LOGAN, Utah — Each year, former Utah State University students are given the opportunity to earn the degree they have been putting off. Thanks to the generous grant from the Clark & Christine Ivory Foundation, qualifying students can earn a scholarship that can help support them as they return from a school hiatus to complete their undergraduate degrees.
“The Ivory Foundation has made it possible for dozens of returning students to complete their life dream of becoming a graduate of USU,” said Janet Anderson, senior vice provost. “The stories and impacts are powerful.”
The Ivory Scholarship is meant for students returning to school after at least two years away who are 30 credit hours or less away from graduation. These students must be committed to finishing their degree within the next 18 months and be able to start right away. For 2023, the Ivory Scholarship has been awarded to 35 students, awarding the full allotment of $100,000 in scholarships. Nineteen of these students are scheduled to return and complete their degrees during the summer 2023 semester.
Two of these students are Rebecca Shipton and Nebojsa Knezevik. Because of the Ivory Scholarship, both of these students have the means to return to USU and get the degree they have put off.
Rebecca Shipton started at USU in 1984, attending the Logan campus for three years. After her then-boyfriend returned from a Latter-day Saint mission, the couple married and Shipton left school to move to Las Vegas. She was in Nevada for nearly 30 years, raising four children and working off and on.
Recently, her husband retired, and the couple moved back to Shipton’s hometown in Daggett County in the Uintah Basin region. Looking for a way to occupy her time, Shipton got a job with the Bureau of Reclamation. Realizing she would need her degree to advance in her new career, Shipton began looking into returning to USU Uintah Basin. However, the major she originally sought in 1984 no longer existed. Working with her academic adviser, she was told about USU’s Integrated Studies program, which would be the easiest way to utilize her existing credits and earn a USU degree. She was directed to work with Rebecca Berrett, completion coordinator & Integrated Studies adviser for Statewide Campuses.
“This is my third go-around, and this time I’m going to finish,” Shipton said. “The university has been super supportive. If I had not had that support, I don’t know if I would have continued on. If I had just been talking to a robot or an electronic voice that just walked me through where to sign and click, it would not have been the same experience. But Rebecca and everyone have been so encouraging.”
Working with Berrett, Shipton was made aware of the Ivory Scholarship, which helps those who have stepped away from their education to come back and receive financial aid. With this added bonus, Shipton decided it was time and that she could now afford to finish.
“This scholarship is literally the reason I can come back. This was the encouragement I needed to finish this,” Shipton said. “Having this extra help has really been a boon; it’s a blessing. It’s just encouraging and it’s one more step on that ladder that boosts you up and helps you know you can do this.”
Shipton needs just 13 credits to graduate. She is taking classes during the summer semester and is then scheduled to graduate after completing her remaining courses in the Fall 2023 semester. Having come back after such a long time, she encourages others to do the same, because the university is right there to help those coming back every step of the way.
“I would just say yes, do it,” Shipton said. “Don’t be discouraged. Reach out. Let the advisers do their job. Let the counselors do their job. Let the teachers do their job. There are so many people ready to help. Utilize all those resources to the full extent. You can do this.”
Nebojsa Knezevik began his study at USU in 2012, looking to earn an economics degree. He had just moved to Utah from Macedonia and was looking to earn a degree that would help support his family. Growing responsibilities with work and the birth of his third child caused him to need to leave school. However, the dream of getting his degree was always there.
“It was always something that needed to be done,” Knezevik said. “It was just a matter of time when I had the time to focus on it. It was always important to me.”
Knezevik received emails from USU about the opportunity to apply for the Ivory Scholarship and he quickly jumped at the chance. Working with USU officials, Knezevik qualified for the scholarship and is now set to graduate in the Summer 2023 semester with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies with an emphasis in business and communications. The financial aid means the world to Knezevik, and he will now have a degree that will help him in his current field.
“This scholarship is a tremendous help, especially now that things have changed and there are a lot more expenses,” he said. “Having this additional help — maybe it was not the decisive factor in me coming back, because I still needed to get it done — but it is a tremendous help. This degree is part of my career field now and is a great stepping stone for my new stage in life and what I do today.”
Knezevik is also thankful for all the support he has received from advisers. He said the support he received made all the difference.
“Everyone was super friendly in their communications with me,” he said. “I was very surprised. Not that people were unfriendly or unhelpful before. But this time around, I really felt that I had that support.”
Knezevik encourages others who have put their degree on hold to take advantage of scholarship opportunities.
“It pays off to make the effort and research all the avenues and see what gaps you have and where you need help,” he said. “The help is there. People can get help, just like I did.”
The Ivory Scholarship allows students who have stepped away from their education to return and complete their degree. Students returning to college after a long break often find that some of their credits have expired; their prior major has been discontinued, or the major has new requirements that will mean more time and extra courses to complete. Because of this, USU has created the Integrated Studies program, which offers students flexibility both in terms of curriculum and online program delivery options.
“Students leave college without a degree for a variety of reasons,” said Andrea Olding, assistant vice president for Statewide Campuses. “At USU, we care about those Aggies and we want to see them reach their goal of a college degree. The Integrated Studies program allows students to take what they’ve previously earned and apply those credits toward a customized degree that empowers them to achieve their career aspirations, and it wraps up a chapter in their lives that may have felt incomplete. The Ivory Scholarship is the incentive many of these students need to make completing their degree a reality. It’s a great partnership.”
Individuals looking to return to school are encouraged to meet with their academic adviser to discuss their completion options. The Ivory Scholarship is available for students across all of USU’s campuses across the state, including Logan. For more information on the Ivory Scholarship and to schedule a meeting with a completion adviser, visit www.usu.edu/collaborative/ivory_scholarship.
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