Celebrating Ten Years of Stamps Scholars at UConn
Sophomore Kaila Lujambio plans to attend an academic dental conference in Europe and take a service trip to provide dental care in an underserved country next year.
Most students cannot afford these kinds of opportunities, but Lujambio is a Stamps Scholar. That means she has a full, four-year scholarship to UConn and up to $12,000 in enrichment funds she can use to enhance her education.
Lujambio is one of 33 UConn students awarded a Stamps Scholarship since the University first began offering the program 10 years ago. The University is one of 38 nationwide that offers this merit-based scholarship.
For Lujambio, who has wanted to be a dentist ever since she became fascinated by teeth in the third grade, the scholarship and its enrichment funds are what attracted her to UConn. Students can use these funds to further their education in various ways, such as studying abroad, diving deeper into research, or attending an academic conference.
“I think the Stamps Scholarship has helped a lot of students be able to explore their passions without fear and without financial constraints,” says Lujambio, of Wallingford, Connecticut.
The journey for UConn and the Stamps Scholars Program began in 2012 and is now enjoying its 10th anniversary. UConn Stamps Scholars have made significant contributions to their fields and have set themselves apart through numerous enrichment, research, and extracurricular activities.
The dozens of UConn Stamps Scholars over the past 10 years also include three members of the Oei family: Bridget ’18 (CLAS), Maura, ’20 (CLAS), and current sophomore, John Paul. Bridget Oei, who is currently in medical school and is an expert Irish step-dancer, is one of UConn’s most famous Stamps Scholars as she was first runner-up in the Miss America pageant.
Senior Elisa Shaholli, who is double majoring in English and economics, used her Stamps enrichment money to present a paper at a conference in Ireland over the summer. She also plans to travel to Turkey and Japan this spring for conferences on disability studies and teaching, says LuAnn Saunders-Kanabay, assistant director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowship and Stamps Program lead.
“It’s exciting for us to see these students flourish and come into their own,” says Jennifer Lease Butts, associate vice provost for Enrichment Programs and director of the Honors Program. “They figure out who they are as people but also who they are going to be as learners and scholars. This scholarship allows us to be able to open doors of opportunity for them.”
In addition to the scholarship and enrichment funds, the Stamps Scholars Program also hosts a convention at a participating university every two years where all the scholars can learn, meet, and network.
Stamps benefactor E. Roe Stamps IV provides half of the cost of attendance, enrichment funds, and convention fees while the university supports the other half through generous gifts from donors.
Randy McDow, executive director of the Stamps Scholars Program, says Stamps selected UConn to participate in the program because it is one of the top public schools in the country. The program, he says, gives top students the support they need to excel in college.
“The goal is to find students who are working very hard, have great potential, and want to make a difference for others,” McDow says. “We give them support, advice, and financial awards so they can focus on doing the best job at college and beyond. We really want to raise the ceiling for what they can do.”
Participating in the Stamps Scholars Program also gives UConn a competitive edge. The combination of the full scholarship and the generous enrichment piece helps UConn recruit talented students from Connecticut who otherwise might be tempted to go to Ivy League institutions, Butts says.
“Beyond how important it is for the students in their own growth and development, it’s also a really important tool for the university to ensure that we’re competing for the best and brightest students and keeping them in Connecticut,” she says.