“The financial support provided me the opportunities I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere. I was able to dedicate myself more to my school work rather than trying to work full time and try to be a student. I think I was able to do a lot more of my best.” — Vanessa Sumano
Vanessa Sumano, a College of LAS Lincoln Scholar, was interviewed during the 2019-2020 academic year. View stories from this year's scholarship recipients at the giving stories page.
Biology wasn’t always Vanessa Sumano’s passion.
In fact, she abhorred the subject through middle school and most of high school until she landed in an upper level class with a curriculum that covered anatomy and physiology. Learning about the structure of living organisms and how they function set Sumano’s curiosity ablaze.
Now in her final semester at Illinois, Sumano–who is studying molecular and cellular biology and psychology–is considering her move off campus. Although, four years ago, choosing to attend the U of I was an easier decision to make.
“For most of high school I figured I’d end up at Illinois,” she explained. “I always knew it was a really great school, so it was always on my short list. However, a big consideration was the scholarship I received, and with that I feel the U of I has provided more to me than any of the competing schools.”
The Lincoln Scholars Initiative funding provided the support for Sumano to focus on her studies, pick up a double major, and participate in a service fraternity – all things that would have been nearly impossible had she been forced to work fulltime to fund her education independently.
“The financial support provided me the opportunities I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere,” she said. “I was able to dedicate myself more to my school work rather than trying to work full time and try to be a student. I think I was able to do a lot more of my best.”
Sumano added her second major after considering dropping her MCB studies all together.
However, enrolling in the dual studies of MCB and psychology was transformative as she realized she can successfully complete both programs without sacrificing one. She hopes to attend graduate school and eventually land a career that will utilize both of her passions. Neurobiology research tops her list.
Outside of class, Sumano said she has gained professional and leadership skills while volunteering with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Since her sophomore year, she has dedicated more than 100 service hours and served on the leadership team for one committee.
“If I’d been working, there wouldn’t have been extra space for anything,” Sumano admitted. “The scholarship enabled me to do better. It’s something I hope I can pay forward in the future, because I never expected being able to come and be given the gifts that I was given.”