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Spring 2020
Meet our new scholars!

We are excited to introduce to you our incoming Illinois Stamps scholars for Fall 2020!

Nina Mitchell
Hometown: Dekalb, Illinois
Major: Business Management
Interests: Business Honors, Pre-Law Honors Society, reading, and listening to pop and classic R&B music


Aneesa Goyal
Hometown: Bloomingdale, Illinois
Major: Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Interests: basketball, soccer, photography, and medicine


Vasu Chalasani
Hometown: Normal, Illinois
Major: Computer Science
Interests: sketching, video editing, and dancing


Max Ando
Hometown: Urbana, Illinois
Major: Jazz Studies
Interests: marching band, running, history, and C-U Community Fab Lab


Leela Ruffin
Hometown: Country Club Hills, Illinois
Major: Social Work
Interests: fashion, film, video editing, and volunteering


Matthew Splitstone
Hometown: Elmhurst, Illinois
Major: Finance
Interests: Business Honors, studying abroad, reading, and traveling

How did he do that?!

It was a “magical” start to the spring semester as Scholar Support Programs hosted The Magic of Giancarlo Bernini! The talented magician and fellow Stamps alumnus from the University of Texas at Austin, mesmerized Stamps Scholars at the Lincoln Hall Theater with tricks that included encasing a student’s I-Card in a block of ice; performing a trick using a member of the audience and her friend, via FaceTime; and even reading a scholar’s mind. 

The next morning, Stamps scholars were invited to a breakfast with Giancarlo, where he shared more about his entrepreneurial journey and offered tips and strategies for using their talents to reach their dreams and goals. Diana Anghel (Journalism, 2023) commented, “We got to hear the story of a fellow Stamps Scholar who took a rare route, and I think all of us walked out with excitement and hope for our own futures.”

Lincoln Rogers (Advertising, 2022) also shared his experience and discussed the importance of highlighting a scholar who pursued what he loved to do, even if unconventional. “A lot of Stamps presentations focus on the bigger majors and career paths like STEM,” said Lincoln. “But it was really great to see a Stamps scholar pursuing his passions outside of that area."

Scholar spotlight: "Best & Brightest"

The culmination of years of hard work resulted in Stamps Scholar Robert Mitchell (Finance, 2020) being named as Poets & Quants Class of 2020 “Best & Brightest.” His work includes multiple internships; awards and scholarships; as well as various leadership roles. This past summer, he secured his dream internship at the Chicago-based private equity firm, GTCR, and will be working there full-time as a private equity analyst after graduation in May. He is also a member of the competitive professional business fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu. Robert attributes the Stamps program to helping him succeed and be the best student he can be. “Being a Stamps scholar helped me to differentiate myself early on in school,” said Robert. “It helped me get into competitive organizations, like my business fraternity that I got into my first semester, and the mentorship aspect from the Stamps family really helped me.”

Robert shares that his favorite memory from the Stamps program is traveling to Atlanta, Georgia for the Stamps National Convention in spring 2017. “It was my favorite to be able to see all the Stamps scholars come together nationally,” said Robert. “I was making connections with people all across the country, and it’s cool because everyone has that similar background being in the Stamps scholarship.”

Looking ahead, Robert sees himself at Harvard Business School earning his advanced degree. “My plan is to be an analyst for a year, and then be promoted to an associate, and the [GTCR] program is a 3-year program. If GTCR wants me back as Vice President, then they would pay for my business school.”

Currently, Robert is preparing to move to Chicago and preparing for the GMAT, while spending time with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic. He shares that, while he would have loved to be with friends on campus while finishing up his senior year, he is grateful for his family and the Stamps family. “A big thank you to the donors. They have exponentially helped my college experience and thank you to the Stamps students and their support system.”

