Debt-Free, Experience-Rich, First Possibility Scholars Graduate

Researching how microbes can naturally clean up an oil spill, identifying effective ways to track mammal populations and developing an interactive online educational system are just some of the ways the first recipients of SUNY Oswego’s Possibility Scholarship are making a difference in the world.

In May, the first three students who received a Possibility Scholarship when they enrolled in Oswego four years ago graduated. They are: Nicole VanDeuson ’14, a zoology major from Syracuse; KC VerHage ’14, a biology and psychology major from Syracuse; and Sean Willson ’14, a computer science major from Syracuse.

An initiative established by President Deborah F. Stanley in 2009, the competitive scholarship seeks to attract New York State students who otherwise would not be able to afford pursuing degrees in science and technology fields. A Possibility Scholarship provides support for tuition, room and board, and mandatory fees as well as two fully paid summer research experiences, including an international service learning project at a major research institution through Oswego’s Global Laboratory.

VerHage traveled to northeast India to characterize the diversity of microbes in soil contaminated by petroleum and how that microbial ecosystem adapts using DNA testing. “From the experience, I gained so many new techniques to add to my repertoire, new cultural experiences and some new friends,” VerHage says.

VanDeuson spent six weeks in summer 2012 in the endangered ecosystem of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil’s Sooretama Biological Reserve recording the populations of such mammals as tapirs, capuchin monkeys, white-faced tamarins, jaguars and ocelots. In addition to this global experience, she says the scholarship enabled her to be the first person in her family to graduate college.

Willson’s Possibility Scholarship took him to the National Central University of Taiwan. There, he worked with a team of researchers to create a website for teachers and students to interact. Last summer, Willson stayed in Oswego working on a robotics project with Oswego Professor Rachid Manseur.

“Being able to obtain higher education without accruing thousands of dollars of debt is something I never thought would have been possible,” Willson says. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”

—Margaret Spillett

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