While Western Illinois University-QC has given out the Michaela Romano Scholarship since 2009, it was renamed seven years ago in remembrance of Michaela Rae Romano (1988-2014), daughter of WIU emeritus professors of biology Michael and Susan Romano.

A cum laude graduate of Knox College, with a major in anthropology-sociology, and a minor in gender and women’s studies, Michaela was an exemplary student of the liberal arts and sciences, according to a Friday WIU release.

At Knox, she received the Academic Achievers Scholarship and Howell Atwood Award, and was an active member of Students against Sexism in Society and the Chinese Club. Michaela subsequently completed a Chinese Language Certificate at Beloit College, and taught English in China.

All three of this year’s winners have GPAs of 3.5 or better, and all are completing a College of Arts and Sciences degree at WIU-QC in the coming fall or subsequent spring semesters. They were nominated by individual faculty members and selected by an interdisciplinary committee after their submission of 500-word essays about their WIU-QC educational experiences.

This year’s winners (they each receive a $500 award), with excerpts from their personal essays, include:

  • Samantha Biermann of Moline is a senior liberal arts and sciences major. In her essay, she expressed special appreciation for her professors’ efforts to enable professional development outside the classroom. In particular, Biermann lauded the professorial commitments of Instructor Jeffrey Sim (Psychology) and Assistant Professor Tammy Werner (Sociology and LAS).

“After every class, Dr. Werner spends her valuable time listening to me speak about the internships I have applied for and offers me advice,” Biermann noted. “In addition, she reaches out to the on-site supervisors I have accepted internships with to ensure that I am not ‘just filing papers,’ and aids with the internship process when needed. Because of Dr. Werner’s advice and assistance, I now have two internships lined up for the future, and I have a greater chance of finding a job when I graduate.”

  • Nathan Konvicka of Geneseo is a senior psychology major. Drawing on an extended metaphor about the value of “tension,” Konvicka explained how beauty emerging from piano strings, physical muscles and intellectual growth all depends upon being stretched without being broken.

The same is true of how an ideal student experience is characterized by many diverse investments that also serve to produce a similar sense of tension.

“I have been balancing schoolwork, work, serving at my church, and spending time with my friends, family, and significant others, all the while doing my best to stay sustainable in the output of my body and soul,” he said. “It has been a lot. I am tired, but I am not spent, and I am not done. WIU-QC has been the framework for the past few years across which I have grown the muscles I will need to complete the work of my life with excellence.”

  • Sarah Wright of Davenport is a senior liberal arts and sciences major. Wright described in her essay how unprepared she once felt for college.

“I didn’t grow up feeling like I could succeed in college,” she explained – and yet a combination of therapy and increased risk-taking has shown how much she actually could achieve, both as a student and as an officer for the InterDisciplinary English and the Arts Society (IDEAS).

“It wasn’t until I started at Western that I began to develop the confidence I needed to cultivate personal growth,” Wright said. “Western is filled with professors who genuinely care about their students’ growth, and their ability to apply their lessons to the world beyond college doors. I have found them eager and passionate about the things they teach. It’s evident that the lessons matter to them and it gives a level of authenticity to the curriculum that encourages students to listen closer.”