her first year at KU studying civil engineering, aims eventually to attend graduate school and pursue a career as a transportation engineer; she also is committed to helping stroke victims.
To escape persecution and poverty in his home country, Lian emigrated to the U.S. eight years ago from Myanmar (also known as Burma) with his mother, brother and two sisters. At Wyandotte High, he became involved with CEOP’s TRIO Talent Search program and was named to the National Honor Society. Lian also comes to KU as a national Gates Millennium Scholar; in addition to financial support, the GMS program provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, and academic and social support.
“My whole life is dependent on my success in education,” Lian said. “Growing up in Myanmar and then a refugee camp in Malaysia, I have firsthand knowledge of substandard housing. It is difficult to live that way because of the negative effects it has on a person’s health and how a person sees life — it causes people to focus only on day-to-day existence, sapping their energy and leaving no room to pursue schooling or even the idea of a better life.
“Since childhood, my goal has been to work as an international architect who creates quality housing for people living in the developing world. By receiving the Jerry Bailey Scholarship, I will be able to concentrate on my education and come one step closer to accomplishing my goals. I hope one day I will be able to help other students like me pursue further education.”
When her father passed away unexpectedly in 2009, Rendzia’s formerly stable world fell into emotional and financial turmoil. A few months later, due to the U.S. economic recession, her mother was laid off work. A year later, she regained full-time work, but in December 2013, she suffered two severe ischemic strokes, plunging the family back into emotional and financial crisis. Though Rendzia’s mother has now returned to part-time work, the family continues to rebuild from its run of financial hardship.
“The Jerry Bailey Educational Opportunity Scholarship will help reduce the financial burden of a higher education for me, allowing me to focus on my schoolwork so that I am able to graduate and provide a better life for my family in the future,” Rendzia said. “KU has not only been a perfect fit for me in the classroom but with extracurricular activities as well.
“I am currently a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers Without Borders and the KU Concrete Canoe team. I have learned how to design concrete mixes, write a technical paper, and, as treasurer, how to manage a budget. Additionally, I have received hands-on laboratory experience normally not available to engineering students until their junior or senior year. ASCE has allowed me to network with alumni and individuals in my desired industry. My participation helped me secure a summer internship as a freshman, putting me well on my way to meeting my professional goals. I am grateful for this award and all the opportunities that will follow.”
About the scholarships
The award honors Jerry Bailey, associate professor emeritus of education. In his career at KU, Bailey led more than 200 sponsored programs within the School of Education and was instrumental in the development and growth of current CEOP programs.
“The work that my colleagues do is just extraordinary, and I am honored to help with the fund,” Bailey said. “It really only carries my name — they are responsible for all of the good work.”
Applicants must be newly entering freshmen, transfer students or continuing undergraduate students at KU, and they must be enrolled full-time (12-plus credits) during the fall term of the scholarship award. The Selection Committee gives preference to applicants who meet as many of the following criteria as possible: demonstrate financial need; are first-generation college students, meaning neither parent/guardian has earned a four-year college degree; are current or former participants of a KU CEOP program (TRIO, GEAR UP and/or Migrant programs); have achieved academic success despite hardship or unusual challenge(s); demonstrate personal motivation for achieving academic and career goals.
“Jerry Bailey is a wonderful friend and colleague and was key to our center’s development,” said CEOP Director Ngondi Kamatuka. “He believes in our mission. This scholarship honors his commitment to help students gain access and achieve success in higher education.”
To support educational opportunity programs in Bailey’s honor, please contact Brian Friedman at 785-832-7465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized educational research centers at KU, including CEOP, which serves approximately 4,000 Kansas students each year through 10 federal- and state-funded programs that help underrepresented and nontraditional students enter and succeed in college. CEOP supports a wide spectrum of learners and provides educational information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, assistance in applying for financial aid and supportive encouragement to both students and their families.
AAI’s other research centers are Agile Technology Solutions, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research and the Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation. In all, AAI employs about 500 staff members, all committed to building partnerships, products, and programs in educational practice, assessment, and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.
About KU Endowment
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.