Welcoming the inaugural class of Walter Scott, Jr. Scholars and Fellows
By Jessica Cox
Published Aug. 11, 2017
Supporting students is a priority for alumnus and business icon Walter Scott, Jr. This fall, 20 undergraduate and 26 graduate students will become the inaugural class of Walter Scott, Jr. Scholars and Fellows, representing an integral component of Scott’s $53.3 million gift to CSU.
The Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship and Fellowship programs allow the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering to recruit some of the best and brightest minds from Colorado and beyond. Among this year’s talented cohort are Christina Chang, Juan Venegas, and Jhordanne Jones.
Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering
Christina Chang has been a competitive soccer player most of her life, and though she’s been fortunate to avoid any serious personal injuries, she’s witnessed close to 20 ACL tears on the playing field. Having been surrounded by injury, she developed a desire to work in the medical field with patients she can relate to with sports-related injuries.
“I know a few peers who lost scholarships or weren’t able to go to college because of injuries. It’s a pressing problem, so I figured I could gear my career in a way I could empathize with others,” said Chang.
Though she never experienced any major injuries through soccer, Chang has faced other challenges that have impacted her decision to study biomedical engineering. In 2016, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, alopecia totalis, which causes hair loss. Before her diagnosis, and frustrated by several doctors’ inability to identify the issue, she decided to shave her head.
“It was a huge life-changing moment for me. My hair was always something I was really confident in, so having that taken away from me helped build my character, and helped me appreciate who I am without my appearance,” said Chang.
The experience also impacted Chang’s decision to move out of state for college, despite her parents’ encouragement to remain in California. After one visit, she knew CSU was the place for her.
Doubling up on engineering
This fall, Chang will begin a dual degree program, majoring in both biomedical and mechanical engineering. She’s hoping this combination will allow her to pursue a career designing and creating prostheses and artificial organs. The dual degree program offered by the School of Biomedical Engineering was a primary reason she chose CSU.
“While looking at schools, I was primarily considering studying biomedical engineering, but part of me knew I was interested in mechanical engineering. When I stumbled across CSU that offered both, I thought, ‘it’s perfect!’” said Chang.
Choosing to pursue her dreams hasn’t always been easy, but Chang is grateful for the opportunity to come to CSU as a Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship recipient. She is one of 20 incoming engineering freshmen supported by the full-ride scholarship provided by business icon and CSU alumnus Walter Scott, Jr.
“Receiving this scholarship makes me feel like I made the right decision pursuing my own dreams. It means my hard work in high school paid off,” she said.
Someday, Chang hopes to have the opportunity to work with Paralympians. In the meantime, she aims to make her time at CSU the best five years of her life.
“You always hear that college is the best time of everyone’s life,” she said. “I’m really excited to get started on that journey.”
Chemical and Biological Engineering
While giving his speech as valedictorian at his high school graduation, Juan Venegas realized he was speaking for his entire class, rather than just himself. Venegas was born in Mexico, and despite living in Fort Lupton, Colorado for 16 years, neither place quite felt like home.
“I always found myself in a state of limbo trying to figure out where I belong. The thought of never belonging anywhere saddened and frustrated me at the same time,” he said.
Throughout his senior year of high school, Venegas put everything he had into earning the title of valedictorian, and it paid off in more than one way. This fall, he’ll begin his freshman year at Colorado State University as a chemical engineering student and Walter Scott, Jr. Undergraduate Scholarship recipient. The award is one of 20 scholarships made possible by a $53.3 million gift from business icon and CSU alumnus Walter Scott, Jr.
“I absolutely am honored to have received the Walter Scott, Jr. Undergraduate Scholarship. It’s the reason I’m going to college,” said Venegas.
Venegas is a first-generation student, so navigating the college application process was difficult. High-school counselors and advisors were helpful assets when it came to exploring college and scholarship opportunities. Selecting a major wasn’t as difficult.
“I don’t remember a time when math or science was too difficult or boring for me – it always clicks in my head. When it came time to think about college, being an engineer was already hardwired into my brain,” said Venegas.
With the help of a relatable chemistry teacher and success in AP Chemistry, Venegas decided pursuing a degree in chemical engineering was the right course for college. Leveraging the same dedicated attitude he maintained in high school, he looks forward to experiencing college life, from enjoying the open spaces on campus and navigating dorm living, to getting to know his instructors and making a good impression on his peers.
Though his plans for his educational career are just beginning to take shape, Venegas has high hopes for his future at CSU.
“I hope Colorado State University is the place where I feel I belong,” he said.
Residents of the Caribbean are no foreigners to severe weather, with an average of one hurricane hitting the region each year, and most occurrences developing into a major hurricane. Jhordanne Jones, a Jamaican native, understands the impact of tropical cyclones all too well.
“In the Caribbean, storms are just a part of our livelihood. We experience them every summer, they cause damage over many years, and we don’t have that much research on them in the Caribbean, so I hope to be able to fill that gap,” she said.
Coming to CSU this fall, Jones will pursue her Ph.D. in the Department of Atmospheric Science under advisor and tropical cyclone researcher Michael Bell. With expertise in climatology, or the study of weather conditions over a period of time, Jones hopes to complement her education with Bell’s expertise in meteorology, which focuses on more short-term variations of weather dynamics. Some of Bell’s research requires data collection via aircraft, which Jones would jump at the chance to participate in.
“If I ever could get a flight on an aircraft reconnaissance mission, I’d be so grateful to go. I hope to have the opportunity to get that hands-on experience,” she said.
Jones comes to CSU as a Fulbright fellow and recipient of the Walter Scott, Jr. Fellowship. The award is one of 26 fellowships made possible by a $53.3 million gift from business icon and CSU alumnus Walter Scott, Jr.
“This award means a whole lot. It gives me the opportunity to be in Fort Collins and be as comfortable as possible so I can actually enjoy my study experience. It’s a huge help,” she said.
After completing her degree at CSU, Jones hopes to secure a postdoctoral position with the goal of bringing knowledge about tropical meteorology back to the Caribbean.
“I’d love to be an expert in tropical cyclones,” she said. “The Caribbean region has a lack of that expertise, and I’d love to be a resource others can come to for insight.”