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!

2019-20 Spence Scholars

Kitty Slocum

Senior, Applied Psychology major

I am a first-generation, senior, transfer student pursuing my B.S. in Psychology. I have always been fascinated by the brain, how it translates into personality and the cognitive processes that govern who we are. Since becoming a student here at the university, I’ve had the honor of becoming the senior marketing manager of Grey Matters, UW’s neuroscience journal. I also currently work as an academic coach in Academic Support Programs, and in a lab running psychological research studies in the Foster School of Business. In my (little) free time, you can find me people watching, reading books on personality, and graphic designing (my career before UW!). I plan to pursue my graduate studies in psychological research and apply my research in schools and teach students how to be advocates for compassion and connection.

Kitty’s advice for future applicants:
Be genuine, honest, and completely yourself! Authenticity is the best thing for scholarship applications

Georges Motchoffo Simo

Senior, Chemical Engineering major

I was born in Ebolowa, Cameroon. I was raised by a single mother with two older brothers. I moved to the US at the age of 18, not knowing a word of English.

My dream of all time is to become an MD/Ph.D. in Neurosurgery. I have been dreaming of becoming a researcher while working in the medical field for my very first day of middle school. I grew up thinking that college was not an option for me because of financial and family reasons. I have been working with all my being to make that dream come true since I have moved to America from learning the language to get more and more involved in research from as much as possible. I would love to go to UW MSTP program after I graduate.

After completing my Ph.D., MD and residency, I would love to take my summers off every year or so to affiliate myself with Doctors without Borders to go across the world provide care to people who have been forgotten and can’t afford care. I would love to run a lab while being a surgeon in a hospital focused on Neurosurgery. I want to run a lab in the domain of drug delivery for tumors that are not surgically removable and to pursue research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

I would love to bring more joy and hope to the black community by showing them that there is hope for them to do great things. I want to show them that they are called for greatness and that there is so much more out there for them besides being a statistic. I have seen so much potential in the youth that I would like to give whatever I can to help them accomplish their dreams just as I am accomplishing mine.

Georges’ advice for future applicants:
Be yourself, own your story and be proud of all the work that you have accomplished this far in you academic career.

2018-19 Spence Scholars

Shayla Dang

Junior, Art: Painting and Drawing

Shayla Dang

Through all the struggles I had growing up, the only coping mechanism I had was drawing. I would draw almost every day, and would create characters of my own. When I look back at my old drawings, I noticed how much I improved and wanted to do something greater with the passion I have for art. As time passes and technology continues to grow, I believe that art can be used in a variety of ways. I became heavily immersed in digital art, and kept self-teaching myself multiple times with YouTube videos and other tutorials on the internet. The passion I have for art was becoming stronger as I tried different types of materials and mediums. I recently discovered that not only could I focus on my major, but I can also mix in animation courses with it, which would not conflict with my schedule. The career goal I plan on pursuing is to become an animator or pair with a gaming company and help make designs. In order to fulfill this goal, I am currently majoring in Painting and Drawing along with taking animation courses. I know the career path I chose has a multitude of job openings available since it relies heavily on technology. I believe the courses towards this major would help me with gaining new skills, perfecting my old ones, and expose me to new opportunities. For my personal goals, I always want to keep improving as an artist, so I try to draw everyday and learn useful tips from other fellow artists. As a first generation student with an Asian background, my single parent mother has high expectations of me. Sadly, my mother is unable to support me financially through school and must rely on each paycheck to support our household expenses. Truthfully, this is why I began at a local community college first instead of attending UW right after high school. Even during community college I focused on practicing and taking courses to improve my work. With the support and connections around me, I am able to attain my realistic educational goals and be ready to join the professional world after graduating.

Maya Esquivido

Senior, American Indian Studies

Maya Esquivido

Hestum (Greetings)! My name is Maya Esquivido, and I am an enrolled member of the Nor Rel Muk Wintu Nation and Chicana. I was born and raised in Sacramento, California but relocated to the Pacific Northwest where I attended Seattle Central Community College. With the dream of pursuing higher education, I completed my Associate of Arts Degree and transferred to the University of Washington (UW). Entering UW in the American Indian Studies (AIS) Program, strengthened my dedication to helping tribal communities, and ignited my passion for social justice. The strength-based approach of AIS taught me to decolonize my frame of thought, allowing me to apply these fundamental concepts to my life and further education.

Through my undergraduate research and education, I have begun investigating the problematic issues that arise due to the denial of Native Nations seeking federal recognition. My current undergraduate research with Dr. Dian Million, an AIS professor, focuses on the absence of jurisdiction or statistical information on non-federal recognized tribes, as seen in the Indian Child Welfare Act. Following the completion of my Bachelor’s degree, I plan to pursue a Masters of Social Work and then continue on to complete a Ph.D. My ultimate professional goal is to become a university professor to aid in the efforts of decolonizing academia, as well as conduct research with my tribal community to influence policy change.

