Tristan Russo and Lauren Finley will receive more than $39,000 in funding for undergraduate studies.
Two Texas Tech University students are the recipients of prestigious national scholarships they say will impact not only their education but their lives after graduation.
Tristan Russo, a sophomore petroleum engineering major from Austin, is one of 125 students throughout the nation awarded a 2016 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. Russo is a Terry Scholar in the Honors College and just the second Texas Tech student to win the award, which began in 2005. Andrew Alleman was awarded the scholarship in 2012, which includes an internship at a NOAA research facility or vessel.
Lauren Finley, a junior computer science major from Harker Heights, has been named a 2016 Boren Scholar and will receive a Boren Award for International Study. Finley is the first Texas Tech student to receive the award since 2011 and will spend a year in Tokyo, learning the Japanese language and culture.
Russo and Finley said they were encouraged to apply for the awards by Wendoli Flores, director of the Texas Tech Office of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships in the Honors College. The office oversees scholarship applications and provides guidance to applicants hoping to secure one of several highly competitive awards.
“We are very proud of both Lauren and Tristan, who have taken advantage of these opportunities under the direction of Wendoli,” said Michael San Francisco, dean of the Honors College. “Lauren's year in Japan will immerse her in the culture and provide her with a wonderful opportunity to learn Japanese. She will, as part of this award, serve in the area of national security.”
San Francisco said Russo's scholarship will allow him to interact with the NOAA administrator, senior program managers and scientists from NOAA's organizations.
“I look forward to interacting with both Lauren and Tristan and how they will use these experiences to springboard their careers,” San Francisco said.
The awards come after extensive applications that included research, writing essays, undergoing evaluations and obtaining recommendation letters from faculty and advisers. Russo said most of his winter break was dedicated to the process.
“It does take a lot of time to apply for these scholarships if you actually want to get them,” Russo said. “You put a ton of time into writing the essays. You want to come off as more than just a GPA and convey your personality as well as your goals that are related to their mission.”
Russo, who is a Terry Scholar in the Honors College, said he was thankful for the support and encouragement he received from program coordinator Heather Medley and others at the Terry Foundation.
“Those guys initially brought me to Texas Tech,” Russo said. “I wouldn't even be here if they weren't helping me fund my education.”
Finley also expressed gratitude for those who supported her throughout the lengthy application process. Though she started her application in early December, she submitted it just days before the February deadline. By the time she was done, Finley had submitted two 800-word essays and three letters of recommendation and had completed a language evaluation.
“The application process required a lot of research, a lot of writing, and a lot of help from faculty, family and friends,” Finley said. “My study abroad advisor, Kyle Pace, supported me every step of the way. He pulled a lot of strings behind the scenes to get a new study abroad program in Japan approved by Texas Tech.”
Russo's award includes more than $19,000 in funding, while Finley was awarded $20,000. For Russo, the award will allow him to broaden his career spectrum and focus on something like oceanic science, a topic that fascinates him.
“I get an internship over the summer next year with NOAA, possibly on a research vessel or at a marine research facility,” Russo said. “You can't get stuff like that without being vested with them.”
Finley, who is required to complete one year of service in the federal branch of the government in exchange for the Boren Award, said she is looking forward to the time she will spend abroad. She hopes being immersed in the Japanese culture will broaden her perspective while gaining international experience.
“I hope being a recipient of this award will encourage other students to embrace the study abroad experience,” Finley said. “I believe studying abroad is a life-changing experience every Red Raider should aspire to partake in, and students should stop being intimidated by the cost because there are scholarship awards out there.”
Both encouraged their fellow students to consider applying for one of the many prestigious scholarships offered each year.
“It's hard to talk about yourself constantly. It gets tiring doing that,” Russo said. “But don't let a few failures get you down. You may not get the first or second one. I didn't.”
Finley said students should start early and shouldn't be afraid to ask for help or take advantage of the resources offered at Texas Tech. The payoffs will come not only while at Texas Tech, she said, but for the rest of their life.
“During the remainder of my time here at Texas Tech, I plan on applying the knowledge and insight I gain abroad to every aspect of my life, including my classes and my extracurricular activities,” Finley said. “I believe this award will open doors and create opportunities for me after I graduate from Texas Tech, because studying abroad will make me a more marketable individual in a globalizing world.”
Russo said, in the end, being awarded the Hollings Scholarship was worth giving up a month of winter break.
“It's kind of like playing the lottery with really, really good odds. You can make your own odds even better the more work you put into it,” Russo said. “If you were to work all that time at the job, it would take months and months to make that money, or you can spend a few weeks to fill out these applications and write and possibly pay for everything and open up a lot more doors. It's not just money, it's what comes after.”