By Beauty Kolade
“It felt so great to know I won, and I didn’t have to pay to study abroad,” said Bolanle Olatunji, a 22-year-old health services administration senior at Lehman who won both a Gilman and a Chancellor Global scholar- ship in the spring of 2019.
Olatunji is one of more than 50 Lehman students who were granted major awards for the 2018-2019 academic year, including Fulbright fellowships, National Science Foundation awards, Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) fellowships, National Institute of Health Summer Internships, National Institute of Health Summer Internships, Jeannette K. Watson Fellowships and Chancellor’s Global Scholarships. In the last year, the numbers have continued to grow.
“For the 2017-2018 academic year, we had $750,000 in awards given; for the 2018-2019 academic year, we had $2.3 million,” Lehman’s Office of Prestigious Awards (OPA) Director Alice Michelle Augustine told the Meridian.
“Awards I have seen Lehman students win the past few years are definitely Jeannette K. Watson fellowships, NSF, REU and a giant increase in Fulbright’s awardees,” said Augustine, who herself won a Jeannette K. Watson fellowship as a Lehman student. Augustine was recognized at Lehman’s convocation ceremony on Sept. 18 for her contribution towards students’ success and outstanding performance at Lehman.
Lehman students and alumni agreed that more students are participating in the awards process.
“We have seen a major increase in students not only applying for awards but winning them,” said Hillary Frank, an OPA staff member, Lehman graduate and Jeannette K. Watson award recipient. She attributed this partly to outreach, “Through in-classroom presentations and events, such as the Prestigious Awards day, we encourage students to come and see the awards.”
Student winners praised the opportunities the awards provide for them.
“This was an advancement towards my career goal; I want to travel to different countries working with a Master’s in public health,” said Olatunji, who used both her scholarships to embark on a study trip to Spain in the summer of 2019.
Vladyslav Bodnar, a 21-year-old chemistry senior who won an REU award in the spring of 2019 funded by the U.S. Department of Energy said, “It was very nice to win this award, it made me feel worthy and motivated to pursue my chemistry career.”
Bodnar aspires to be a radiochemist and had the privilege to work with great scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory for 11 weeks in the summer of 2019. He explained that his project “was focused on evaluating two resins based on hydroxamate functionality, to conveniently diagnose cancer through radionuclide generator.”
A Jeannette K. Watson Fellow winner, Rene Clever, worked on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and helped with the development of two courses at IBM during the summer of 2019. The 20-year-old computer science major and business management minor won her three-year fellowship in the spring of 2019. She credits “a boot camp hosted by the [OPA],” with helping her access the award process.
As an NSF awardee, Rawan Aldasooky worked at Columbia University during the summer of 2019, where she worked on the fabrication of glycan microarrays, a technology that would allow for the rapid analysis of glycan mediated biological processes. The 20-year-old senior chemistry major won her award in the spring of 2019 and said it helped clarify her future career path. “I was contemplating if I would pursue an MD-Ph.D. degree,” she said, “but my summer experience helped me realize that I do not want to pursue a Ph.D. degree in the future.”