UNL Opportunity Scholarship

Photo Credit: La'Risa McLennon
by Lane Chasek Wed, 12/03/2014 - 09:04

Former UNL Sociology Chair Dan Hoyt created the UNL Opportunity Scholarship in Sociology Fund in 2008 as a way to give back to UNL.

After receiving his PhD in sociology from UNL in 1980, Hoyt worked as a professor at Iowa State University for twenty-one years. During those years in Iowa, however, Hoyt still felt a strong tie to Nebraska and his alma mater. After returning to UNL in 2001, Hoyt created the Sociology Fund in 2008 as a way to aid the UNL Sociology Department as well as nontraditional and financially disadvantaged sociology majors.

In 2012, Hoyt was appointed an Associate Dean for Faculty in Arts and Sciences. To date, this fund has provided two $500 scholarships.

“Since I created the fund, I have donated enough money to award one scholarship every year,” Hoyt said. “I’m the only person who donates to the fund at the moment. I would like to think we could change that in the future.”

In the near future, Hoyt hopes the fund will be able to provide anywhere between five to ten $500 scholarships every year. With greater promotion of the fund in the future, Hoyt thinks this goal could be attainable.

“I know many UNL faculty members and former students who are interested in donating to the fund in the next few years,” Hoyt said. “If a greater number of faculty or alums could donate even $25 every year, we would be able to provide many more scholarships than we do now.”

In order to better promote the fund, Hoyt has been working with Victor Martinez, a director of development with the University of Nebraska Foundation since 2013.

According to Martinez, reaching out to UNL graduates for donations will be vital to funding the scholarship in the future.

Former UNL graduates who donate to the fund could not only be benefitting current UNL sociology students but the University and Sociology Departments as well, Martinez said.

“By encouraging past graduates to give back to the Department, we can promote a sense of pride in what the Department does,” Martinez said. “Donating to this fund and knowing exactly who benefits from it definitely gives alums a sense of pride, especially when they can put a face to their donation.”

La’Risa McLennon, a phlebotomist at Bryan East hospital in Lincoln, was the 2013 recipient of the scholarship. La’Risa accepted her award in a small ceremony held in a room of the Nebraska Student Union. During this ceremony La’Risa saw posters in the back of the room displaying UNL sociology students’ research projects.

Interested by the research she saw, La’Risa decided to network with several UNL sociology professors soon afterward. Now, along with her work as a phlebotomist, La’Risa is also a research assistant for two UNL sociology professors.

La’Risa will be attending graduate school in order to obtain a certificate in public health. Thanks to the scholarships she has received, La’Risa was able to obtain her bachelor’s degree with no debt. Also, because of her position as a research assistant, the National Institute of Health has provided La’Risa with a grant which will pay for her education as she works toward her certificate in public health.

Seeing how the Opportunity Scholarship has helped her professionally, La’Risa plans to donate to the fund in the distant future.

The University of Nebraska Foundation encourages donations of any size not only to the UNL Opportunity Scholarship in Sociology Fund but other funds as well. Alums interested in donating to the Sociology Fund or in starting their own fund can contact Victor Martinez or another member of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Donate to this fund