The Gift of Scholarship


By Jade Griffin, ERC ’03 and Erika Johnson, Muir ’11

Scholarship Donors Help Students Pursue Their Dreams

Those who give back by investing in the present generation are essentially reinvigorating that deep and inspiring bond of trust between generations. And as the following profiles show, that investment is a worthy one.

This is the second in our continuing series on the grateful students who benefit from scholarships, the next generation of UC San Diego alumni.

Vadim Gospodarev, Revelle ’13

Vadim Gospodarev has a passion for helping others through medicine. While attending community college, he volunteered at local hospitals and even became a certified nursing assistant so that he could help those suffering from ailments such as dementia and stroke.

Gospodarev, pictured above with his grandfather and grandmother, is currently studying human biology at UC San Diego and has his sights firmly set on medical school. His ultimate goal is to make a difference as a physician-scientist, through medical discoveries.

At UCSD, Gospodarev has volunteered at the VA Medical Center ’s spinal cord injury department. He is also involved with the University’s Health and Medical Professions Program, a peer mentor organization for students interested in careers in medicine.

According to Gospodarev, his dream of attending UCSD would have been impossible without scholarship support. A recipient of the Philip R. and Pamela Fadem Palisoul ’72 Family Scholarship, Gospodarev is able to focus on his studies, rather than worrying about his living and education costs. He can also dedicate time to caring for others—including his grandfather who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I cannot find the right words to express how thankful I am,” says Gospodarev. “It has enabled me to continue on my path of one day becoming an outstanding medical scientist.”

Brittaney Khong, Warren ’13

Brittaney Khong considers herself fortunate to be a UC San Diego senior. Her parents are Vietnamese refugees who have long battled poverty and the scars left from their harrowing wartime experiences. Yet, despite their circumstances, they always encouraged their children to pursue higher education.

Khong is passionate about making the most of her college experience. The double major in biology and international studies has conducted undergraduate research and served in student government. She has also played a key leadership role in the UCSD Student Foundation, which encourages students to support their peers with gifts to undergraduate scholarships. 

“I got involved because I believe the best way to show my gratitude is to give back to someone else,” says Khong, who recently received the Tom Tucker Student Leaders Scholarship.

The scholarship was established by David Marchick, ’88, and his wife Pam Kurland, to honor Tucker’s 20 years of service as assistant vice chancellor of Student Affairs.  The scholarship, which will help offset Khong’s living expenses during her senior year, couldn’t have come at a better time—just as she faced financial and family issues, as well as a surgery to remove a tumor from her knee.

“I’m incredibly grateful,” Khong says. “This means even more to me, coming from alumni. … Their desire to pass it on to others just means so much.”

Pamela Nwakanma, Sixth ’14

A lover of languages and culture, Pamela Nwakanma seeks to immerse herself in as many different experiences as possible. Not wasting any time, Nwakanma began college at 16, and is now a junior at UC San Diego majoring in International Studies/Economics and Linguistics.
Currently, Nwakanma is fulfilling her dream of studying abroad, and is living with a host family in Grenoble, France, while taking courses in French culture and political life with foreign students from around the globe.

Nwakanma also volunteers for a program called American Corner at Grenoble’s International House, where she serves as a resource for local residents who would like to learn about American culture and the best ways to travel or study in the U.S.

She plans to use her education to launch a career at a multi-national corporation or in the U.S. Foreign Service. Ultimately, she hopes to become an international ambassador or teach others as a professor.

Nwakanma has been the recipient of several scholarship awards at UCSD, which have contributed to both her tuition costs and the fees to study abroad. “Without scholarship awards and grants,” noted Nwakanma, “I would not have been able to achieve what I have at this point in my education.”

Arshya Sharifian, Muir ’14

Arshya Sharifian learned the importance of political participation at a young age. Raised by his mother who came to Los Angeles from Iran, Shafarian often accompanied his uncle to local protests when he was young.

Now as a student at UC San Diego, Sharifian is furthering his political journey. While double majoring in political science and philosophy, Sharifian helped establish a new campus organization called the Student Organized Voter Access Committee (SOVAC), which engages students in the democratic process and emphasizes the importance of political participation.

“We saw that only 6 percent of UC San Diego students are registered to vote,” says Sharifian. “We started the organization to help engage students and provide them with the tools they need to seek change in their community.”

The group has conducted numerous campaigns to encourage students to become more politically involved. Sharifian has made SOVAC a success, but he would not have had the time to do so without support from the Alumni Leadership Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to deserving students.

“It’s impossible for me to do what I’m doing right now and take on a part-time job at the same time,” he says. “I can’t even begin to explain my sincere appreciation for the scholarship.”

Jade Griffin, ERC ’03, is a writer and Erika Johnson, Muir ’11, is an intern in University Communications and Public Affairs at UC San Diego.