Brown leaves proud Saluki legacy, looks to next level

Qua Brown

Qua Brown (7) is congratulated by Makel Calhoun during the Salukis’ 22-10 win over South Dakota on Nov. 27. (Photo provided by Saluki Media Services)

By Jeff Wilson

While it didn’t end the way he hoped, Qua Brown made the most of his time as a Saluki.

A senior, who played safety for the Saluki Football team, graduated just weeks after SIU fell to North Dakota State in the FCS playoffs. He leaves SIU with a bachelor’s in sports administration and the goal of playing professional football.

The Deland, Florida, native came to SIU in 2016 on a football scholarship. After a redshirt season, he spent the next five years exceling as a starting safety.

“I had a few scholarship offers, but when I visited SIU, I knew it was the right fit,” Brown said. “The football facilities are top-notch, and the campus wasn’t too big or too small. I was excited to play for Coach (Nick) Hill. He has special connection with his players and is really involved in the community.”

Players are keenly aware of the cost of maintaining a successful program, and Brown emphasized the value of donor support.

“It’s literally everything to us. We’re basically living off every dollar,” he said. “Traveling, equipment, food, hotels – that money can go a long way for us. By giving, donors are making some players’ dreams come true.”

On the field, it’s been money well spent. Brown finished his Saluki career with nearly 300 tackles and has been a major factor in some of the program’s biggest wins. During the team’s first-round playoff victory over South Dakota, Brown had two interceptions. In front of more than 10,000 fans at this year’s Homecoming win against North Dakota, he notched 11 tackles.

“That giant crowd at Homecoming was humbling and inspiring,” he said. “It as a great feeling, especially coming off the COVID-affected season.”

Brown was also impressed by the dozens of former Saluki football players who returned to SIU for the that day’s festivities.

“When I saw one of their national championship rings, I was like ‘Dang, I want one of those,’” Brown said.

Recently, SIU has become known for producing NFL talent, especially at defensive back. Most famously, Jeremy Chinn was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and finished second in the NFC Rookie of the Year voting.

“There is NFL talent all over our league (the Missouri Valley Football Conference), and you understand what it takes to come from a smaller school. I look forward to pursuing that opportunity and hope to represent that ongoing tradition,” Brown said.

If you would like to support SIU Athletics, click here.

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Hamilton County graduate receives Don and Edith Braden Scholarship

Brandon Peters, a freshman in aviation management, received the Don and Edith Braden Scholarship.

Brandon Peters, a freshman in aviation management, received the Don and Edith Braden Scholarship.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Brandon Peters, SIU freshman and recipient of the Don and Edith Braden scholarship award, graduated from Hamilton County High School in 2020 and is pursuing a degree in aviation management from SIU.

“I was accepted into other universities, such as Purdue and Western Michigan, but SIU just fit me better,” he said. “Plus, it is closer to my family. I also chose SIU because its aviation program is also one of the top programs in the nation.”

Peters recently spoke to his scholarship donor via a conference call and thanked him for the scholarship.

“It costs quite a bit to go to the aviation program, and I told Mr. Braden how thankful I was for his help. So many students here have significant financial debt, and I wanted him to know that with his help. I will graduate with minimal debt,” he said. “I am thankful for people like Mr. Braden who lend a helping hand to students like me.”

Peters also comes from Braden’s parents’ hometown.

“I played as a point guard for Hamilton County High School’s basketball team for all four years. I was fortunate enough to win the Jerry Sloan Award last year, and Mr. Braden actually knew Jerry Sloan (Hall of Fame NBA coach), so we had that shared connection,” he said.

Peters hopes to become a certified flight instructor and someday teach at SIU. Once he accumulates enough hours, he plans to become a commercial airline pilot.

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Scholarships allow student-athletes to thrive

Evan Martin, a member of the SIU baseball team, was drawn to SIU because of the opportunities for financial assistance.

“Being raised by a single mother, the biggest factor when it came to deciding where I wanted to go to school was making sure it would not put her in any uncomfortable financial situations,” he said.

His mother, Barbara Graham, is an SIU alumna, which opened more scholarship opportunities for Martin. He received legacy, academic, and athletic scholarships.

“These scholarships have been the greatest thing that has happened to my family and me,” he said. “It gave my mom a chance to take a deep breath and focus on herself for the first time in 21 years.”

