Spring 2022

Spring 2022

Arvonia Elizabeth Vaughn Sprauge

Arvonia Elizabeth Vaughn Sprauge Endowed Scholar Grant

Given by Betsy Bach

Arvonia Elizabeth Vaughn Sprague (1888-1983) was born in Vaughn, Montana, and lived in Montana her entire life. She graduated from Mills College in California, and returned to live in Great Falls with her husband, Hugh Max Sprague. She was the mother of four children and spent time volunteering for various civic organizations. She was an active member of the PEO Sisterhood, and with her father, Robert Vaughn, was a long-time friend and supporter of cowboy artist Charlie Russel and his wife, Nancy.

Hart and Besch Family

Hart and Besch Family Scholar Grant Fund

Rose E. Hart Scholar Grant Fund
Pauline A. Besch Scholar Grant Fund
Debra K. Besch Scholar Grant Fund
Katherine Besch-Hart Scholar Grant Fund
Lorraine R. Hart Scholar Grant Fund

Rose E. Hart

Rose Hart was born in Ipswich, South Dakota in 1909.  She received her teaching degree from Huron College and was an elementary school teacher until she married Fred Hart in 1937.  Then her career shifted to publishing local South Dakota newspapers along side her husband.  She completed her career at the University of South Dakota working in the Psychology Department managing and overseeing research grants.  Upon her retirement she volunteered at her church.

Rose valued her education and was proud that her son Loren, daughter Lorraine and granddaughter Katherine Besch-Hart achieved their college education goals, leading to success in their chosen careers. Providing funds to help women advance their education and achieve their goals honors a woman who understood and supported the value of education to her and her family.

Pauline A. Besch

Pauline Besch, the youngest of nine siblings, was born in 1924 and grew up on her family’s farm in Grimes, Iowa. She excelled academically in high school and aspired to attend college. However, with aging parents, WWII and her family’s finances, she instead went to work at Banker’s Life (now Principal Financial). Later, she married Marvin Besch, an officer in the Air Force and traveled America and Europe, an education in itself.

Pauline never ended up attending college, but she raised three accomplished children, Debra, Marvin and Kristi and inspired two granddaughters, Katherine and Megan, while actively volunteering in education and politics. In her 60’s, she became a leader in senior rights and resources, which she continued into her 80’s.

Pauline was one of those women of whom it could be said, “she would have been a CEO, if only….” She would be the first to want to help another woman aspiring to achieve a college education, and this scholarship honors her.

Investing in Higher Education for Single Mothers to Transform the U.S. Economy

By Jennifer Zeisler
December 13, 2021

Investing in higher education for single mothers to transform the U.S. economy

Before it’s too late, we must address a critical gap in this country’s economic recovery strategy: help for single mothers in college. These determined mothers understand the connection between their education and their families’ long-term financial security, and they have proven that they are ready and willing to take on the work that will fuel our future. It’s time for the philanthropic sector to follow their lead.

Over the last five years, ECMC Foundation has funded efforts to improve educational outcomes for single mothers, who represent more than one in ten undergraduates in the United States. We have learned that with a bit of additional support, single mothers can help drive equitable economic growth. As the only national foundation focused on the college success of single mothers, we have also learned that too few funders are making this type of sound investment. Women of color, who disproportionately pursue degrees while parenting, bear the brunt of this lack of investment. To achieve gender and racial equity in the years to come, more funders must commit to ensuring that single mothers have access to the education they want and need.

As we know from the economic recovery from the Great Recession, many jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage require educational attainment beyond high school. Single mothers are distinctly aware of the economic calculus of enrolling in college: Nearly half attend community colleges, where they pursue degrees in health care, information technology, and other middle-skill sectors that have the potential to fuel the country’s economic engine. They know that earning a college degree pays off, and they are right: Single mothers with an associate’s degree are nearly half as likely to live in poverty as those with a high school diploma.

