Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

Alan R. Spence Transfer Support Fund

The Alan R. Spence Transfer Support Fund was established to support transfer students in their educational pursuits at the University of Washington. Dr. Spence had a long career as an educational leader at several Washington state community colleges, including 24 years at Pierce College. Valuing the community college system as a place where student can begin their journey through higher education regardless of their circumstances and backgrounds, Dr. Spence worked tirelessly to ensure that institutional barriers would not impeded a student’s ability to be successful.

Alan R. Spence, Ed.D., began his career in educational administration in 1970 at the Evergreen State College as a Chief Accountant. At age 29 he became the youngest business officer in Washington state as the Vice President of Business and Finance at St. Martin’s College. In 1981, he moved to Pierce College as the Associate Dean of Administrative Services where he was later promoted to the position of District Vice President of Administrative Services in 1987. He spent a total of 24 years at Pierce College. The final years of his distinguished career were spent at Seattle Community College District as the Chief Financial Officer. He retired in 2008.

2021-22 Spence Scholars

Su Cho

Junior, Neuroscience major

I am a first generation, junior transfer student studying neuroscience. Looking around, I got to see how childhood environments and adversities shape children’s lives and their future. The fact that childhood experiences seemed to affect them silently most of the times while bringing either life-long nurtures or difficulties to their performances as adults struck and motivated me to study neuroscience, neuroplasticity, and the influences of brain chemicals in a deeper level. I am currently a research assistant in a brain research lab on campus and I enjoy reading, having interesting conversations with others, and spending time outside in the nature. ​​

Su’s near and long-term goals: I would like to be more engaged in brain development research for children and further study how early childhood experiences and environments affect children’s brain and their future. After all, my goal is to become a psychiatrist who suggests healthier ways to maneuver through mental hardships caused by the aftermath of childhood adversities and raises awareness for its everlasting impact.

Su’s tips for future applicants: Have confidence to show the path you took to get here. Reflect on various aspects of your past that shaped you to do what you are doing now. Connect with a scholarship adviser and receive some helpful feedback!

Elise Dorvilias

Junior, American Ethnic Studies: African American Studies major


My name is Elise Dorvilias and I am a first generation college student. I was born and raised in southern Florida, by my mother, who is a Haitian immigrant. My family and I moved to Washington when I was about ten, but Florida will always be my home.

Before landing at UW, I attended Edmonds Community College where I earned my associates degree. Currently, I am a junior at UW majoring in the American Ethnic Studies (AES) with a concentration in African American studies. The AES major has allowed me to focus on supporting the community I love the most. Being a Black woman has empowered and enriched my lived experience and I couldn’t imagine being anything else. I encourage all students to take at least one AFRAM class to push back against the Eurocentric teaching standards that are normalized within our education system.

Along with my passion for Black community, I am also very passionate about reproductive justice. As I mentioned earlier, my family originates from Haiti, a country with a very underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure. Most women in my family have experienced difficult pregnancies. Some even leading to miscarriages and death, which is unfortunately common in the Black community. This is why post-baccalaureate, I want to pursue a masters in Public Health, so I can advocate that reproductive justice be implemented in all facets of healthcare. By investing in reproductive justice, we are dismantling white supremacy in healthcare and empowering and providing resources for those who have been harmed by it. In my free time, I enjoy trying new foods, traveling, and hanging out with friends.

Elise’s near and long-term goals: My near goal is to earn my bachelors degree next Spring then work until I can pay off my students loans before pursuing a master’s in public health.

Elise’s tips for future applicants: My tips is to go the Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards. They are so helpful and accommodating.

Michael Mayhew

Senior, Electrical Engineering major

After high school, I took an incredible opportunity to work at one of the largest commercial airlines in the world. The job took me all over the globe, where I began to appreciate the cultural and technological differences between nations. The contrast between the brightest lights of the most developed cities and the starry nights of remote villages with no light pollution reinforced my understanding that electrification and growing access to education and technology were critical to global welfare. The reliability of electronic devices and avionics onboard aircraft also impacted my ability to serve customers in my role with the airline. It was clear that the accomplishments of electrical engineers were present in the lives of everyone.

My wife encouraged me to pursue a BS-Electrical Engineering after moving to Seattle. I enrolled at North Seattle College in January 2019 to earn an Applied Physics degree with the goal of being accepted to the University of Washington as a transfer student. I am grateful for the opportunities that NSC provided to my family which allowed me to continue working full-time while attending classes. I would encourage anyone who wishes to be a non-traditional student to enroll at a Washington State Community College.

After acceptance to my major at UW, I decided to concentrate on Sustainable Power Systems. I understood that these courses would give me the best opportunity to help electrify the world while battling the climate emergency and promoting sustainability equity for communities where investments in renewables are lacking. I hope to first work with local utility companies, where I can promote the rollout of sustainable technologies in our own neighborhoods. I will also work to earn a graduate degree which will allow me to drive sustainability within larger populations.

The Alan R. Spence Support Fund Scholarship will allow me to focus on my final quarter at UW; rather than working extra hours to cover educational costs. I can ensure a strong finish for my undergraduate degree and am best prepared to apply for graduate school and jobs within the sustainable engineering sector.

Michael’s near and long-term goals: I have started applying for jobs within the sustainable energy sector. I hope to have the opportunity to grow sustainability and improve energy equity in communities. Upon employment, I will apply for graduate school and work to earn a Professional Engineer’s license.

Michael’s tips for future applicants: Be yourself; don’t hold back. Even if you dream the biggest dreams, share them and be ready to go achieve them.

Shirley Mendez

Junior, Social Work major

I am originally from Guatemala, I migrated to Seattle when I was 14 years old in 2012. I am also a first generation student. I am a parent and overall a person that likes to stay busy. I am extremely grateful to have attended an ESL High School that allowed me to meet amazing individuals that encourage me to pursue my dreams of attending college. While growing up I knew exactly I wanted to help individuals in the best way I could. I spoke with a high school counselor that guided me towards the social work degree. I am currently a Junior at the School of Social Work.

During my time at South Community College, I earned my Associates of Arts Degree. I graduated in 2021 while taking care of a newborn. This has been so far the most challenging part in my educational experience. Being a full time student and parent at the same time can bring a lot of stress and personal challenges. I am grateful to count with amazing support from classmates, professors and advisors.

I have applied for the Alan R. Spence Transfer Support Fund because I believe some transfer students might feel a little intimidated attending a different school with different opportunities. For some students, it might be an easier transition, and some might encounter challenges. At the School of Social Work, everyone feels welcomed and supported throughout the process. This scholarship is making a difference in both near and long term goals. As of now, it allows me to focus on my academics and parenting at the same time to make sure I am on track to graduate on time.

​​Shirley’s near and long-term goals: I aspire to continue working towards my MSW after culminating my BASW in 2023. I would like to work with youth in the foster care system to support each one to achieve wellbeing and prosperity.

Shirley’s tips for future applicants: I suggest transfer students that are or might apply for this scholarship to accommodate time in our busy schedules to attend a scholarship workshop. The University of Washington currently counts with a very strong writing support system that allows students to become better storytellers. Scholarship workshops also provide excellent feedback!

Scholarship Archive

Browse our archive for more Spence Transfer Scholars history.