Robert Von Nordheim's mother works in a daycare center and his step-father is on disability because of a heart condition. Many students might not have been able to attain a college degree under these financial circumstances, but scholarships have made the difference for Robert.
“I have been able to cover my entire education through scholarships without taking out any loans,” Robert says. “It’s pretty remarkable that I have this level of financial security because my family is not at all wealthy.”
Support has come from private gifts—he is currently the recipient of the Katherine G. Patton Scholarship—as well as MAP grants from the state and a US Air Force dependent’s scholarship.
Robert is one of the many students at UIS who have both financial need and academic merit. In his freshman year, he won a writing contest which further helped him to avoid taking out loans. He also works on campus for the Visual Arts Program. English professor Ethan Lewis describes Robert as “an excellent representative of our institution.”
Robert plans to teach high school. Given teachers’ low salaries, his freedom from loans will be particularly beneficial. Eventually he will further his studies to become a professor.
“College has changed me so much for the better," Robert says. "Without being trite, it has helped me realize my purpose in life. I hope that I can make an impact on other young people the way that my professors have had an impact on me.”
Having seen how much donors have helped him and knowing how much he wants to help others, Robert considers scholarships “doubly altruistic.”
Many students that he knows share his commitment to help other people: “We want to nurture our intellects not just for our own benefit, but also to share what we have learned with other people.”
In the spring of 2012, scholarships allowed a much more confident
Robert to study for a semester at Hull University in the United Kingdom,
where he has shared housing with students from France, Portugal, and Russia and attended classes with students from around the world.
“Traveling overseas,” Robert says, “is going to forever change my attitudes on international relations and cultural exchange and has definitely helped me realize that people are basically the same with the same basic needs.”
Robert hopes that many more donors will create scholarships at UIS. Only about one in ten students at UIS who qualify for financial aid have their need completely met.
“Everyone has a certain amount of intellectual potential,” Robert says, “that they can’t possibly achieve on their own. Scholarships have given me a chance to tap into that potential. Really, college attendance would not have been possible without the help of scholarships.”
Thanks to donors’ “double altruisim,” he has a bright future ahead and many lifetime friends.