Meet the scholars

Students using the Lincoln Scholars Initiative to help pay for their undergraduate degrees say the scholarships offer them the chance to explore the possibilities within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The scholarships also help them make important decisions about their futures.

Ciara ThomasCiara Thomas

For Ciara Thomas, Illinois has been a friendly place, but it’s also been a place where she’s been pushed harder than ever before. As a psychology major, she met Simona Buettie, a research assistant professor of psychology, who encouraged her to travel to Carnegie Mellon, meet graduate students, and work in a psychology laboratory on campus. She met a successful Lincoln Scholars donor who visited campus and planted in Ciara a vision: I can do that too.

She’s come a long way since her freshman year, when, as a first-generation college student, she didn’t even know how to navigate her way around campus. Now Ciara hopes to enter a PhD program in psychology in the fall of 2019.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Lincoln Scholars scholarship. The scholarship and networking with other students who also got scholarships was huge. And I feel special. Donors are coming to meet me and support me. It makes me feel like people outside of my family want me to be successful.”


Nissa HemanNissa Heman

College has been a lesson in confidence for Nissa Heman. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in social policy, with plans beyond that to work for either a charitable nonprofit organization or a performing arts organization. She takes in stride the fact that big decisions are still ahead of her; Nissa is sure that, in the years ahead, her experience in LAS has prepared her to make the right decisions.

It wasn’t just her coursework that prepared Nissa for a bright future. At Illinois, Nissa saw potential in the many (and sometimes competitive) social and professional opportunities on campus. She “put herself out there,” and gained a stronger, more outgoing, and more confident attitude—along with many indispensable friends and colleagues.

“The Lincoln Scholars scholarship has consistently eased the financial burden of my college education. Between its aid and the help of other scholarships, I will be graduating debt-free.”


Alex PaezAlex Paez

At first glance, you might miss the magnitude of difference that college made on Alex Paez. He’s always been a science-oriented person, and now, with a degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering, he plans to start a career working with reactor maintenance and machinery.

So what’s different? He sees more clearly the value of curiosity. During his years at LAS, in addition to the courses related to his degree, Alex took courses in everything from Latin American history to psychology, economics, English, and biomolecular materials. He was struck by not only the breadth of subjects in LAS, but by how applicable they were to his life.

“It was so amazing how the university could offer so much information from so many different subjects… The impact of the Lincoln Scholars scholarship was quite significant. The scholarship has made the financial side of college so much more manageable.”


Alexandra GreulichAlexandra Greulich

As an English major with a minor in business, Alexandra Greulich made a point of expanding her horizons as a student. In short, that means she tried a little bit of everything. She worked at the Office of Admissions. She worked at the Daily Illini. She was even part of a startup involving nuclear energy.

Through it all, she said that Illinois created an environment that felt like home. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in publishing, but she won’t forget the many connections, friends, and experiences that she’s enjoyed here. She hopes others will have similar experiences when they come to the university.

“The Lincoln Scholars scholarship has allowed me to pursue a lot of interests both in and outside of school without having to worry about tuition and fees. With that freedom and time, I've been able to further my degree by partaking in the honors program in English as well as adding a business minor to my studies."


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