But as the pandemic has made painfully obvious, it is difficult for parents, especially mothers, to work without access to child care. This is especially true for single-mother students, who must balance care, work, and school — and was true long before the pandemic. Facing high poverty rates and having limited time to devote to their studies due to work and family demands, fewer than 10 percent of single-mother students graduate on time.

In fact, single mothers are more likely than any other group of women to have started but not finished a postsecondary degree. This suggests that additional support for single-mother students can make a measurable difference, not only for them but also for the nation’s educational attainment goals. Put simply, we will further perpetuate racial and gender disparities in our education and workforce systems unless we start investing in this population. Furthermore, we will miss out on the talents and contributions this significant segment of the population has to offer. Student parents get better grades than their non-parenting peers, which indicates that their low degree completion rates are a reflection of policies and practices that are failing them, not a lack of aptitude.

“Me having to go to school and work and not get as much time with [my daughter] is hard, yes,” said Sydney, a single mother student, on “1 in 5,” a podcast about student parents. “But I am only doing it to set us up for success.”

Women like Sydney are the very students we should be investing in — driven, gifted, and eager to fill in-demand positions as the U.S. economy recovers.

The lessons we have learned through our investments offer insights for future work that more funders can advance. Based on our learnings, here are three suggestions for how philanthropy can get more involved:

Single mothers need better access to child care, housing, transportation, and other basic needs to persist through degree completion. Access to reliable child care has been shown to triple graduation rates among single mothers; yet, on-campus programs have steadily declined over the last two decades. In one program run by Project Self-Sufficiency, which provides child care to single mothers in college along with case management and financial assistance, nearly three in four single mothers saw their annual income quadruple to $40,000 once they completed the program. The return on this investment is significant: For every dollar we invest in supports for single mother students, the country would get back as much as $5.50, not including the generational impact from their children’s improved well-being.

To inform better decision making, postsecondary institutions must start collecting and analyzing data on the parenting and partnership status of their students. Infrastructure designed to enable baseline data collection and continuous data collection practices is critical, for colleges can support improved outcomes only if they understand their students and their needs. Yet, very few colleges track the parenting or partnership status of their students, although organizations like World Education, Inc. and Education Design Lab, have started working with cohorts of colleges to better identify and serve single mother students. Our grantee partners have worked with fifteen colleges serving more than nineteen thousand single-mother students, but more funders can help us reach the nearly 1.7 million other single mothers enrolled in colleges across the U.S.

Policies and practices must be informed by the lived experiences of single mothers in college. Equipped with reliable data and compelling stories, advocates and students successfully made the case for at least $42 million more in federal funding targeted to student parents, while groups like the Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona have secured additional funding at the state level for programs aimed at improving access to child care and other supports for student parents. Single mothers in college sit at the intersection of many of the systemic issues that our recovery policies must address, including the care crisis, college unaffordability, and racial and gender inequity. It is essential that the voices of single mothers be heard in the public policy debates that will shape our future.

As we debate how to “build back” in the wake of the pandemic, we must rebuild our systems of learning and work to better support the success of single mothers, who move mountains on a daily basis to pursue their degrees while working and parenting. If more funders join us in targeting their resources toward this population, we may be able to advance the systemic change needed to ensure our economic future is grounded in gender and racial equity.

There are few silver bullets in philanthropy, especially for an issue as complex as economic mobility, but investments in single mothers can pay off many times over. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our economy and social structures to be more equitable. Let’s not let it pass us by.

Link: https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/features/commentary-and-opinion/investing-in-higher-education-for-single-mothers-to-transform-the-u.s.-economy

I Am Not Proof of the American Dream

By Tara Westover

Ms. Westover is the author of the memoir “Educated.”

Feb. 2, 2022

When I think of my first semester of college, the memory comes to me as a physical sensation. I feel tired. There is the siren-screech of an alarm sounding at 3:40 in the morning. I feel it in my teeth. Then images: the orange glow of the jumbo numbers in pitch black, the instinctual, semiconscious tapping of the button, the gradual shrinking of my bed as I climb out of it and move toward the door. I do not change my clothes. It was my habit to dress for the day the night before, because an alarm blaring at 3:40 really does sound much better than an alarm blaring at 3:30.

