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Students Win Scholarship Essay Contest

Two graduate students at Emporia State University have additional scholarship dollars after sharing how the university has changed their lives.

Hazlett Henderson of Lawrence, graduate student in the School of Library and Information Management, received $1,000 for her first-place essay. Emily Boydston of Joplin, Missouri, graduate student in English, received $863 for second place.

The two were among 55 students who competed in the annual $1,863 scholarship essay contest organized for ESU’s Founders’ Day celebrations in February. The contest is open to all undergraduate and graduate students who are not graduating in spring 2021. The theme for the essays ties to the university’s vision of “changing lives for the common good.”

Both were recognized during the 2021 virtual event on Feb. 19.

Henderson shared her journey with Emporia State, which began in 2001 when her mother, facing a job loss, returned to school for a library science degree. In 2018, Henderson found herself teaching in a classroom in Egypt. She found herself pondering her future.

“Think of Emporia, even, though I had only been once, and of Kansas. Consider rigidity in teaching and ambiguity in learning, weigh home against the world,” she wrote. “Then I return to Kansas. I enroll at Emporia.”

She continues to reflect on her journey at Emporia State and concludes by discussing the separate yet similar journeys she and her mother both took.

“But I think mostly of my mother, and my mirroring her steps of nearly twenty years ago. Thanks to Emporia, we were both able to pursue new directions — to change our lives. And indeed, through public service, a shared love of equitable access to information, and a family commitment to community, we changed our lives for the common good.”

Henderson’s full essay is available online:

Boydston in her essay shared how the death of her husband led her to a different life path. To increase the household income as she cared for her husband when he was disabled, Boydston worked to earn a master’s degree in business. After her husband’s death, however, with money less of an issue, she realized she wasn’t interested in working in the business world. Instead, she chose to pursue an online master’s degree in English from Emporia State.

The program was a perfect fit: “The subject content was exciting. Online discussions were stimulating. The textbooks were very interesting. And the faculty – so kind, so knowledgeable, so friendly, so supportive. The experience was exciting, but also challenging. And at times, my grief interfered with my ability to focus, be motivated, stay on deadline. Again, the faculty were kind and supportive.”

Then came the challenges of 2020 including political unrest and COVID, which forced Boydston to work from home. She later was exposed and forced to quarantine, which increased her feelings of isolation that combined with grief, sadness and lack of motivation.

During that time, she said, “the discussion boards in my classes were an outlet for me to reach out and discuss with others, who did not know I was recently widowed, the topics we were studying, a subject other than coping with grief. And then, the additional comments made by the instructors in the discussion boards added a richness and depth to my learning.”

She concluded: “Attending ESU has been life changing for me at a time that I needed it most, a time when I needed to look forward, in a way that is hopeful, in a way that is improving my life and my mind and my outlook.”

Boydston’s full essay is online at:

The first awards in the $1863 essay scholarship contest were made at Founders’ Day in February 2013. Funding came from a gift from the ESU President’s Community Advisory Board, which present a $1,863 unrestricted gift to honor ESU’s founding in 1863.

Students submit their essays throughout the month of January, and they are blind judged by a group of Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professors that represents disciplines across the university.