Ds Scholarship

Allen-Jones Scholarship Boosts Support For 1st-Generation Students

Vara Allen Jones

“From her earliest years at UAA, I admired how Vara brought diverse perspectives together and created a shared vision for supporting students to achieve personal and academic success,” said UAA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bruce Schultz. “As she drew from her past personal and professional experiences in the South, Vara showed us how to serve students with grace and a never wavering commitment to excellence.”

By BlackPressUSA

In 2012, Vara Allen Jones’ colleagues surprised her by creating the Vara Allen-Jones Scholarship for Academic Excellence to support first-generation students and honor her service to the Anchorage community. Vara is a 2019 retired University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) tenured faculty member and past Vice Chancellor for Academic and Multicultural Services. She remembered that moment.

Today, Vara is striving to make the scholarship a permanently endowed fund. She’s enlisting the help of friends and colleagues she met in her 28 years at UAA, and a nationwide network to help raise her goal of $28,000 by this summer to enable the fund to provide at least $1,000 in scholarship support annually to students. “Everyone who really knows me knows how passionate I am about providing opportunities for that particular cohort of students to have financial, academic and social support — to be successful in an environment they may know nothing about.”

“I’m a first-generation college student,” said Vara. Her amazing story started as a first-year student at Savannah State College, now University (SSU), Georgia’s oldest historically Black public university. She worried that she was not prepared for the journey being the first in her family to go to college. “I know what it’s like to walk on a college campus and have no idea what’s expected of you. You don’t know what you don’t know. My exposure to academic advising, intentional mentoring and a clear expectation of excellence undergirded by support solidified my awareness of the impact these areas could have on student success. That awareness and passion began at Savannah State and continued throughout my career.”

After earning her bachelor’s at Savannah State, she completed a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in higher education counseling at Georgia Southern University. Vara accepted a job at her alma mater, SSU, where she held her counseling and leadership skills and experiences with high-impact student success programs. Vara had a career plan that led her to UAA, and she moved to Alaska at the age of 29. “I wanted to do something different,” she said.

After UAA in 1991 as a tenure track counseling faculty member in the Advising and Counseling Center, she began building programs to yield academic success joining such as increasing students’ connections and inclusivity, mentoring, advising, and community engagement. She collaborated with colleagues, and revamped the Career Services Center, serving as its director. In 1994, she became the director of Minority Student Services and advocated a name change to better identify its purpose and positively reflect students’ identities. She founded AHAINA Student Programs (African American, Hispanic, Asian/ Pacific Islander, International and Native American) and the UAA Multicultural Center. She was also awarded tenure (1994) as an assistant professor of counseling.

Vara’s contributions to UAA include successfully authoring multimillion-dollar grants to grow programs like Academic Advising Coordinators, TRiO programs, Educational Opportunity Centers, Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound and Student Support Services. She expanded New Student Orientation, broadened the focus of AHAINA and the Multicultural Center, developed the UA Scholars and the UAA retention program, and advocated for improved learning environments and conditions for students with disabilities.

Awards received included a Noel-Levitz National Award for Student Retention and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for outstanding contributions to students. Her leadership led to TRiO services being available in targeted middle and high schools in the Anchorage School District.

“From her earliest years at UAA, I admired how Vara brought diverse perspectives together and created a shared vision for supporting students to achieve personal and academic success,” said UAA Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bruce Schultz. “As she drew from her past personal and professional experiences in the South, Vara showed us how to serve students with grace and a never wavering commitment to excellence.”

She credits the generations of tenacious women, such as her mother, as the impetus to move to Alaska.

Interested in supporting Vara’s vision? Make a gift to the Vara Allen-Jones Scholarship for Academic Excellence at the University of Alaska Anchorage (http://bit.ly/uaaallenjones).

The post Allen-Jones Scholarship Boosts Support For 1st-Generation Students first appeared on The Savannah Tribune.

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