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Spirit is published three times per year by the Texas A&M Foundation, which manages major gifts and endowments for the benefit of academic programs, scholarships and student activities at Texas A&M University.

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Feature Stories

Student Impact

Former Students Come Full Circle

As the first in their families to attend college, Sydney Van Wyk ’13 and Ana Davila ’15 couldn’t learn from their parents’ higher education experiences. During their freshman year, these Aggies vividly recall being confused about certain aspects of college life—such as on-campus housing and credit hours—that many of their classmates took for granted. Yet, both women persevered to earn bachelor’s degrees in agriculture leadership and communication/Spanish, respectively, thanks to endowed Regents’ Scholarships funded by the Hygeia Foundation. Both credit their educational achievement to guidance provided by the Regents’ Scholarship Program staff and academic success programs. In fact, they were so inspired by the program that they are now its full-time coordinators, which gives them a chance to mentor, engage, and connect with Regents’ Scholars who are facing many of the same experiences they so recently lived.

Although the pair was not specifically recruited to fill their current positions, both women were well-prepared for their new roles by being a Regents’ Scholar. “The intentional programming and mentoring of the Regents’ Scholars program helped develop these two women into the type of people that the Scholarships & Financial Aid needed to run the programs,” said former Regents’ Scholar Coordinator Suzanne Sealey ’06. “Whether they stay in the positions for one year or 20 years, we can attest that both Sydney and Ana are there because of the relationships they developed and their dedication and selfless service, which we always encouraged in our student leaders.”

Former Regents’ Scholars Sydney Van Wyk ’13 (left) and Ana Davila ’15 (right) now direct the program.

Giving Back While Moving Forward

In their new roles, the South Texas natives continually mine their own experiences as first-generation students to support Regents’ Scholars. “It definitely gives us an advantage,” said Van Wyk, who serves as program coordinator. “As time goes by, students have started seeing me as this older person, but once I start talking about my college experiences and tell them when I graduated, they realize, ‘Hey, it wasn’t that long ago that she was in these same shoes.’ ”

Van Wyk and Davila are already identifying ways to improve services offered to scholarship recipients. For example, they plan to coordinate an idea swap so that leaders of various Regents’ Scholar academic success programs can share best practices. Such an exchange will help these programs, which are based in different Texas A&M colleges, become more innovative in providing experiences to Regents’ Scholars.

“We want to make sure that all Regents’ Scholars network with each other across colleges and departments, despite the differences that exist between majors and the success programs that coincide with those majors,” Van Wyk said. “This will ensure that all Regents’ Scholars collaborate with their peers during their undergraduate experience so they will have a better understanding of and appreciation for the industries outside of their own which, in turn, can lead to collaborative, original work!”