Torchlight | Spring 2015

Scholarships ensure students receive honors experience

Scholarships/Honors Program

Honors Program participants Jordan Holmes (left) and Austin Smith credit scholarships with making their educations possible. 

Mix the qualities of a liberal arts college experience—small classes, a built-in sense of community—with the amenities of a large metropolitan university and you get Sac State’s Honors Program.

For nearly 10 years, the general education program has offered a specialized curriculum that features intimate seminar-style classes and focuses on topics like great books or solving global problems. More than 300 students have also benefitted from the camaraderie and sense of family that comes from social activities and their own honors lounge that services as a home on campus.

But like their peers campuswide, it’s not always easy to pay for their educations.

Austin Smith knew he wanted to come to Sac State as soon as he saw it. He credits a scholarship with making his wish a reality.

“It changed my life,” he says. “If it weren’t for my scholarship, I wouldn’t be here.”

The freshman is the recipient of the Stremple Math/Science Scholarship, which provides a full-ride scholarship to a student in the Honors Program. He credits Honors Program director Lee Simpson with helping him secure it.

“People in the program worked hard to help me,” says the math major, who hopes to one day work at NASA.

The rigors of the Honors curriculum—which includes a heavy reading and writing load—can present challenges for students to stay on track. A desire to make the effort less difficult motivated David Schwartz, owner of Advanced Business Integrators, Inc., and his wife Patricia ’80 (Nursing) to start the David and Patricia Schwartz Scholarship.

“You want to do what you can for a great program,” Schwartz says. “The kids are outstanding and we wanted to make it easier for them,” he adds. “It’s tough enough without them having to worry about funding their educations.”

Jordan Holmes was the first recipient of the Schwartz scholarship, which offers students $2,500 a year for four years. She will be graduating in the fall—a semester early—with a degree in English and says the scholarship was both a help and a motivator.

“A lot happens over the course of a college career,” she says. “Without the scholarship. I don’t know where I’d be.”

Holmes took full advantage of the Honors Program, serving as a peer mentor for incoming honors students and making lifelong friends. She also worked as an orientation leader and is considering a career in student services. And along the way, her scholarship was essential to her success.

“It was good to have the scholarship to keep me moving every semester,” Holmes says. “It definitely is what’s getting me through to graduation.”

     “Without the scholarship,

I don't know where I'd be.”

           —Austin Smith, Math major

Schwartz says he started the scholarship after noticing the quality interns his business was securing through the Honors Program. He also had a revelatory meeting with Honors Program advisory board member David Bugatto ’86 (Business Administration) and the program’s first director, emeritus professor Roberto Pomo.

“I saw how the students reacted to Roberto,” he says. “I thought ‘This is what happens when you have this kind of experience.’”

Simpson says Pomo’s influence remains strong among the program’s alumni as well. A scholarship in his name is the focus of a fundraising campaign by the Honors Alumni Chapter of the Alumni Association with the hope of eventually endowing it.

As the Honors Program celebrates its 10th anniversary, that support is also a reflection of what the program has meant to students over the years.

“The program has a ‘we’ feeling. They feel anchored here,” Simpson says. “They’ve had a good experience and want to pay it forward.”

More than 70 percent of Sacramento State's students have some type of financial aid. Support a scholarship—or create your own. Contact Jackie Morris-Henderson at (916) 278-6931.