Martin played the 2021 season as a redshirt freshman, hitting .261 with 10 doubles, five home runs, and 31 RBIs. In the Salukis’ MVC Tournament win against Valparaiso, he was 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and three runs scored.

“My Saluki experience has been unbelievable,” he said. “Since my first day on campus, the coaches, staff, faculty, and everyone else in Carbondale has welcomed me with open arms.”

Studying mathematics with the hopes of working in the analytics department of a Major League Baseball team, Martin has found success off the field at SIU as well.

“The math department at SIU has provided me with a holistic mathematics education, but statistical analysis is my focus,” he said. “I was able to take multiple 400-plus level statistics courses that use many of the same programs being used in Major League Baseball. I feel as though this blend of playing baseball and taking courses that enhance my understanding of data and statistics will make me a well-rounded candidate when I am able to pursue my career.”

Salukis Forever

Student-athletes like Martin are the main beneficiaries of the Salukis Forever fundraising campaign.

The $25 million campaign, which launched in February, coupled with appropriate cost-cutting, and increased revenues from other sources, will provide sustainable funding to drive Saluki Athletics forward. “Receiving these scholarships has assured my mother that all of her hard work has paid off,” Martin said. “I know it makes her so happy to see how successful I have become, and that matters to me more than anything else.”

By supporting the Salukis Forever campaign, more student-athletes will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Martin and others like him. For more information, visit

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A love of teaching inspires others

Lida and her class at Tamaroa Grade School where she began her teaching career.

Lida Lisenby Taylor’s life and commitment to education are being remembered through a scholarship fund set up by her daughter, Cynthia Taylor Rice.

The Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship Fund is awarded to a student enrolled in the school of education and majoring in teaching, counseling, or administration. The student must be a graduate of DuQuoin High School, Pinckneyville High School, or Tamaroa Grade School.

The scholarship was created by Rice in honor of her mother, who strongly believed in the power of an education.

“She came from a family of educators. My mom began her teaching career in Tamaroa after graduating from SIU in 1942. She was offered a position in DuQuoin where she taught English and Latin until her retirement in 1968,” Rice said.

Rice said that through the years she has met many of her mother’s students and they would share how important Latin and her mother were to them throughout their lives.

Lida and her roommates in front of their Carbondale boarding
house when it was Southern Illinois Normal.

“I had one of her former students tell me what an influence my mom had been on his life. He said my mother wasn’t just a teacher but an educator of the highest degree. His message and the many letters she received from scholarship recipient students have made me very proud of my mother and her influence on others,” Rice said.

When Taylor passed away in 2003, Rice went through the process of cleaning out her mother’s home.

“I found Latin projects and posters and memorabilia throughout the house. She had Roman chariots and Parthenon replicas everywhere. I remember one of her biggest projects was throwing a Roman banquet for the students. They wore togas and drank Roman punch. She pulled out all the stops for her students,” Rice said.

Rice said the scholarship is a way for her mother to continue to influence future educators.

“There are not too many things in the world that are more important than being a teacher and loving what you do. That philosophy very accurately describes my mother and her love of teaching,” said Rice.

Meet Jamie Newton, recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education is a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. Newton looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” Newton said.

Newton is grateful for the Lida Lisenby Taylor scholarship and how it has lessened the burden of her student loans.

“I would like to tell Mrs. Rice how thankful I am that they have so graciously chosen me to be the recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. I feel so grateful to have her support because she has helped give me the opportunity to further my education at SIU. The scholarship has definitely helped lift some of the weight of student loans,” she said. “Although Mrs. Rice does not know me personally, she will always be a part of my journey throughout college and into my future career. Her contribution has left its mark on my life and will affect the students that I will one day teach.”

Newton hopes others will follow in the path of Mrs. Rice and give to students who need financial assistance.

“For many students like me, scholarships help pursue our dreams and lessen the burden of student loans. Being the recipient of a scholarship, I understand how it comforts us to know that we don’t have to be alone while trying to pursue our dreams,” she said. “I also hope that someday I will provide the same sense of relief that I have felt after receiving a scholarship.”

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Meet Senior Taylor Hartke

Taylor Hartke, a Teutopolis, Illinois native, is a senior majoring in Agricultural Communications. Hartke is the recipient of the 2021-2022 College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship. In earlier years, Hartke received the  School of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship.

