Paying for college is a constant challenge for many CSULB students, and that’s where Valerie Kelsey can help.
As the new coordinator of university scholarships in the Center for Scholarship Information, “One of the main changes that has happened with the Scholarship Office is that we are here to serve the entire university,” she said. “Although we’re housed in the Division of Student Services and I report to the Dean of Students, my responsibilities have been expanded to help all areas.”
Kelsey came to CSULB in July 2007 from UCLA and has embraced her new role of working with colleges and departments to support their scholarships and serving as a central repository of information and coordination. She is also responsible for the administration of nine non-academic scholarships. “That means that I collect all of the scholarship applications, make all the copies, contact the selection committee members and send out the applications to be reviewed. I basically do all of the administrative aspects of it, and then we award the scholarships,” she explained. She already was familiar with Cal State Long Beach since her husband is a civil engineering alumnus.
She also is working with Associate Vice President Michael Losquadro in University Relations and Development to have new scholarships come through her office, either for departments, colleges or campus-wide. “We recently had a donor who wanted her scholarship to be for single-parent families. This scholarship is open to any major, undergrad or grad, so it’s going to be housed here,” Kelsey explained.
Another key aspect of her job is publicizing scholarship opportunities to students and raising the profile of her office to make it easier for them to obtain information and applications. “The other thing that has changed is our location,” she noted. Formerly housed in the Beach Pride Center, “We now have our own office in the University Student Union (Room 238 on the second floor South Plaza, near Elektric Hair). One of my goals is to create more of a center where students can come and use the resources here,” she said.
“I’m a resource booster,” Kelsey continued. “Students are my first priority, so they can contact me by e-mail, by phone, or walk in. I can show them how to go on the Web and search for scholarships. If we can’t find anything, I can do a little outside searching for them. If they have any specific questions about scholarships, I can help them. I also can read over their scholarship applications to make sure everything is OK before they turn it in. One of the key reasons why students don’t apply for scholarships is that they feel their writing is not up to par, so I sit down with them and go over their application and their personal statement. A lot of my students are concerned about the application process, so I’m a person who can say, ‘This looks great; you’re good to go.’”
She also is developing a new Web site. “We have a database with hundreds of scholarships that students can search through, including on-campus and off-campus ones for which they may be eligible. At the beginning of the year, I contact all of the departments on campus and ask them to look at the scholarship information that they’ve published with us previously to make sure everything is still correct. We have probably about 90 percent of the campus scholarships on our Web site so that students don’t have to go to all of the different offices,” and can search from home at their convenience. She receives numerous e-mail requests from students for information, to which she tries to respond within 24 hours.
She has been active at many campus events promoting the Center’s services. She even presents information about her office to new students at SOAR events. “For the majority of the on-campus scholarships, students have to establish a GPA at Cal State Long Beach. They usually can apply by their second semester, but I let them know when I’m at the SOAR fairs over the summer that ‘This is where you can look, but just realize that you have to establish yourself here first before you can apply.’” She said many departmental scholarships require applicants to be juniors and seniors who have established themselves in the major before they’re supported.
Moreover, a new $1 million scholarship endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation for reentry students ages 25 to 50 may be on the horizon for CSULB, Kelsey said. “We’ve received that grant for the last two years and they’ve asked us to apply for the $1 million endowment,” which would offer 25 $2,000 scholarships each year for students who have at least a five-year gap in their education. “Usually, they wait three years before they offer the endowment, and they offered it to us after two years. That’s a huge show of confidence in us.” The Osher Foundation also provides major funding for CSULB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, formerly Senior University.
Textbook Scholarship Drive Under Way
The clear plastic containers with little yellow piggy banks next to cash registers in every 49er Shops location on campus are serving a valuable purpose—to raise funds for the 49er Textbook Scholarship Endowment.
It can be difficult enough for some CSULB students to pay for campus fees, but textbooks can add even a greater financial burden, said Valerie Kelsey, coordinator of university scholarships in the Center for Scholarship Information.
“The 49er Textbook Scholarship was an idea started a couple of years ago between the center, 49er Shops, Inc. and the Division of Student Services,” after seeing how some students struggled with school expenses, Kelsey said. “They would spend the first three or four weeks of the semester trying to figure out how to pay for their textbooks instead of paying attention in their classes. We thought this would be a good way for students to have access to textbooks and help them succeed more in their studies.”
The first year goal was to raise $49,000 by the beginning of the fall 2008 semester. “Those little piggy banks have done quite well. We’ve raised about $2,000 alone just from those piggy banks," she said. “We also met with 49er Shops vendors and challenged them to support this program and a number of these vendors have made contributions to the 49er Textbook Scholarship program. 49er Shops vendors have provided the majority of the Textbook Scholarship endowment up to this point. The vendors have really supported us.”
The drive exceeded its first year goal by raising $52,000.“Now we’re working on our second-year goal of raising $149,000 by the end of fall 2009,” she said. “With a $149,000 endowment, we’ll earn about $6,700 in expendable scholarship funds and that will enable us to give 30 or more $200 textbook scholarships each year. Part of the scholarship criteria is that students can only receive one per year which will open it up to as many students as possible. We have had such strong support for the Textbook Scholarship program that we are able to offer 10 $200 textbook scholarships for the fall 2008 semester.” Students can still apply for the fall scholarships until April 18.
The next phase of fundraising begins next month, Kelsey said. On Monday, May 5, CSULB community members will be able to participate by contributing $1 or more at any 49er Shop’s location. “The textbook placard fundraiser is similar to the Peach Tree Replacement placard fundraiser that took place on campus three years ago which helped raise over $3,000 towards replanting peach trees on campus. Customers making a contribution of $1 or more may choose to put their name on a 49er Textbook Scholarship placard showing their support. Placards will be on display through finals week. We’re hoping to get everyone excited about these scholarships.” Other larger donations also are welcome. This fundraiser will continue through Saturday, May 24.
For more information about the 49er Textbook Scholarship Endowment Program, contact Valerie Kelsey at 562/985-2549.