Teaching & Learning

A Decade Deferred Leads to Degrees Completed Thanks to Scholarships

The Ivory Foundation Completion Scholarship helped Emily Burrett '23, Nebojsa Knezevik ’23, and Dylan Atkin ’23 complete USU bachelor’s in integrated studies.

Emily Burrett ’23 had always dreamed of earning her college degree and knew how important it was, but life had taken her on unexpected detours. Her mother, who had earned a degree later in life, instilled in Emily the profound value of higher education. However, after several years at Utah State University, Emily found her educational pursuits becoming more difficult due to financial constraints.

“It was disheartening,” Emily said, reminiscing on her time on campus. “I couldn’t seem to make anything work, so I moved on with my life without a degree.”

A decade later, everything changed for Emily. Married with two children, she received an unexpected call from advisers at USU’s Integrated Studies bachelor’s program. They informed her that she was only 11 credit hours away from graduation and eligible for a scholarship from the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation, covering her final credits.

Determined to fulfill her academic aspirations, Emily seized the opportunity to return to her studies. The Integrated Studies program offered the flexibility she needed to tailor her education and complete her degree. Leveraging her existing credit hours and the option for both on-campus and online courses, Emily, who lives in Utah County, successfully balanced her studies with her myriad life commitments.

Shortly after earning her degree, Emily secured a higher-paying job, a testament to the power of her education. Thinking about her experience, she expressed gratitude for the life-changing impact of graduating from USU.

“I am so much more confident now because I achieved something important to me,” Emily said. “Being an example to my children, showing them the value of earning a degree and its role in fostering success, has been incredibly fulfilling.”

For fellow recent graduate Nebojsa Knezevik ’23, the Integrated Studies program at USU wasn’t merely about obtaining a degree — it represented personal growth and transformation.

“Graduating from USU provided me with a sense of accomplishment and closed a long-open chapter of my life,” Nebojsa said.

Originally from Macdeonia, Nebojsa embarked on his studies at USU in 2012 with aspirations of earning a degree in economics. However, life’s demands, including his work in the oil and gas industry and the responsibility of raising a family, caused his educational ambitions to be put on hold. Despite the passing years, Nebojsa found himself wanting to complete what he had started.

The Ivory Foundation Completion Scholarship and the invaluable support of advisers in the Integrated Studies program served as catalysts for Nebojsa’s return to academia. Living in the Denver area with his wife and three children, he felt empowered to rekindle his educational journey.

“The moment I resumed my studies, I was reminded of the profound effect that education has had on my life,” Nebojsa said. “It’s not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about fostering critical thinking, independent decision-making, and a thirst for continuous learning.”

Buoyed by his achievements at USU, Nebojsa enrolled in a master’s program in organizational leadership and supply chain management at the University of Denver.

“The momentum I gained from my undergraduate studies propelled me forward, making the path to further education seem less daunting,” Nebojsa said.

Nebojsa’s story is a testament to the impact of education — an endeavor marked by perseverance, growth and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. As he continues to forge ahead on his educational path, Nebojsa remains steadfast in his commitment to personal and professional development, embracing the opportunities that lie ahead with optimism and determination.

Dylan Atkin ’23, another recent graduate from USU’s Integrated Studies program, resonates deeply with the sentiment. Learning that he was just two classes away from earning his degree, he was thrilled to embark on the final leg of his educational journey.

After originally departing from USU more than 10 years ago, Dylan found himself in a job that left him feeling stagnant. However, when the Integrated Studies program extended an offer of the Ivory Foundation Completion Scholarship, Dylan knew his life was about to undergo a significant change.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree from USU, Dylan transitioned into a new role as a paraeducator at a school in Ogden, Utah — a position perfectly aligned with his passion for education and his unwavering commitment to helping children thrive. Beginning in August 2023, Dylan eagerly embraced his new responsibilities, grateful for the many opportunities his degree had unlocked.

Reflecting on his experience, Dylan emphasized the indispensable role that scholarships played in his attainment of success. Without the crucial financial assistance they provided, the dream of college would have remained beyond his grasp.

Encouraging others to follow in his footsteps, Dylan highlighted how obtaining a college degree has transformed his purpose.

“It changes people’s lives,” Dylan said. “Thanks to USU, I have found fulfillment in a career I love and I am making a tangible difference in the lives of children.”

With his degree in hand, Dylan is ready to continue his personal and professional growth, his spirit excited by the possibilities that lie ahead.

The Ivory Foundation Completion Scholarship is available to former USU bachelor’s students who are returning to school after a break of at least two years and within 40 credits of completing their degree. For more information on the scholarship, visit https://www.usu.edu/collaborative/ivory_scholarship.

Earning a degree from USU shapes a student’s future by opening a world of promise and potential. Create Your Aggie Impact by supporting student-focused scholarships and programs to help them unlock their potential and inspire excellence.

CONTACT

Maren Aller
Senior Writer
Advancement
(435) 797-1355
maren.aller@usu.edu


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