Women’s Council Helps Generations of Women Fulfill Their Dreams at UMKC

More than $98,000 awarded to 69 recipients to support post-graduate work

The UMKC Women’s Council held its annual reception to celebrate this year’s Graduate Assistance Fund awardees.

Nearly 70 women received funds to support their graduate studies at UMKC. The Women’s Council celebrated 53 years of supporting women in different fields, adding four new awards.

Alumna Jacqueline Thompson (D.M.A. ’84), who was a GAF recipient in 1981, gave remarks at this year’s reception.

“I thought I was going to have to drop out because I was running out of money,” she said. “The GAF fund saved me. It helped me complete my degree and contributed to who I am today.”

The life-changing award inspired Thompson to commit to give back to the Graduate Assistance Fund every year. Years later, when she revisited UMKC, students who received her help recognized her. Meeting these students made her realize how much the impact of her gift, regardless of size, made to them.

“I told myself that I didn’t have to make a lot of waves, but I could be a ripple. If I made enough little ripples, I could make a difference,” Thompson added.

To continue making a difference, Thompson also signed an intent form to leave a planned gift to the Women’s Council Graduate Assistance Fund.

Esther Han is a Conservatory student who is working toward her Master of Music degree in piano performance and pedagogy. She is one of the few GAF recipients who received an additional merit award.

“There are not that many fund opportunities for musicians, so being selected is a huge deal,” Han said. “It is very special because I am going to Germany to perform with my husband. I wouldn’t be able to go without GAF because of the graduate tuition cost.”

Amen Teshome is a second year Ph.D. student studying cell biology and biophysics. She is working on identifying the impact of certain proteins related to glaucoma. Teshome is a first-time GAF recipient and was also a recipient of an additional merit award.

“It is super meaningful and rewarding, knowing that my research is making a difference and being validated,” Teshome said. “I feel super motivated to be here, and it’s really helping me push through during research. Because of the GAF, I get to attend the annual meeting for the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Seattle. I would not be able to afford it on my own.”

This year, the Women’s Council debuted four new named awards for the Graduate Assistance Fund. They were donated by UMKC Provost Jenny Lundgren, Ph.D.; UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D. and his wife, Sue Agrawal, who is on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Council; UMKC Foundation President Amanda Davis and former students and associates of Bibie Chronwall, M.Ed., Ph.D.

The fund awards were named after people the donors held close to heart and will help fulfill future generations of women to reach their educational goals and establish careers that will benefit others.

“I’ve been on the selection committee for four years now and have seen the hard work of our students, along with how the GAF impacts them,” Sue Agrawal said. “The best part is the principle of the fund won’t be spent, so it will keep growing over time and help more students in the future.”