Outside I feel the Rocky Mountain winter on my cheeks as I begin the scramble to campus on sidewalks that will not be salted for another three hours. I’m heading for the engineering building, where I will pick gum out of short nylon carpet, wipe strange equations from dusty chalkboards, and scour the interior of toilet bowls with an odorless blue gel. I will finish around 8 a.m., then head to class.

This was my routine for the first two months of my freshman year. Then, because I was short on rent, I added a second job, serving coleslaw and Jell-O in the cafeteria. The woman who worked alongside me was also a freshman who could not afford the meal plan. I don’t recall either of us mentioning the fact that we were serving food we could not afford to eat; I don’t recall feeling angry as I hooked my apron in my locker and reached into my backpack for my own lunch, a protein bar and pack of ramen noodles (10 cents at my local grocery store). I also don’t recall feeling humiliated or disrespected to be cleaning plates or toilets used by my classmates. The full complexity of my opinion on inequality and poverty then could have been summed up with utter simplicity: I was tired.

I wrote about these and other experiences in my 2018 memoir, “Educated,” which surprised me by becoming a best seller. My story was one of extremes: born in the mountains of Idaho to Mormon parents who kept me out of school, I had never set foot in a classroom before my first semester of college at Brigham Young University. I graduated in 2008 and won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where I earned a Ph.D.

A curious thing happens when you offer up your life for public consumption: People start to interpret your biography, to explain to you what they think it means. At book signings, in interviews, I’m often told that my story is uplifting, that I am a model of resilience, an “inspiration.” Which is a nice thing to be told, so I say thank you. But every so often someone takes it a bit further, and says something to which I do not have a response. I’m told, “You are living proof of the American dream, that absolutely anything is possible for anybody.”

But am I? Is that what the story means?

After being tired, here’s what I remember most about being poor: a pervasive sense of costly trade-offs. Of course you had to take the maximum number of credits, because tuition was expensive; of course you had to pick up that second job, that extra shift, that third side hustle raking leaves or mowing lawns or shoveling snow. The only question I ever asked was how soon could they pay.

The architecture of my life was defined by money, meaning its absence, right down to the alarm blaring at 3:40 a.m. The night shift paid a dollar more, $6.35 an hour instead of $5.35. Never mind that my roommates blasted music until midnight, so that on a typical night, I got around three hours of sleep; never mind that I was dozing through my lectures, or that I spent the entire winter with a raspy cough and string of unexplained sinus infections. It was a dollar more! The math was straightforward and decisive.

My college ambitions nearly came to an abrupt end in my sophomore year. Blinding pain in my lower jaw turned out to be a rotting nerve. I needed a root canal and $1,600 to pay for it. I decided to drop out. My plan was to hitch a ride to Las Vegas, where my brother was working as a long-haul trucker, and to get a job working at the In-N-Out Burger across the street from his trailer.

Then, a leader at my church pulled me aside and insisted that I apply for a Pell Grant, a federal program that helps poor kids pay for college. Days later a check arrived in the mail for $4,000. I had never seen that much money, could not wrap my brain around the amount. I didn’t cash it for a week, afraid of what possession of such a sum might do to me. Then the throbbing in my jaw motivated me to take a trip to the bank. I got the root canal. For the first time, I purchased the required textbooks for my classes. There was money left over, more than a thousand dollars, so I quit the cafeteria and swapped the night for the day shift. I stopped sleeping through my classes; the cough dried up, the infections cleared.

The day I cashed that check is the day I became a student. It’s the day the current of my thoughts shifted from obsessively tracking the balance of my bank account, down to the dime, to obsessively tracking my coursework. It was an experience not of wealth but of security, and with security, the freedom to ask questions about what I wanted from my life. What did I enjoy doing, or thinking about? What was I good at? I started seeking out and studying books outside the required reading; I took courses that were not required, for the simple reason I was interested in them, and I had the time.

