Scholarship Comes in the Nick of Time

Hannah HegwerIowa State biology student Hannah Hegwer faced a moment when her dream of a college degree seemed to be slipping from her grasp. She decided to reach out for help. "I am a very independent person and do not like bothering people with my problems," she said.

Hegwer sent an email to WiSE, the Women in Science and Engineering program at Iowa State, where she connects with others pursuing STEM degrees. She was struggling to cover tuition for her senior year and was desperate. Given her family's financial difficulties, she knew she needed an alternative source of support.

Allie Parrott, assistant director of WiSE, responded and told Hegwer she would search for matching scholarships for her. Hegwer was already working as many hours as she could manage. Balancing classes and the undergraduate research she loves can be exhausting. She felt alone while toiling to pay for tuition, rent and food.

Hegwer needed a break, and she was about to get one.

"I was sitting in Hach Hall when I got a phone call," she said. Parrott was on the line with good news. Information about a new scholarship had arrived on her desk that very same day. It fit Hegwer perfectly. "I started crying because I was to the point of looking at dropping out of school" she said, "so it felt like it was meant to be."

With the Mary Alice Epperly Scholarship administered through WiSE, Hegwer was able to get back on track. She graduated this spring after just three years, two at Iowa State. It's a proud accomplishment for this community college transfer and first-generation college student.

Hegwer said presenting her research on a strain of disease-causing bacteria at a national conference was among the most thrilling moments of her college career. Another was meeting her scholarship donor, Mary Alice Epperly, a new role model who shares Hegwer's love of microscopic life.

"It was very emotional," said Hegwer of the meeting. "I cried because I was so grateful to her. She had no clue how much she meant to me."