Maya’s tips for future applicants:
Start the application process early, and try not to rush it. Also, have someone proof read and edit your paper, it makes a huge difference.

Tina Rajabi

Junior, Mathematics

Tina Rajabi

I have always loved math and believed that math is the heart of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It is a way to view the world from a different perspective, filled with an underlying logic that is simply beautiful.

After completing my high school education in Iran, My family and I immigrated to the US. My passion towards math helped me overcome the challenges immigration brought to me and led me to continue my education at Edmonds Community College (CC) where I graduated with an Associate of Science degree with a focus in mathematics. Now, I am a junior at University of Washington majoring in Math. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I am eager to continue my path towards Masters in Math and PhD in Math Education.

I believe that institutionalized racism, classism, and other forms of oppression should not be predictors of educational outcomes. Personally, as a CC transfer student, I have experienced how having a smaller community provides a better environment for more face-to-face interactions with advisors, educators, and staff that can consequently, make these kinds of oppression fade away. Because of this personal experience of mine, I now value the importance of serving at a CC since it is a great step to help with undoing many forms of oppression. Thus, it is my career goal to become a mathematics instructor at a CC to dismantle these systems of oppression and break the confidence gap that stops students from pursuing their goals in the STEM fields.

To me, teaching math is the best way to show that I care and to contribute to the success of our community as a first generation immigrant female of color in STEM.

Tina’s tips for future applicants:
Our backgrounds as former community college students are valuable and empowering parts of us that we need to share with the world. The Alan R. Spence Transfer Support Fund gives us a great platform to share our community college journey with other students who are exploring the same path we once did. So, my tip to the future applicants is to share who you are and how your past, with all it brought to you, led you to who you are today. Your story is inspiring and can change a life, so be proud to share it!

2017-18 Spence Scholars

Joshua Driscol

Junior, Atmospheric Science (Climate Track)

I am a junior in the Atmospheric Sciences department, and went to community college at North Seattle College before transferring to UW. I am interested in using machine learning on climatological data sets to try and understand the underlying mechanisms of atmospheric processes. Specifically, I am interested in modeling the changing climate of the Arctic in response to depleting sea ice levels. Also, I am excited by the opportunity of using data to make informed policy decisions. I hope to use my platform as a scientist to join the conversation about how we should treat our planet, and to better communicate to the public the issues we face due to climate change. After graduating I plan to pursue a Master’s degree before starting my scientific career.

I am extremely grateful that the Alan R. Spence Transfer Student Support Fund has awarded me this scholarship. It will allow me the much needed support to focus on my studies while furthering my academic career.

Diana Gil Vargas

Senior, Community, Environment, and Planning

Diana Gil Vargas

Diana Gil-Vargas is a transfer student from Yakima Valley College (YVC) and is currently a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP). Diana is interested in community-based research, community development, and planning. She believes that research and community development are important components for planning that can help planners understand the social, cultural, and institutional complexities that are not always visible especially when working with marginalized communities. Understanding and addressing these complexities and inequities can help create a more inclusive society. She hopes to one day become an urban planner to help address the social and environmental inequities marginalized communities face. As a future planner, she hopes to create safe, accessible, and inclusive environments for all people.

Along with her interest in education, Diana is currently conducting community-based research in Yakima, Washington to learn how the effects of colorism impact the Mexican immigrant community. Colorism is the allocation of privilege and discrimination based on one’s skin color which affects different racial and ethnic communities of color physically, mentally, and emotionally. Furthermore, colorism is one of the bases for how racial and social inequality exists within communities of color and in society. Therefore, Diana wants to learn how the Mexican immigrant community defines and identifies discrimination and racism to identify issues in order to help create a difference. Diana is eager to continue with her research and other opportunities that come her way before graduating from the UW.

Diana’s tips for future applicants:
I would advise future students to not be afraid to share their experience and journey that has brought them to their most current point at UW. People are interested to learn about who you are and how you are contributing to your community. Students will also realize through this process all of the work and contribution they have done which is pretty rewarding. Share, reflect, and continue contributing anywhere you go.

Misrak Tekeste

Junior, Political Science major

Misrak Tekeste

I am a first generation, transfer junior at the UW. I am excited to return to school, after a decade long break, while raising my two children which demands a whole lot of multitasking and enduring commitment. Born and raised in Ethiopia until high school, and relocating to Washington to pursue higher education, my bilingual and multicultural background inspired me to major in Political Science. I hope to further my understanding of current global economic and educational policies, strategies of policy development, conflict resolution, and develop my overall critical thinking and public communication skills. I am minoring in Education, Communities, and Organizations(ECO). Expanding on my cross-cultural understanding, I plan to pursue opportunities to work with local or international organizations that focus on the women and children, economic and educational capacity building, community development of people of color while embracing cultural diversity. I intend to do my master’s degree in international relations so that I can represent the African immigrant population locally and internationally when the opportunity arises. I am grateful for becoming a Husky and joining the UW community to obtain my required degrees towards my future career.