What do you enjoy most about being an SIU student?
I enjoy the opportunities SIU strives to provide its students. Regardless of your interest, major, or career path, there are opportunities to gain valuable experiences both inside and out of the classroom. SIU, its faculty, and staff are committed to supporting students and providing them with the necessary tools to be successful both now as well as after graduation.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
Growing up, I had the privilege of being raised on my family’s diversified grain and livestock farm. This immediate involvement in the agricultural industry allowed me to develop a deep passion and appreciation for agriculture. Through various leadership roles in organizations like 4-H and FFA, I built upon the foundation of being raised in agriculture and discovered my passion to communicate about it. Collectively a variety of experiences and opportunities have led me to be pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communications with the ultimate goal of serving the farm, the farmer, and the consumers. I plan on utilizing my knowledge from being raised in production agriculture to bridge the gap that lies between producers and consumers by generating consumer trust and cultivating understanding.

How would you describe your favorite(s) professors/staff/admin at your college?
Committed. I’m very grateful for the commitment they have to my success both inside and outside of their classroom. Regardless of the time of day or how busy their schedule is, they make time for me, and they value my perspective as a student.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I am extremely grateful for the financial support I have been gifted. The generosity of donors has provided me with some of the most amazing experiences to learn and explore a variety of opportunities. Their generosity has lessened the financial burden that paying for college can be ultimately providing me with ample time to focus on academics while maintaining high levels of involvement across campus and in my community.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am grateful for the involvement I have been able to have across our campus through a variety of student organizations as well as employment opportunities. I am currently serving as President of Sigma Alpha Sorority, which is a professional agricultural sorority, as well as President of our Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter, Financial Chair of Agricultural Student Council, an Agbassador, a Saluki Ambassador, and a member of the Agriculture Education Club, ATA, and Collegiate FFA. I also serve on the national scale as an Agriculture Future of America Student Ambassador.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
Your donation is an investment. You have the power to invest in the next generation of leaders across a variety of professions and industries. I am extremely humbled to have received such support and know that it serves as encouragement going forward as I strive to make a difference in the lives of others as I know that I will encounter challenges. Regardless of if you personally know a student or not, you become an integral role in their success both educationally and beyond.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
For my siblings and me, being part of the Saluki family started prior to stepping foot on campus as students. We were raised rooting on SIU and our frequent visits started at homecoming in 1999. My siblings and I, a set of quadruplets, were 5 months old and our mom marched as an Alumni of the Marching Salukis. My parents, David & Korrie Hartke, are both proud SIU Alumni. My mom received her degree in Radio/Television and my dad in Animal Science.

They, in fact, met at SIU!

Although my brother, Dustin, decided trade school would prepare him best, my brothers Alex and Garrett, as well as myself are all Salukis. Alex graduated in May 2021 with his degree in Agribusiness Economics and Garrett and I are seniors. Garrett is a Crop, Soil, and Environmental Management major, and I am an Agricultural Communications student. All three of us have worked in different capacities on campus while also being highly involved in a variety of RSO’s. In fact, a large majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins have chosen SIU to pursue their education as well.


Meet Freshman Lexi Mueller

Lexi Mueller, a Valmeyer, Illinois native, is a freshman majoring in Agricultural Education. She received the Chancellor Scholarship, the Harrisonville Telephone Company/Henry W. Gentsch Memorial Scholarship and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
My father and uncle both have degrees in Agricultural Education. Growing up on a rural small farm, I knew I wanted a career in agriculture. When I joined the Valmeyer FFA, the experiences that I had helped me find the specific aspect of agriculture I wanted to be involved in, which is education. I was also elected as the 2020-2021 Illinois FFA State President and seeing the behind-the-scenes of Agricultural Education made me want to give back to my future students and my community.

