Donor Impact and Recognition

Donors change lives! From a scholarship which helps a student in financial need to professional development opportunities that prepare a graduate to succeed in the workforce - donor support makes it possible. Here are just a few of the many students whose college experiences have been shaped by generous donations to Tennessee Tech.


Previously Featured Students

  • Shelby Christian '18

    Shelby Christian

    Donor-funded scholarships have helped my family and me tremendously. My parents have jobs, but they are not as high-paying as some. They work hard for every penny they earn. I also have two sisters that they have to worry about. So, I apply for scholarships every year. I want to ease the stress off of my parents as much as possible. The donor-funded scholarships I receive do just that, and more.

    I chose Tech because of how close it was to home. I wanted my sisters to also have a chance to get an education they deserve, so I made sure I took one of the least expensive routes possible. Tech felt more like home to me as well when I toured. I am glad I made this decision.

    I have been fortunate to meet a few of the donors who made my scholarships possible. The Johna A. Johns Scholarship that I received is actually funded by donors who are from the same county as me: Van Buren County. Randy Johns and the entire Johns family have always been super passionate about family and consumer science education and agriculture. They especially love supporting those who graduated from their hometown who are pursuing a career within those fields. That is one thing I appreciate about the Johns family. They love seeing kids turn their dreams into plans. It was an amazing experience meeting them.

    In addition to receiving donor-funded scholarships, I am also fortunate to be able to use the Jeannette Crawford Lynn & Anna Cullerton Coonce Apparel Design Lab, funded by the Lynn and Coonce families, in a couple of my classes. It is awesome! I love how spacious it is when you are working on a piece. It really helps with the hands-on learning that our school focuses on, which to me is one of the best ways to learn.

    The Tennessee Tech Tomorrow Campaign encourages students, faculty, and staff to be bold, fearless, and confident. I would definitely say that my personality is bold. I am a very outgoing, extroverted person. When I do things, I want to leave a bold statement in whatever it is I am doing.

    There are so many people who have influenced me in my time at Tennessee Tech, but Dean Liz Mullens has inspired me the most. She always has a smile on her face, and that inspires confidence. She is very bold and strives to make our college stand out. She is also fearless in everything that she does. She really inspires me to push toward my goals. She is an amazing person. I thank Dean Mullens, Tennessee Tech faculty and staff, and the Tennessee Tech donors who support this University for everything they allow students to achieve.

  • DeAndre Sanders, B.S. '14, M.A. '17

     DeAndre Sanders

    I have been a part of the Tennessee Tech family since 2010 and have earned two degrees from this awesome university (a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling).

    Throughout the last seven years here, I have received scholarship funds from gracious donors that have helped me complete my undergraduate and master's degrees. I have also benefited from being involved with and working for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The Office of Multicultural Affairs is largely responsible for my successful transition from high school to college. Being a part of their R.A.C.E. (Reaching Achievement and Committed to Excellence) mentoring program as a freshman allowed me to be in direct contact with older students who were successful in their respective programs and staff members who were willing to help me in any way possible. The R.A.C.E. program also offered tutoring and social events that ultimately promoted a healthy lifestyle while living on campus. Serving as a mentor for several years provided me with an opportunity to improve my leadership skills while being a peer mentor to incoming freshmen.

    After I completed my undergraduate program in 2014, I was able to apply for and earn the graduate assistantship within their office. This was critical for my education because without it, I would have needed student loans to pursue my master's degree. Due to time constraints and an internship that would require me to work at last 20 hours a week, I knew that I would eventually have to relinquish my position with the Office of Multicultural Affairs. I applied for and was granted a full Minority Fellowship. This covered the cost of tuition and fees. I was also fortunate enough to be selected as a recipient of the James R. and Mevolyn D. Haston Education Scholarship. This particular scholarship was large enough to cover the full cost of my books for my final fall and spring semesters of graduate school.

    The gracious donations from Tennessee Tech's alumni and friends have played a vital role in my ability to afford and complete my master's degree. I will forever be grateful for their contributions and look forward to being able to help students in the future by giving back to Tennessee Tech.

  • Ashlin Wildun, B.S. '17, M.B.A. '19

    Ashlin Wildun

    My love of inventing and creating with hopes of becoming an entrepreneur led me to the College of Business in the Spring of 2015. When I first began my journey at the COB, I was amazed by the resources and opportunities available to students within the College.

    As a College of Business student, I am not only surrounded by superb fellow students and faculty but outstanding chances to improve my professional self through numerous events because of donor support. The first Student to Career event I attended was the Etiquette Dinner. In preparation for the Etiquette Dinner I improved my resume with the help of Student to Career's staff, visited the Professional Clothes Closet to select the perfect professional outfit, and attended workshops to learn about networking and proper dining etiquette. I am grateful for all the professionals that make the Etiquette Dinner such a success. I would like to personally thank each of them for spending their time interacting with students who aspire to also become such experienced and supportive professionals.

    I applied in hopes of being selected as a COB Student Ambassador, because I hoped to represent the COB not only to other students and other colleges within Tennessee Tech, but other universities as well. As a current Student Ambassador I enjoy getting to spend time with students sharing what each opportunity has in store for them, and working to assist each event throughout the school year.

    One of my favorite COB events to date was the 2015 Fall Celebration Dinner with the keynote speaker from ABC's "Shark Tank," Barbara Corcoran! My love of entrepreneurship led me to compete in the Tennessee Tech EagleWorks competition both of my years here at Tech, and after going through the process of taking an idea from conception through judged pitches, I was elated to learn that such a prestigious entrepreneur would get to visit our outstanding college and inspire other students to pursue their passions. A dream came true for me that evening, and it wouldn't have been possible without the continual support of our College's donors.

