John W. Jeffries Dean’s List Award honors high achievers

Published: Aug 1, 2016

Jeffries award winner Obi Leka holds award with two others

UMBC is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and we didn’t get this far without the dedication of some incredible people. People like Dean Emeritus John Jeffries, who joined the UMBC History Department in 1973, and spent the next 40 years helping his students and the university excel.

When Dean Jeffries retired as Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) in 2013, an anonymous donor established the John W. Jeffries Dean’s List Award in his honor. The fund—which recognizes Dean Jeffries for his dedication to UMBC students and his commitment to seeing them excel—provides critical support for high-achieving students who aren’t already receiving a specialty scholarship. If they’ve demonstrated their drive by reaching the Dean’s list for three consecutive semesters, they’re eligible for the award.

This spring, Dean Jeffries had the chance to meet with some of the students who had received the award and learn a bit about their UMBC journeys.

Sunita Mengers ’16, biological sciences, had just returned from Spain when she met with Dean Jeffries. “Receiving this award helped me fully immerse myself in the local culture and allowed me to adapt to a new environment,” she explains. Hoping to continue her studies at med school, Sunita said UMBC’s close-knit and supportive environment played a big role in helping her reach her goals.

“The whole [UMBC] community helps you succeed,” she adds.

That sense of community and support is a feeling common across campus, especially among the award recipients. “I received personalized classroom instruction from quality professors who truly care about the well-being of their students,” says Ayushi Aggarwal ‘16, biochemistry and molecular biology.

The students also felt the impact of the reward well beyond their initial acceptance. Thanks in part to this scholarship, Olsi Leka ’16, computer engineering, is achieving his career goals.

“I have accepted a position [at Texas Instruments in Dallas] as a product engineer, a position that will allow me to continue my learning process beyond the doors of UMBC,” he says.

For Marianne Kirchgessner ’16, social work, the Dean John Jeffries Award is allowing her to continue her education. “[Receiving this scholarship] was a blessing because it lessened the burden for me and my parents and freed up some money to pay for grad school,” she says.

Given Dean Jeffries’ long history of helping students, it seems fitting that the fund established in his honor should do the same, as it prepares these talented Retrievers to take everything they’ve learned at UMBC into their bright futures.

“I’m both delighted and honored by the award, which helps high-achieving Dean’s List students who do not hold UMBC specialty scholarships complete their undergraduate education,” said Dean Jeffries. “I’m especially honored to have my name associated with these remarkable young men and women.”

Katharine Scrivener

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