Celebrating Undergraduate Student Success

UC Riverside undergraduate students have received 62 prestigious scholarship awards since 2012

From left to right: Julianne Rolf, Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, and Jwanza Hobson.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Future leaders in academia, public policy, international business and many other fields compete each year for prestigious post-graduation fellowships. At the University of California, Riverside, the number of students seeking – and winning – these honors, is on the rise. Since 2012, UC Riverside undergraduates have received 62 highly competitive scholarships – a figure unprecedented at the campus.

“The prestigious scholarships awarded to UCR students provide external recognition that our students are among the best in the world,” said Cindy Larive, UCR’s vice provost of undergraduate education.

Four years ago, the Office of Undergraduate Education at UCR launched a new program aimed at mentoring students who want to pursue prestigious scholarships and fellowships.

“The process of applying for national and international awards is long. It requires many hours of drafting essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, and interviewing. But with this program, our faculty and advisors are there guiding students every step of the way,” Larive said.

She credits former Undergraduate Education Vice Provost Steven Brint and Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, director of Student Success Programs, for launching the National Prestigious Scholarships and Awards Program on campus. With support from a faculty committee, the team provides program information sessions, workshops, interviews and mentorship of students. They also spend time with student candidates – getting to know them and their professional goals, and giving them advice that will help them to be competitive.

Connor Richards

Connor Richards

“At no point during the application process for any of these awards was I working alone; at every step of the way, there was a team – led by Gladis – making sure that I had all of the help I could want,” said Connor Richards, a 2016 UCR graduate who received three prestigious scholarships during his time at the university.

“Because of that – because I was lucky enough to be named the recipient of awards that recognized a true team effort – the most gratifying thing is to see others deciding to join that team. Whether it’s faculty and staff getting on board to help the students, or the students themselves signing up for the long road to one of these awards, I am elated to see the growing focus on these awards.”

In the first year of the program, UCR students were selected for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Donald Strauss Scholarship. From there the program took off, Herrera-Berkowitz said.

“Our initial goal was to support the awards that required campus endorsement, but there are so many exciting national opportunities and students who are eager to apply that the program just grew organically,” Herrera-Berkowitz said. “UCR students have represented the campus so well that now we have program representatives who are visiting our campus to recruit.”

This success has led to the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs partnering with UCR to recruit students at the university annually. Meanwhile, the deputy general from the British Embassy in Los Angeles also has visited UCR two years running to encourage Marshall applications. This past spring, a senior program officer from Fulbright came to present to students and faculty members.

“UCR students’ commitment to service and their academic strengths fit the profiles that awards seek; we just need to ensure that students are made aware of the opportunities,” Herrera-Berkowitz said.

Recipients of these awards credit the program with instilling confidence in themselves to pursue further academic and professional goals.

“Considering that for some fair amount of time I didn’t ever think I would go to college, this award has provided a tremendous amount of confidence for me that I am on the right trajectory to become a leading expert in my field,” said Geoffrey Pronovost, a 2015 scholarship recipient.

About the awards

The Coro is a leadership development fellowship aimed at developing the next generation of aspiring change makers. It began in San Francisco in 1942 to train young veterans in the leadership skills necessary to assure that a democratic system of government could more effectively meet the needs of its citizens. Undergraduate students at UCR have received a total of eight Coro Fellowships since 2012. The breakdown of recipients includes:

  • 2012 – Larry Chung, political science
  • 2013 – Akhil Rao, business administration
  • 2014 – Liam Dow, business administration
  • 2015 – Keyva Clark, political science; Sean Fahmian, chemical engineering; and Aaron Johnson, political science
  • 2016 – Michael Ervin, political science; and Jorge Rodriguez, public policy

In 2016, undergraduates at UCR secured two Fulbright awards. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities abroad to recent graduates and graduate students. Jwyanza Hobson, who graduated with a degree in global studies, will be heading to Vietnam for nine months to teach English, engage in cultural exchange, and explore his identity as a global citizen. Julianne Rolf, an environmental engineering student, plans to conduct research at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Germany studying filamentous cyanobacteria and calcite precipitation in lakes with high mineral content.