    Not only is the College of Business admired across campus, it and all of the events held all year impress students and professionals outside of Tennessee Tech, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be an Ambassador to the best College and programs by far!

  • Shabir Bhegani, B.S. '15, M.S. '17

    Shabir Bhegani

    Deciding to attend Tennessee Tech University has proven to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I came here with a focus to obtain my degree and to be involved in my community. With the support of my family, friends, and Tennessee Tech employees and donors, I did just that.

    I started my freshman year as a mentee in the R.A.C.E program in the Multicultural Affairs Office, taking 18 credit hours. My tuition, fees, room and board, and meal plan were covered, thanks to scholarships and grants. To cover additional expenses, I transferred my job at Pizza Hut to the Cookeville location.

    During my freshman year and the years to follow, I spent countless hours studying to learn my curriculum and my new environment. I soon realized the culture of giving that exists at Tennessee Tech after working in the Office of Annual Giving. I realized that a lot of the funds for technology upgrades, building and room renovations, new buildings, and scholarships were in large part due to alumni and friends' gifts to the University. That type of support helps keep Tennessee Tech as one of the most affordable universities in the South.

    Being on campus from 2009 until now, as a graduate student, I have been able to see the campus changes firsthand. In particular, the College of Engineering has seen continued growth in admittance, retention, graduation, degree programs, facility upgrades, and improved outreach. I had the opportunity to witness this first as a student, and then as a leader. While being the 2011-2012 President of the Engineering Joint Council, I was able to serve my college as the undergraduate student representative for the College of Engineering's strategic planning process. Through that experience, along with my two co-ops, two internships, and time as a 2014-2015 College of Engineering Ambassador, I have been able to see my college flourish. With the support of our alumni and friends, and under the direction of our beloved Dean Rencis, our college has made marked progress towards our destination of eminence by 2020.

    When it comes to my esteemed department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, we have seen room renovations and much-needed technology upgrades. It made me become more apt to study in the study room and lab. With greater access to study areas and working computers, I have seen my peers collaborate more fluidly and expand from our "friend-group" silos to include everyone trying to learn in our department. It created more of an opportunity for all to take advantage of being in the building to connect more with our professors and department, further increasing the opportunity for student success.

    Furthermore, donor support has greatly impacted my experience at Tennessee Tech, as I have been the recipient of the Asia Khatun Scholarship, Thomas Watson and Judith Watson Scholarship, Clay Hixson Scholarship, and Barge, Waggoner, Sumner, and Cannon Scholarship. These funds helped me to focus my efforts on my original goals of graduating and being more involved. It gave me the opportunity to work less at Pizza Hut and more on my academics. It provided me the ability to serve my community as a two-term SGA Senator, member of the 2011 Homecoming Court, and the longest active University President Ambassador to date.

    In all, the experiences I've had wouldn't have been possible without the support of donors. My story continues to inspire and compel me to work diligently on my dream to become a philanthropist so I can provide the same experiences for the next group of students.

  • Olivia Freels '17

     Olivia Freels

    As a high school senior in 2013, the only thing I had figured out was that my calling in life was to be a nurse, and I was trusting God with the rest. I remember the first time I entered Bell Hall. I was in awe of the beauty and state-of-the-art technology available for student learning. I thought to myself, "This is where I want to learn how to be a nurse."

    The ultimate deciding factor of where I would spend the next four years of my life, after high school graduation, was the Horace Jeffers Memorial Scholarship, and it just so happened that the scholarship was offered by one of the most prestigious nursing schools in the state. The scholarship ensured that I would not have to pay for tuition for all four years of college, as long as I maintained the requirements to renew it. This is every high school senior's dream come true. Little did I know that receiving this scholarship was only the beginning for me and my future at Tennessee Tech. Through my interview for the Jeffers Scholarship, I was also offered a job as a student worker in University Advancement, which was the cherry on top!

    After the first year and half of getting my prerequisites out of the way, it was time to apply to nursing school. My advisors told me that I had a good shot of being accepted but that I needed to have a backup plan. With hard work, the support of my family and friends, prayers and faith, I was accepted into the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. Finally, my dreams were becoming a reality. However, this was only the beginning of my journey to becoming a nurse. I didn't know all of the blood, sweat, and tears that would go into nursing school, but I knew it would be worth it. Throughout nursing school, I have been blessed with receiving two additional nursing scholarships, the Lawrence W. Hester and Jean Whitson Hester Memorial Scholarship and the Jean DeBord Jeffers Nursing Scholarship. I attended the nursing scholarship banquets and had the opportunity to meet the donors personally and thank them for what they had done for me. This is one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do.

    After working in University Advancement, I learned that the backbone to the University is donor support. I realized that my entire nursing education was made possible by donor support, from using the computer lab to print off documents for clinicals, to learning how to put an IV into a dummy's arm before sticking a patient, to being able to heat up a quick bite to eat in between classes in the lounge area, to having a nice, comfortable classroom to sit through three-hour lectures in.

    Throughout my three years of working in University Advancement, I had had the pleasure of meeting some of the greatest people on this earth, working with an amazing UA staff and interacting with donors. There is nothing I love more than having one of our special donors walk into the Alumni Building and hearing their story and what Tech means to them and getting to share a piece of mine with them. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these special people at the Evening of Thanks event for President's Club members, Scholarship Celebrations, and Retirees' Luncheons.

    Ultimately, there are not enough words to express my gratitude to the donors who have made my education possible. With the generosity of our donors, my dreams have become a reality. I will graduate debt-free and will be able to start my future with a clean slate. It is my hope that in the future I will be able to give back a small token of what has been given to me.


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