What do you enjoy most so far about your college?
In the agriculture department at SIU, I’ve found in my short time here that the professors, staff, and administration truly care about us as individuals instead of as a number. Our agriculture faculty go out of their way to ensure that we as students have the most opportunities and strive to learn who we are and our stories to better serve us as students.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am just beginning to look at joining student organizations here on campus. I am interested, however, in joining Ag Ed Club, Collegiate FFA, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Sigma Alpha. I look forward to seeing what these organizations can teach me.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I greatly benefited from scholarships here at SIU and from local sources at home. Here at SIU, I was honored to receive the Chancellor Scholarship, Harrisonville Telephone Company Scholarship, and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship. With the support of generous donors, I am able to attend school here for the academics and experience without the financial worry that a typical college student has. Without the support of scholarships, I don’t know if I’d be here at SIU.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
To donors, I would first like to say thank you for even considering giving to SIU. I am firsthand an individual who can obtain a college education because of generous donors. I encourage you to look at the stories of individual students who benefit and ask yourself if you want to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself. I am a farm kid from a small village in Illinois and because of outside support, I am able to make a name for myself. I am one of thousands of students here at SIU who can further their education to ultimately give back to our communities. A donation means so much to us students and we would forever be grateful for your support in us.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm. My family raises sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, horses, rabbits, corn, soybeans, rye, wheat, and pumpkins. I managed our family’s 8-12 acre pumpkin patch for four years before coming to school here.

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Extended Campus offers multitude of opportunities

By Rebecca Renshaw

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education, has always been a good student. Now, she’s nearly ready to transition from student to teacher, and she says SIU’s Extended Campus program has had a lot to do with her preparation.

“I am very grateful to be in the elementary education program at the SIU Rend Lake Extended Campus,” she said. “I have had the chance to get to know my professors on a personal level. It is very apparent that these professors are invested in our success in the program.”

Newton, a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship, looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” she said. “Spending time at my clinical sites has reinforced my belief that teaching is what I was meant to do.”

Expansive offerings, lasting connections

Featuring countless online courses and off-campus locations across Illinois, in nine other states, and at numerous military sites, SIU’s Extended Campus brings the Saluki experience to the student.

“We help bridge the physical gap between Carbondale and students around the globe,” said Julie Dunston, interim executive director of Extended Campus. “There are Salukis everywhere, and that doesn’t only refer to alumni. We have SIU students  taking classes from coast to coast.”

Having students on campus is an important factor in the college experience, but modern universities have put an emphasis on maintaining a strong off-campus reputation. That connection is something that has struck Newton about her experience.

“There are 18 students in the program including myself. This program has given me an opportunity to create lifelong friendships with my peers,” she said.


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Meet Scholarship Recipient Vernecelyn Allen

Having a clear vision of what we want to accomplish early in life is rare. Vernecelyn Allen is a remarkable exception. Allen graduated this year with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and an Associate of Applied Sciences in Aviation Flight.

“Thanks to my mother, I was exposed to different career opportunities through summer camps. I received great experiences during those times that taught me about areas like technology and theater, but the one that intrigued me the most is aviation,” said Allen.

In high school, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) invited Allen to attend a camp in Delaware where she received flight hours, learned about aviation, flew air simulators, and visited control towers.

“OBAP really nurtured my love for flying. Aviation is not largely populated by black pilots, so they really served as mentors for me and encouraged me in aviation,” she said.

In her senior year of high school, Allen attended an SIU college fair. She learned about their aviation management and flight program. Allen later visited SIU during an open house and was impressed by its aviation program and the many scholarships that were available.

Allen applied to eight other universities in addition to SIU; however, it was being awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship that helped her choose SIU.

“Aviation flight fees can run up to $25,000 above the cost of a regular tuition in a single year, and the SIU aviation department offered opportunities to students to apply for aid. Receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship and other aviation scholarships really helped along with the African-American Achievement Scholarship,” she said.

Allen says she is thankful that the scholarships have allowed her to minimize her educational financial burden.

“I would definitely be more stressed out if I had to face a larger loan balance after I graduate. Funding makes such a difference in our lives. It could mean the difference between living out or giving up a dream. I am so grateful to the people and organizations who have found it important to create scholarships so that students can empower themselves to continue to pursue education,” she said.

Upon graduation, Allen hopes to become a flight instructor at SIU. Her ultimate goal is to return to her hometown of Memphis and fly for Federal Express. She would also like to be an officer in the Air National Guard.

“Someday, I want to focus on giving back to groups underrepresented in the industry. I think scholarships would empower more to attain the education they desire, and to reach beyond the stars.”

Chancellor’s Scholarship Program nurtures special connections

Donors encouraged to get involved

By Jeff Wilson

The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program offers a special opportunity to select SIU undergraduates.

The full scholarship, valued at over $102,000, covers in-state tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board charges for four years. Beyond the monetary benefit, the scholarship has great value to students and the university.