Also this year, a student received the Gates Cambridge Scholarship – one of the most prestigious international scholarships in the world. The program was established in October 2000, after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $210 million to the University of Cambridge. Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from all over the world who want to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Connor Richards, who graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s in physics, was awarded the scholarship.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The scholarship was created to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering and to foster excellence in those fields. UCR undergraduate students have been awarded a total of five Goldwater scholarships in the past four years.

  • 2013 – Mary Nguyen, chemistry
  • 2014 – Connor Richards, physics
  • 2015 – Julianne Rolf, environmental engineering; and Geoffrey Pronovost, biochemistry
  • 2016 – Amanda Tedesco, cell, biology and neuroscience
Geoffrey Pronovost

Geoffrey Pronovost

“I think many people, myself often included, design a mental image of the ‘perfect applicant’ who wins awards of this caliber,” Pronovost said. “My hope is that my success as a non-traditional student will inspire other students who don’t fit this fantastical paradigm to strive for these and other opportunities. I hope that I may serve as an example of the importance of promoting diversity in the student population, something that UCR is so rightfully recognized for.”

UCR students in the STEM field who engage in research have been successful in winning National Science Foundation Graduate Program Fellowships, as well. The fellowship has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.  Since the 2012-13 academic year, 39 undergraduates from UCR have won this award. During the 2015-16 academic year, Marissa Gionet-Gonzales, a bioengineering major, and Julianne Rolf were granted the award.  Marissa will be attending UC Davis, and Julianne will be attending Yale University, for their graduate studies. Listed below are the students who graduated from UC Riverside who have won this award:

  • 2012 – Sarah Bates; Alina Beas; Amy Calgaro; James Gutierrez (graduate school: Yale University); Thomas Kwan; Jacob Lanphere; Christian Minyoo Oh; Michelle Nicole Ontiveros (grad school: UC Irvine); Nolan Michael Ung; Matthew Valdez; Joan Maryl Perez Zape (grad school: UC San Francisco); and Linh (Amy) M. Dao (grad school: Columbia University)
  • 2013 – Barbara Davis; Eric Gutierrez (grad school: Stanford University); Miguel Isarraraz; Elbert David Mai; William Moore (grad school: UC Berkeley); Maeraj Sheikh (grad school: UC Irvine)
  • 2014 – Tyler Abercrombie (grad school: UC Irvine); Christina Armenta; Javier Fajardo; Oscar Gonzalez; Elizabeth Horstman (grad school: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign); Italilia V. Pacentine (grad school: Oregon Health and Science University); Edwin Preciado
  • 2015 – Alina M. Escalera; Isreal Flores (grad school: Vanderbilt University); Adrian Garcia Mosqueria (grad school: Harvard University); Nicole Godfrey (grad school: UC Irvine); Katie Quast Magnone; Jessica McKinley; Ariana Nguyen; Emily Petrillo (grad school: UC San Diego); Leopoldo Torres (grad school: University of Maryland); Jessica Toth
  • 2016 – Riley Thomas Bottom (grad school: UC Riverside); Brendon Butler (grad school: UC Irvine); Fallon Fowler (grad school: North Carolina State university); Marissa Ann Gionet-Gonzales (grad school: UC Davis); Nerli Parades Revalcaba (Michigan State University); Julianne Rolf (grad school: Yale)

Donald A. Strauss Scholarship Foundation was created as a memorial to Donald A. Strauss, who demonstrated a lifelong commitment to public service and education. The foundation awards scholarships to those who reflect a similar commitment. Since 2012, eight UCR undergraduates received the award.

  • 2012 – Freddy Lopez, ethnic studies
  • 2013 – Katherine Tsai, biology
  • 2014 – Cassie Nguyen, public policy
  • 2015 – Connor Richards, physics; Hanni Schoniger and Jade Zamorano, biology – received team award
  • 2016 – Suketu Dadhat, biology; and Chirawat Sanpakit, mechanical engineering

Though he did not receive the award, Connor Richards was named a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship, a prestigious award that finances young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-5893
E-mail: mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz
Tel: (951) 827-1010
E-mail: gladis.herrera-berkowitz@ucr.edu

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