Every decision I made from that moment on was a function of that check. In those desperate years a few thousand dollars was enough to alter the whole course of my life. It contained a universe. It allowed me to experience for the first time what I now know to be the most powerful advantage of money, which is the ability to think of things besides money. That’s what money does. It frees your mind for living.

It’s tempting to tell my story in the way people want me to. I would love to be the hero, and say that it’s all about hard work and determination, the white-knuckled triumph of the human will. But if I put my ego aside, I know that’s not the case. I entered college in 2004. I attended Brigham Young University, a private college heavily subsidized by the Mormon Church. Tuition was $1,640 a semester. This was before the housing crisis, when it was possible to find a shared room in a shabby apartment for just $190 a month. What these numbers meant, in real terms, was that it was possible for me to work my way through college.

Tara Westover on graduation day at Brigham Young University.
Tara Westover on graduation day at Brigham Young University.

I could make enough to cover tuition by bagging groceries for $5.35 an hour during the summers. Back then, the nearly $3,000 I needed for two semesters seemed staggering, and it necessitated me saying the words “Paper or plastic?” an unthinkable number of times. But it was possible. Without family money, without cultural advantages. It was a thing that could be done, if only just, if you really wanted it.

For kids today from poorer backgrounds, the path I took through education no longer exists. The numbers are not imaginable — not if your parents are truckers or farmers or cleaners or cabdrivers, maybe the hardest-working people in our country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the last three decades, tuition at four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after you adjust for inflation. A 2019 report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy tells us that at some state flagship schools (not fancy private schools, just regular four-year public universities), low-income students are asked to cover some $80,000 beyond what they can afford. Even at B.Y.U., one of the most affordable four-year colleges in the country, tuition has nearly doubled since I graduated.

A Pell Grant was my first taste of financial security. Now even a full grant would be wholly inadequate, because of the rising costs of tuition and housing. When the program was established 50 years ago, the largest grant covered 79 percent of the costs to attend a four-year public college. Today it covers just 29 percent. It’s not enough. What that grant offered me — security, peace of mind, a space in which to consider, for the first time, what sort of life I wanted — it no longer offers.

To poor kids today, we present a no-win scenario. We shout shrilly that they must get a college degree, because without one they can’t hope to compete in the globalized economy, but even as we say it, we doubt our own advice. We know that we are asking them to bury themselves in debt at a moment when it is very uncertain what kind of job they will be able to get or how long it will take them to repay the loans. We know it, and they know it. For them, the American dream has become a taunt. Perhaps my story is proof not of the persistence of the American dream but of its precarity, even its absence.

The solutions are multitude. We could restore funding to public universities and insist that they operate as public utilities, rather than as strictly profit-driven businesses. We could increase Pell grants and reform student debt. If we were more ambitious, we could tackle the supreme inequality that, in recent decades, has disfigured every fact and facet of social and political life.

For my part, I will begin by telling my own story differently — by discarding that fashionable old fable that reduces any tale of success to one of grit and diligence. I will admit that, to be frank, it was an easier time, and things were better. Our institutions were better. Perhaps that is what the story is about, inasmuch as it is about anything. There is the one thing I learned when I cashed that check: that people cannot always be resilient, but a country can.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/opinion/tara-westover-educated-student-debt.html?searchResultPosition=1

‘It’s not where you start, but it’s where you end up’: Valley mom leaves criminal past behind, earns master’s degree from ASU

By: Rich Prange

8:18 PM MST May 12, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. — Every Arizona State University graduate works hard to get to graduation day – but Margaret Hall’s journey may have taken a little more determination.

Life didn’t look too promising for Margaret Hall six years ago.

“During this time, I was actually sitting in a federal prison for a class C felony,” said Hall.

After serving a six-month sentence, 47-year-old Hall and mother of six decided to change her life and go back to school.

“Strive for bigger dreams and bigger goals. I didn’t want my children to think that was going to be the last chapter of my story,” said Hall.

Against all odds – self-doubt and the stigma of being a convicted felon – Hall enrolled at Glendale Community College and then transferred to ASU. Since then, she’s never looked back. She’s earned three degrees in five years.

