Staff Council Awards Ten Staff Scholarships

Award CheckThe Staff Council proudly announces the recipients of the spring 2015 staff scholarship. Awardees receive $250 to be used to further their education in academic or vocational programs. 

The spring recipients are Hayley Berk, Office of Budget and Finance; Rebecca Cedillo, Communications; Olivia Dao, Mathematical Sciences; Diana Kao, McDermott Scholars; Tara Lewis, School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication; Joseph Minich, Mathematical Sciences; Rebecca Newcomb, Naveen Jindal School of Management; Rena Piper, Office of the President; Chad Thomas, Student Media; and Andrea Turcatti, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Staff Council interviewed three of the recipients about their thoughts on the Staff Council Scholarship program. Here is what Hayley Berk, Rena Piper and Chad Thomas had to say.

Tell us a little about yourself and your career at UT Dallas.

Hayley: My background and Bachelor’s degree is actually in History and Secondary Education, but I’ve been working in higher education for about 4 years now, first at SMU and now at UTD. I’ve been here for 2 ½ years now and consider myself very lucky to have found somewhere that makes me feel appreciated and gives me the opportunity to grow professionally every day. I started working in Procurement Management with Pete Bond as an Administrative Assistant, and really enjoyed being part of his team. Over the last couple years, I transitioned within the Office of Budget and Finance to help start the Central Business Office, which has been a really exciting project to be a part of. Most recently, I’ve been able to take on the Training Specialist duties, and we’ve been working on creative ways to improve our employees’ internal training and professional development.

Rena: I have worked for UT Dallas for 8 ½ years and currently serve the university as an event planner in the Office of the President. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. My personal hobbies include baking and decorating cakes and exercising (those two are definitely counterproductive!).

Chad: I’ve been at UT Dallas for almost five years after transitioning from the newspaper industry where I covered local government and business. I have the pleasure of working with some of the brightest and most creative students on campus. The staff in Student Media get to talk shop and coach these students in radio, TV, newspaper and magazine. It’s a lot of fun, and fortunately the faculty, staff, and administration at UT Dallas have been incredibly supportive of the staff and students in our department.

What was your initial reaction upon learning you were awarded a Staff Council Scholarship?

Hayley: I was excited, of course! As a graduate student, anything that helps cover the cost of tuition is extremely helpful. We are lucky to have the tuition assistance program for employees, but I’m in the MBA Evening Cohort, which means I’m taking anywhere from 3 to 4 hours over what tuition assistance helps with each semester. I’m glad that the University cares about investing in their employees’ education!

Rena: Excitement! Children are expensive and therefore I am thoroughly grateful for any amount of money that will help to alleviate some of the costs associated with my going back to school.

Chad: The folks on the Staff Council take the selection process seriously, so I was grateful to be a recipient. The scholarship is such a great benefit available to staff.

What made you decide to continue your education?

Hayley: I’ve always been someone who enjoys going to school, though I won’t deny it’s been a little harder this time around! Since UTD offers such a great employee tuition benefit, I always planned on taking advantage of getting a graduate degree. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the business-side of University operations over the last few years, so I decided to go back for my MBA to expand my future career opportunities.

Rena: I feel education is beneficial to excelling in any career path someone may choose. By going back to school and obtaining my degree, I gain further professional development and I open doors to other possibilities.

Chad: I genuinely value the ability to make substantive, tangible change that improves people and organizations. I know that sounds cliché and idealistic, but it’s true. A doctoral degree opens up a host of opportunities in higher education to examine and shape policy, and to make transformative change that benefits the stakeholders at a university. That’s an exciting challenge and something I wanted to pursue by earning a Ph.D. in Public Affairs.

What are your long term goals when you finish your education at UTD?

Hayley: I’m anticipating graduating in the fall of 2016, and I’d like to continue gaining additional experience in organizational development and training as I finish up my MBA. Long-term, I’d like to grow into a position with a wider-scope that can provide management experience and the ability to work with a larger organization.

Rena: Other than enjoying the extra time and sleep (and sanity) that will immediately follow, I hope to continue to grow within my career here at the university.

Chad: I love teaching in informal settings as well as in the classroom, so I hope to continue that in future years while doing research in my field of study. Long term, it would be rewarding to serve in a role that provides ongoing opportunities to effect positive change at a growing institution much like UT Dallas.

How do you feel continuing your education helps you to benefit the University as an employee?

Hayley: I feel like my knowledge and skills have grown substantially over the past few years, and my MBA has really added another dimension to my professional development. Ideally, I’d like to reinvest my education back into the University by continuing to advance my career here at UTD. Working at UTD has been a really great experience – the culture has always been really welcoming, the area I work in is invested in making this a great place to work, and I feel like I’m really a part of what makes my division and university successful.

Rena: I feel there is a lot of professional development to be gained by obtaining a degree which would ultimately make me a better employee.   

Chad: We need to graduate more Ph.D.’s as part of our push for Tier One, so I guess I’m doing my part in that regard. But in all seriousness, being able to study at UT Dallas has allowed me to meet and regularly interact with our outstanding faculty and academic advisers—as well as other staff from various departments who also are pursuing their doctoral degrees in Public Affairs. It’s that interconnectivity that will help us maintain UT Dallas’ community feel even as we grow to 30,000 students.

The fall 2015 application deadline is September 15.  A link to the application can be found at:  All staff members who meet the following criteria may apply:

  • Attending community colleges, universities or accredited vocational schools
  • Minimum of six months of employment at UTD
  • Benefit Eligible (50% or more)
  • Overall GPA must be maintained as follows:
    • 2.5 GPA - Undergraduate
    • 3.0 GPA - Graduate
  • US citizen or permanent US resident
  • Complete official application by stated deadline


Last Modified: July 14, 2015