“The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program allows students to pursue their passion,” said Dr. LaShonda Stewart, director of the program. “They work with esteemed professors, have the chance to study abroad, and complete 20 hours of community service. They are constantly engaged.”

The program creates a community of support and engagement. The graduation rate for recipients of the scholarship is nearly 100 percent, and most stay connected to the university and one another for years.

“We’re truly teaching the leaders of tomorrow,” Stewart said. “They make the best ambassadors for the university, both as students and later as alumni.”

Even the process of selecting recipients creates a buzz around SIU among prospective students.

“In the past, we’ve hosted about 260 students and their parents for our CSP events,” said Amber Rivers, program coordinator for academic scholarships. “This year, the chancellor went to some local schools and personally informed students about their scholarship. That really built great excitement.”

Currently, the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program works as a tuition voucher program, which means the university simply allows those students to come to SIU and live on campus for free.

Now, the university is offering alumni the opportunity to support and potentially expand the program through donations.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” said SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec. “By financially backing the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, our alumni can put their stamp on one of the university’s most prestigious programs.”

The plan, which is in its early stages, wouldn’t change much about the program, but it would give the university a financial boost and add to the impact of these scholarships.

Dozens of students are offered Chancellor’s Scholarships each year, and there are hundreds of alumni around the country. Here are few of their stories:

Mason Higgins, 2018 graduate

Nearing the end of his high school years in Oregon, Wisconsin, Mason Higgins said he was “throwing darts” when it came to choosing a college.

“All I knew is, at that time, I wanted to get away from home, and then I received a letter from SIU,” he said. “I decided to stop by on my way to some other places.”

Having never been to Southern Illinois before, Higgins didn’t know what to expect. At the time, he was interested in theater, so he stopped by the RSO fair.

“I asked a student at the booth whether I could join the program even if I wasn’t a theater student, and he didn’t know,” he said. “I walked from the Rec Center to Starbucks at the Student Center and found that Tom Kidd had followed me all the way there. I walk fast, and he caught me and told me to join.”

Kidd, who recently passed away, was the director of SIU’s theater department, and his persistence impressed Higgins.

“After that, I really fell in love with campus, the greenery, the beauty,” he said. “Everybody at SIU loved SIU. There was a lot of positivity in the air. It really is a small school with big opportunities.”

Receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship allowed Higgins to pursue many goals and flex his academic muscle. He earned three bachelor’s degrees – music, Spanish, and criminology – and even took 30 credit hours his last semester.

“I was able to learn about who I am,” he said. “The program offers so much mentorship, and you’re being constantly challenged. SIU decided to invest in me, and it paid dividends.”

After graduating, Higgins worked for about a year and half as a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, until he decided to pursue a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.

“Like SIU, the Madison police officers all love their jobs and their community,” he said. “I just thought I’d be happier as an attorney. I know I want to be a litigator, work as an advocate, and focus on civil rights.”

He gives the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program credit for shaping him and said he believes the program is a perfect choice for those with a philanthropic spirit.

“I had a family in that program. It helps you to be your best person,” Higgins said. “I’m looking forward to the day I have money to give back.”

Britt Peyton, 2021 graduate

Britt Peyton, who is graduating from SIU this spring, clearly remembers the moment she found out she had received the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

“My dad brought it to softball practice, and he said, ‘You got the letter,’” said the Norris City, Illinois, native. “It’s not an opportunity a lot of students get. It was amazing because I didn’t have to do it by myself.”

A third-generation Saluki, Peyton made the most of her experience in Carbondale. She earned her bachelor’s in biological science, worked as a Saluki ambassador, and was a member of the Marching Salukis. Next, she’ll start the BSN program at Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis.

The financial relief provided by the scholarship allowed her focus on furthering her education and gain experience in her field by working as a CNA at a local nursing home and compiling patient contact hours.

“I want to convey how amazing the opportunities are at SIU,” she said. “The Chancellor’s Scholarship helped me make many important connections. The more scholarships the better, and coming from alumni, it would mean that much more.”

Luis Prado, 2019 graduate

It didn’t take long for Luis Prado to see that SIU was the right place for him and receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship made it that much more special.

“My heart was split about where to go,” he said. “I was invited for a visit and when I got here, I immediately thought, ‘What is this place?’ I was taken by how beautiful campus is.”