“Every semester for the past five years. No summers off, no breaks,” said Hall.

She earned scholarships along the way. Including a grant from the Jeannette Rankin Foundation awards scholarships and grants to women age 35 and older pursuing a college education.

Thursday, she walked the stage in Desert Financial Arena, a summa cum laude graduate with a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and prelaw. She wants to start a grant writing business to help non-profit organizations that help others achieve.

“It’s not where you start, but it’s where you end up,” said Hall.

Link: https://www.12news.com/article/news/local/arizona/valley-mom-leaves-criminal-past-behind-earns-masters-degree-from-arizona-state-university/75-22242510-7f4b-4be7-9b48-7c87ac3898c1

UWO Honors College student, mother of three funds education with scholarships

By Laurie Schlosser

Aug 17, 2021

An Appleton mother is entering her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with the support of a national women’s scholarship―and several local and state scholarships―that are empowering her education and goals for the future.

Luiza Nelson, wife and mother of three young children, learned she will receive assistance from a Jeanette Rankin Foundation Scholarship as she studies in the UW Oshkosh Honors College working toward a degree in education.

“Luiza has done excellent work ever since she joined the Honors College in fall 2020,” said Laurence Carlin, UWO Honors College dean. “She has impressive academic ability and she is a natural leader in Honors seminar discussions. Her future looks very bright, and I am certain she will be an excellent educator.”

Carlin said Nelson joined The Honors College in fall 2020 and was the recipient of the college’s Pagelow Family Scholarship.

Nelson feels fortunate to receive funding from local and state organizations that help non-traditional students. She does not intend on taking school loans and has been funding her education entirely with scholarships.

She is assisted by the Doug and Carla Salmon Foundation, based in the Fox Valley, that helps women fund their education with a renewable scholarship.

The Wisconsin Women’s Alliance Foundation Scholarship assists women over 25 who are pursuing their education. Nelson has been awarded for two consecutive years.

Her Rankin scholarship provides $2,500 per school year and is renewable. A pioneer for women’s rights, Jeanette Rankin, the scholarship namesake, was a social and racial justice advocate who embraced diversity, equity and inclusion. In 1917, she was the first woman to be voted to the U.S. House of Representatives.

When Rankin died in 1973 at the age of 92, she bequeathed part of her Georgia estate to help mature, unemployed women workers.

“Without these organizations and the generosity of the donors to those organizations, I would not be able to continue with my education,” Nelson said, adding that she belongs to a sisterhood of women who are trying to better themselves by getting their education. Many are single mothers who work fulltime while taking college classes at night.

Luiza Nelson, second from right, with her husband and children.

“We had a Zoom meeting with new (Rankin) scholars…and it was an incredible experience for me,” she said. “They all have children to raise, households to run, laundry to do, houses to clean, all while attending classes and doing homework and studying for exams. It was amazing to meet them and know I am not alone in pursuing an education in my 30s.”

Carlin said despite her responsibilities at home, Nelson has “found the time and energy to excel at a high level”  and has earned high grades in her Honors courses. She currently has a 3.8 GPA.

Aspiring educator

Nelson, who is from Brazil and grew up in South Florida, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education broad-field social sciences with a minor in history and an English as a second language certificate.

Her family settled in Appleton in 2017 after moving to the Fox Valley region for a job opportunity. She eventually left her corporate job to focus on raising her family.

“I have always wanted to pursue a career in teaching, but always thought going back to college would be impossible,” she said. “But once my youngest child started school, I looked into the possibility of scholarships.”

Though not easy to take a full load of classes and maintain a household and three children’s needs, Nelson said being an older student works to her advantage: she knows what she wants to do and how lucky she is to pursue her studies. She takes her education seriously and makes sure she has time for homework.

Luiza Nelson, 36, is preparing for the fall semester at UWO.

She called her husband, Andrew, her “biggest fan” and said his managing of chores during nights and weekends allows her to focus on school.

Nelson said her husband currently is the sole earner for the family and she is funding her education 100% through scholarships. She hopes one day to be a resource to other nontraditional students who might think college is not affordable and that loans are the only option.