2016-17 Spence Scholars

Maisha Barnett

Community, Environment and Planning major

Maisha Barnett

Maisha Barnett is a junior majoring in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) at the University of Washington within the College of Built Environments. Her concentration in CEP is urban design, neighborhood planning, and real estate studies. She is excited to increase her skills, knowledge, and expertise in these disciplines, as well as learn more about the principles of sustainable design.

Born and raised in Seattle, Maisha is a big parks and public space advocate. She has served on numerous park boards and commissions and is currently a Project Manager leading the effort to develop Jimi Hendrix Park. Maisha is also the founding manager of Powell Barnett Legacy Project, the community-volunteer group that developed Powell Barnett Park in Seattle’s Central District.

She is a member of the College of Built Environments (CBE) Equity Council. In her free time, she is an active community volunteer with various local groups. Most recently, she established the Crown Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group to serve as an incubator for community-based neighborhood planning. Upon graduating, she plans to practice sustainable community development to create meaningful spaces that will stimulate, activate, and engage public life.

Nicole Kuhn

Informatics major

Nicole Kuhn

I was born in Queen Charlotte City on an archipelago called Haida Gwaii, which is located on the northern coast of BC, Canada. I am First Nations and a member of the Skidegate Band, which is part of the Haida Nation. Previously, I have worked for the Native Courtworkers, an organization that advocates for First Nations in the Canadian criminal courts, and for Kwumut LeLum Child & Family Services, an organization that administers First Nations on-reserve child and family services. I worked at both places while pursuing my undergraduate degree at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. Before finishing my degree, however, I moved to the US with my family and was fortunate to be able to stay home with my children while they were young. Once my youngest child started kindergarten, I returned to school myself to finish my Bachelor’s degree. South Seattle College was a natural place to start as it was close to my home, it was an affordable part-time option, and it offered small classes that helped me get back into my studies. It is here that I was able to successfully obtain my Associate of Arts degree and complete my prerequisites for the Informatics program at the University of Washington. I applied to transfer to the UW and major in the Informatics program and I was very fortunate to have been accepted into both in the fall of 2017. An Informatics degree offers many interesting career possibilities and I am very excited that it will allow me to return to the work I’ve truly loved, with some new, critical skills. After administering a province-wide statistics program at the Native Courtworkers, I knew that I really enjoyed creating information systems and finding information solutions. Through this work, I developed a deeper understanding of how powerful information is and how important it is to bring this technology and understanding to underserved communities, including First Nations and Native American communities. I’m so thankful to be part of the iSchool and the UW community and I am really looking forward to engaging with the iSchool’s Native North American Indigenous Knowledge initiative. It is with much gratitude that I acknowledge the Alan R. Spence Transfer Support Fund for supporting my academic pursuits as I transferred my studies from South Seattle College to the University of Washington.

Erin McClure

Biology major

Erin McClure

Erin McClure is a graduating senior in Honors General Biology. She transferred from Green River Community College to the University of Washington in 2014. She is pre-med and plans on applying to medical school in 2019. She has just started shadowing with Neighborcare Health at their Morrison clinic for chronically homeless people. Dermatology is her field of interest. As an adolescent she struggled with cystic acne. This was devastating to her self-esteem. Fortunately, she was able to establish care with a dermatologist who put her on Accutane. This cured most of her acne and had a huge positive impact on her life. She wants to be able to provide this sort of service to other people. By alleviating someone’s skin condition as a dermatologist, she will help make them healthier inside and out.

Currently, Erin is involved in an on-campus research lab. Her experiment focuses on how different environmental pressures can influence the evolutionary trajectory of a population. Her work will be presented at the Mary Gates Symposium in May. She is also applying for poster presentations at the Evolution Conference in Portland this June and the Gordon Research Conference for Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution in Massachusetts, which is also in June. Additionally, Erin may contribute to a research project that uses computer modeling to analyze non-transitive relationships between different populations over the summer.

Jose Pacheco

Social Welfare major

Jose Pacheco

I am currently enrolled in the Social Welfare Bachelors program at the University of Washington. I commute about 160 miles from Centralia to Seattle three days a week to attend to classes. My short-term professional goal is to complete a Bachelors in Social Work. After completing the Bachelor’s degree, my long-term goal is to complete a Master’s degree in Social work as well. I want to get the best education possible to be able to deliver high quality services to my community. I would like to work on the clinical social work field, providing mental health services to underserved, under and uninsured individuals that lack the access to these types of services. I would like to practice under a collaborative/integrated care model. This model consists in offering medical, mental, and psychiatric services to people within the same organization. The idea of this model is to treat the person’s body and mind as a whole, to ensure a better understanding of the individual’s problems that affect him/her.

As a first-generation student, my personal goal is to break the barrier that for generations has limited members of my family to achieve higher education. It has been a long journey for me to reach this point of my education, but I will work hard to achieve my professional goals. I personally will try to ensure good grades in my classes, and hopefully graduate to become a health care provider for my community.