Ds Scholarship

UM national scholarship office helps UM students win big

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement continues to help all University of Mississippi graduate and undergraduate students apply for prestigious scholarships.

A sign in Dr. Vivian Ibrahim’s office window. Photo by Mary Boyte

A light-up felt letter board sits on the windowsill in Vivian Ibrahim’s office. It reads, “Goldwater ’22 I clicked submit” with two stars framing the words. As director of ONSA, Ibrahim said that getting to work directly with students is her main motivation.

ONSA serves to help students when applying for national scholarships — primarily for post-graduate studies — through a variety of different services. Writing workshops, application editing and boot camps are some of the ways Ibrahim and her partner Whitney Woods help students achieve their goals.

Awards ONSA helps students to achieve include the Boren Scholarship, Churchill Scholarship, DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering, Rhodes Scholarship and Truman Scholarship.

The application process does not happen overnight. Ibrahim and Woods work one-on-one with students for long periods of time. She said that applications usually go through an average of nine drafts before they are deemed ready.

“The reality is that we work together over months and months. We get to know each other quite intimately,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said she prefers to think of the process like a class that you put hours into every week.

As evidenced by her letter board, Ibrahim finds joy in getting to know her students. When asked what her favorite part of the job is, Ibrahim instantly replied “chatting to the students.”

“I really love getting to know everyone’s story,” Ibrahim said.

ONSA has grown in the past few years. Last year, the office was moved from the top floor of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College building to the ground floor in an effort to make it more accessible to students across campus.

ONSA acts as a liaison between students and those who give out scholarships. According to Ibrahim, many scholarships and awards do not allow students to apply directly. ONSA steps in and institutionally endorses candidates. This year, ONSA endorsed 20 individuals for the Fulbright award and yielded 10 semi-finalists. The semi-finalists include Londyn Lorenz, Neely Griggs, Olivia Jaramillo, Meghann Lugar, Kaitlyn Read, Charles Savage, Kaitlyn Sisco, Evelyn Smith and Ashleen Williams.

The Fulbright Fellowship is one of the most well-known on campus. Winners receive funding to study or complete projects abroad. ONSA offers a specific boot camp for the Fulbright award. The boot camp is a self-paced, online class-like experience that students can complete during the summer.

This year’s Fulbright boot camp will take place over a four-week period in June and again in July.

“The aim is to get applicants to reflect on and about their application,” Ibrahim said, “The course covers technicalities of the application, personal statements, crafting narratives, (and) how to incorporate pivotal life events. There is also a unit on creative beginnings and calculated risks. I will work with students every step of the way.”

Ibrahim said that even if students do not receive the awards or scholarships they are working toward, the process can still be extremely rewarding. Many students use their applications created in ONSA to apply for graduate school.

Ibrahim reflected on the “seasons” that ONSA goes through each year. Right now, she said that they are about to start the senior year season. Many students in their junior year are preparing for senior awards now. Ibrahim helps them complete their applications, many of which are due even before students start their senior year.

Undergraduate and graduate students interested in utilizing ONSA services may contact onsa@olemiss.edu for more information.

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