Alumni spotlight: "Learning in real-time"

Stamps alumnus, Anuj Chokshi (Individual Plans of Study, 2017), is now a medical student at Northwestern University, wrapping up his third year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With an understanding of what healthcare workers are going through, he and a fellow group of students wanted to help in any way they could. “The idea was to do things that we could do because we’re not frontline workers yet,” said Anuj. “But we still have an understanding and knowledge of this kind of work.” Anuj started running blood banks and raising awareness for blood drives by creating “A Guide to Donating Blood: #COVIDBloodcrisis.” The document contains information on where to donate blood, FAQs, and more information on the pandemic. He is also in a COVID-19 elective class, learning from infectious diseases attending[s] [physicians]. “We’re learning in real-time,” said Anuj. “And at the end of the day, this has solidified, even more, my desire to go into medicine, and I’m happy I did it.”

While scholars are going through the pandemic and facing additional challenges, Anuj wants them to recognize the importance of self-care: “Even in times of stress, you still need to take care of yourself first, because, without yourself, you don’t really have much."

During his three years in medical school, Anuj has served as a coordinator for Northwestern’s pediatrics and cardiology free health clinics and plans to do a cardiology fellowship. He advises current Stamps scholars to step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. Anuj shares, “I don’t know where to start sometimes; it can be daunting but once you make that first step, that’s the hardest step to make.” 

Braving the cold

As they have each February for several years, Stamps scholars participated in One Winter Night (OWN), a fundraising event that raises awareness about homelessness. Sponsored by C-U at Home, participants spend at least 12 hours outside in a cardboard box along the sidewalks of downtown Champaign, experiencing the challenges the homeless community faces, particularly during the winter months. “One Winter Night is transformative — it changes the way you think and feel about homelessness,” said Stamps Service Chair, Meral Aycicek (Global Studies, 2020). “I didn't truly understand the concept of homelessness until OWN my freshman year, when I found myself freezing in a cardboard box at 3 am, surrounded by my equally cold Stamps cohort.”

Stamps scholars braved the frigid weather and connected with their community to create positive change. Meral shares there were hundreds of participants this year and the event raised more than $400,000 to help the homeless community.

Memes, memories, and momentos: Stamps senior send-off

Each year, we honor our seniors for all their hard work and successes through a senior send-off celebration. Following social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our celebration looked a little bit different this year. All of the Stamps scholars and program directors, Sarah Watson and Kristine McCoskey, celebrated our seniors with a meme competition, senior wills, and parting thoughts as we round out another academic year. Graduating scholars shared their plans for their next moves and reflected on everything the Stamps scholarship and the Stamps community has meant to them.

What's next for our Spring 2020 grads?
Left to right: Kayla Guo, Jacob Ebens, Jacey Schick, Christian Williams 

Kayla Guo (Accountancy)
Working for ING Financial Services LLC in New York City, as a Wholesale Banking Analyst within their International Talent Program.

Jacob Ebens (SCM & Marketing)
Working for Shell in their supply chain at Houston, Texas.

Jacey Schick (Agricultural and Consumer Economics)
Working for Corn Refiners Association as an Environmental Policy Intern in Washington, D.C.

Christian Williams (Mechanical Engineering)
Pursuing a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at UIUC.

Left to right: Meral Aycicek, Robert Mitchell, Eugene Yoon 

Meral Aycicek (Global Studies)
Taking a gap year before applying to graduate schools and hopes to do something service-oriented after summer break. 

Robert Mitchell (Finance)
Working as a private equity analyst at GTCR in Chicago, Illinois.

Eugene Yoon (Chemical Engineering)
Currently exploring job options and landing multiple interviews.

Join us online

Did you know that Illinois Stamps Scholars is online and on social media? Follow us on Instagram @illinoisstamps.  You can also join our LinkedIn group to stay in touch with both current students and alumni.  Be sure to stop by our website for the latest news and updates.


The Stamps Scholars Newsletter is distributed once per term.  If you have questions, or if you'd like to be featured in a future issue, please send us an email.