Current students are not the only women in the Yale community looking to pursue a degree.
Each year, the Yale University Women’s Organization — a group founded in 1965 to serve women affiliated with the University — awards roughly a half-dozen scholarships to women associated with the Yale community, such as bookkeepers, human resource specialists and other employees in the University’s administrative staff, to pursue degrees at their chosen institute of higher education. Specifically, the scholarship caters to those whose formal education has been interrupted or delayed and wish to resume their studies and further their career pursuits. The scholarship program, which was created in 1972 — just three years after Yale College itself first began admitting female students — has provided 328 scholarships, totaling $365,675, over the past four decades to help women in the University community return to their educations at any institution. The most recent application cycle closed last Monday.
“I’m a strong believer that everyone should pursue their dreams, and going back to school was a great learning experience,” said Katrina Sikorski, a previous scholarship recipient who works in human resources operations. “The scholarship really makes that dream a reality, and I got a lot more value in going back to school this time around rather than having come straight out of high school.”
The YUWO scholarship program is divided into four funds, with three named after former YUWO members and the last called the Scholarship Trust Fund, which was established to ensure that scholarship funding would always be available each year, even in times of economic downturn. Each fund can award more than one scholarship, and YUWO Scholarship Chair Berclee Cameron said the award amount is usually between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the person’s need and the amount of money available.
Sikorski, who used her scholarship money to complete an online degree from Empire State College in New York, was awarded two YUWO scholarships, one in 2012 and another in 2014. She said the largest benefit provided by the program was in helping balance her roles as a single homeowner and a student going back to school. Many of her friends and coworkers are still paying off student loans and while she has to do the same, she said she is in significantly less debt than she would have been without the scholarship.
Similarly, Terry Reese, a staff development support specialist who received the scholarship in 2010, 2011 and 2014, said the program significantly lowered her financial stress. Reese said she was able to complete her education with no student loans, and without the scholarship, she would not have been able to finish her classes. It gave her a rare opportunity because at the time, she was a mother going through divorce who did not have any finances, she said. She completed a degree in sociology and criminal justice at Albertus Magnus.
“The program was awesome, and besides the scholarship, I was invited to a dinner where I got the opportunity to meet one of the scholarship donors,” Reese said. “It was a wonderful experience that I’ve tried to promote to others, and I helped someone fill out their paperwork for this year’s application.”
The program is supported by friend and member donations, and is entirely separate from Yale University funds, according to YUWO President Stephanie Jatlow. The results of this year’s application cycle will be released by April 30. The number of applicants can be as high as 20, although it is usually fewer, and often four to six scholarship awardees are chosen, Cameron said. Members of YUWO and their families are not eligible to participate in the scholarship program.
Qualifications for the program include not only the applicant’s association with Yale, either through employment or that of a family member, but also their unmet financial need and future goals. Cameron said the selection committee considers household income and tuition reimbursement from other venues, such as financial aid, as well as the person’s viable plans for returning to school. The requirements are the same as are expected of any scholarship applicant at any university, she said, and they include maturity in temperament, thoroughness of thought process and self-motivation.
Last year, YUWO awarded five University staff members a total of $16,000 in scholarship awards. The recipients were Lynette Holloway, Talia Annicelli, Kelly Ann Fusco, Cynthia Voghell and Karen Kustra, who work in departments ranging from the Yale Mail Service to the Office of Development.
“Career advancement, career change or personal growth is a big motivating factor for women,” Cameron said. “I would say one of the best benefits is that women realize that they have become positive role models for their children, family members or friends.”
YUWO currently has approximately 350 members, including faculty, staff, administrators, family members and partners of Yale affiliates.