Prado had already decided on SIU and was ready to join the Marching Salukis before he first learned about the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

“I started college with 200 friends because of the Marching Salukis,” he said. “I was prepared to work while going to school, and then I learned about the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program.”

When the Westmont, Illinois, native was notified that he’d been selected for the scholarship, he was overjoyed.

“All that extra time I was going to spend doing other things, I was now able to put into organizations and research,” Prado said. “I was able to change my major three times. I feel blessed.”

He decided to focus on geology and is now working on his master’s in environmental sustainability at SIU while working as a teaching assistant. Prado chalks much of his success to the opportunities afforded to him by the scholarship.

“Students can explore their passion outside and inside the classroom,” he said. “You’re part of a community of excellence. There are resources that allow you to flourish.”

Elijah Henson, 2021 graduate

An Albion, Illinois, native Elijah Henson was considering moving away for college until his little sister was born.

“After that, I didn’t want to move too far away,” he said about deciding to come to SIU. “I’ve been really happy with my decision.”

After being accepted, Henson received a Chancellor’s Scholarship. Coming from a family of five the financial support was important.

“It gave me the opportunity to explore,” he said. “My scholarship made college what it was for me.”

Henson was an active member of Alpha Sigma Phi and part of the Saluki Student Investment Fund, which allows business students hands-on experience in portfolio management and investment research.

“(The SSIF) really opened up my eyes,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot more and gotten ahead in my classes.”

After graduating this spring with a bachelor’s in accounting, Henson will begin working as an audit associate at Grant Thornton Public Accounting in St. Louis.

Grace Vargas, 2019 graduate

Growing up in Logan Square in Chicago, Grace Vargas went to a competitive high school. While many of her classmates were exploring Ivy League options, she found everything she was looking for at SIU.

After finding out about the Chancellor’s Scholarship and attending a Scholarship Weekend event on campus, she was convinced.

“I was excited to find a state school with so many options,” she said. “I knew I wanted to grow here and be changed by this place.”

Receiving a full scholarship offered the ability to explore options, and eventually she settled on anthropology as her major. She also studied marketing, Spanish language, political science, and Latino studies.

“The scholarship gave me freedom to pursue things I cared about,” Vargas said. “I found people who were so warm and curious. I am so blessed to have gotten this scholarship.”

While at SIU, she interned for state Rep. Will Guzzardi and helped bring him to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Vargas went on to work as his chief of staff for about a year.

During the pandemic, she’s been working in communications and marketing for state Rep. Delia Ramirez and finding success with remote work options.

“I’m a go-getter and being at SIU was about being that person,” Vargas said. “My experience at SIU was about holistic development.”

By supporting the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, Vargas said alumni and donors have the chance to make a major difference.

“You can be who you needed when you were younger,” she said. “If you’re blessed enough to help, do whatever you can. It’s not just an education. It’s not about getting the degree and leaving.”

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Saluki bond strengthened through scholarships

Abbie Young, SIU Saluki Swim team member stands in pool.

For Saluki swimmer Abbie Young, her SIU experience has been about making connections.

“I’ve made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world,” Young said. “Being part of the Saluki community means you’re surrounded by people who want you to succeed.”

Young, a senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has received an athletic scholarship, a Dean’s Scholarship and the Carol Lee Swim Memorial Award, which is given to a female Kinesiology major at the senior level.

“My scholarships have allowed me to gear all my focus on school and swimming,” she said. “They definitely had an impact on my decision to be a Saluki.”

One of SIU’s most consistent swimmers, Young competes in the freestyle and butterfly events. An MVC Scholar-Athlete, she’s studying exercise science with the hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“SIU has amazing pre-health course studies that allowed me to get my pre-requisites and offered challenging courses that will prepare me for PA school,” she said.

Saluki Athletics takes pride in the volunteer hours and community service performed by its student-athletes. Young volunteered more than 100 hours last year, earning the Top Community Service Award.

“Being a Saluki has been an impactful journey. I have grown as a person and have learned so much about myself and what it takes to work toward my goals,” Young said. “My experience as a student-athlete, especially as team captain, has helped develop my leadership abilities.”

As she makes her post-graduation plans, Young knows her time in Carbondale will stick with her forever.

“Some of my fondest memories are from being part of the SIU Swimming & Diving team. Our team bond is unexplainable, and it became my instant family while away from home,” she said. “My time at SIU may have only been four years, but I know I will be a Saluki for life.”

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