After she graduates, Nelson hopes to teach in the Fox Valley or in a rural school district where it can be tough to attract new teachers.

Making an impact

Nelson recently was named as the student representative to the UW Oshkosh 2022-27 strategic planning committee―a committee charged with developing a plan that will guide UW Oshkosh over the next five years.

She will represent the student body and its interests and she wants to make sure UWO retains students and provides students the support they need to graduate.

Nelson is a member of the Oshkosh Student Association, serving as director of sustainability and supporting students who submit proposals to the Green Fund. She serves on the Climate Action Committee; and is vice president of Aspiring Educators; a member of Kappa Delta Pi; and ArtsCore.

She also finds time to volunteer at her church, is active at her children’s schools and is part of the Library Building Project Advisory Committee in the city of Appleton.

Indeed, Nelson is making the most of her educational journey and making a difference in her community.

Link: https://uwosh.edu/today/98787/uwo-honors-college-student-mother-of-three-funds-education-with-scholarships/

JRF Founder Susan Bailey

Susan Bailey Endowed Scholar Grant

Susan R Bailey is a retired lawyer who splits her time between Atlanta and Sapelo Island. She was one of the first women students at the UGA Law School and also studied at Stanford and Duke. Sue was very active in the League of Women Voters and started the Athens chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW).

JRF Founder Reita Rivers

Reita Rivers Endowed Scholar Grant

Reita was Jeannette Rankin’s personal assistant at the time of Jeannette’s death. She knew about the bequest Jeannette had left to help “mature, unemployed women workers.” Her relationship with Jeannette Rankin was the impetus for the gathering of five founders of the Foundation. Reita continued her career at UGA serving as Assistant to the Director of the Sea Grant Program overseeing the grants management and many other administrative functions. Reita passed away in January of 2020.

Reita Rivers was born on September 13, 1930 in Jenkins, Kentucky. She was the only child of Lola Dotson Rivers and Earl Rivers. Most of her childhood was spent in Wise, Virginia. She attended Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia and received her BS degree from Radford State Teachers College.

Reita taught Spanish before switching to a career as a representative for Silver Burdette textbook company in Atlanta. There she met a colleague, Pat Haynes, his wife Corky and family. A close friendship quickly formed and lasted a lifetime. Pat left Silver Burdette and moved his family to Athens in 1964. Reita moved to Athens the next year. She quickly was hired as a graduate assistant and started taking graduate courses herself. While pursuing job offerings at the student employment center, she saw an ad: “Personal Assistant for Miss Jeannette Rankin,” it was a name familiar to Reita; her grandfather had talked about “that woman from Montana has more guts than most men!” Reita knew Jeannette’s historic journey as America’s first elected Congresswoman. She was hired and very soon became a close friend of Jeannette.

Miss Rankin passed away May 18, 1973, days short of her 93rd birthday. Reita executed her estate. Miss Rankin stipulated money left in her estate was to provide educational opportunities for older women. Reita along with four of her closest friends who were also committed to equal rights sought to expand opportunities for women. They were JRF co-founders, Sue Bailey, Heather Kleiner, Margaret Holt, and Gail Dendy. Together they developed the idea of creating The Jeannette Rankin Foundation. The JRF was founded in 1976.

Later, Reita worked as Communications Director for the Sea Grant Program and Marine Sciences Department at the University of Georgia for over 20 years. She created a successful project of merging science with art. Reita held exhibitions of the art throughout the state and sparked the public’s interest in and appreciation of coastal resources.

Reita passed away in January of 2020 and will be remembered as an advocate for social justice, a dedicated feminist, and animal lover. The Jeannette Rankin Foundation endows this scholar grant in memory of her.

JRF Founder Margaret Holt

Margaret Holt Endowed Scholar Grant

Margaret is a retired faculty member from the Department of Adult Education at the University of Georgia, and since 1981 has worked on multiple projects with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. Margaret has served on multiple boards and contributed to many civic initiatives.