June S. Anderson Foundation scholarships fund 4 no...

June S. Anderson Foundation scholarships fund 4 nontraditional students’ full tuitions for a year

Earning a degree just got a little easier for four nontraditional Middle Tennessee State University students who recently were named recipients of the 2023 June S. Anderson Scholarship.

Funded through the June S. Anderson Foundation at MTSU, the scholarship recipients are Khadijah Alnassari of Nashville; Diem Nguyen of Murfreesboro; Stephanie Velazquez-Hernandez of Cleveland, Tennessee; and Lucy Young of Antioch, Tennessee.

Winners of MTSU’s 2023 June S. Anderson Scholarships honored at a luncheon May 9, 2023, at Through the Grapevine restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are, from left, speech pathology/audiology major Lucy Young; horse science major Stephanie Velasquez-Hernandez; and biology/sociology major Khadijah Alnassari. Fellow student Diem Nguyen also received the honor but was not present at the luncheon. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

The foundation awards annual full-tuition scholarships to students age 25 and older who are preparing for careers in fields that are nontraditional for women.

Khadijah Alnassari is a 2023 June S. Anderson Scholarship winner. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)
Khadijah Alnassari

• “A lot of the funding that’s available to traditional students is not available to nontraditional students,” said Alnassari, a mother of five, including triplets who are attending MTSU alongside their mother.

After Alnassari dropped out of college in 2001, she wasn’t sure she’d have another chance to return. “So I started pouring myself into my kids and homeschooled all my children,” she said.

By age 13, her triplets accelerated their education and enrolled at MTSU. Her husband encouraged her to join them so she, too, could earn her degree.

Alnassari is a senior double majoring in biology and sociology with a minor in Arabic. She wants to help women in minority populations get medical care and help young girls achieve their dreams.

• At 21, Nguyen immigrated by herself to the United States to attend college. But the transition was not an easy one.

Diem Nguyen is a 2023 June S. Anderson scholarship winner. (Submitted photo)
Diem Nguyen

“I found adapting to a new country, learning English, and living in a new world … was a challenge for me,” said Nguyen, a 27-year-old MTSU nursing student.

She was also shy and lacked confidence. Eventually Nguyen dropped out of school. But five years later, after much reflection, she returned to pursue her degree at MTSU.

She’s excited about her career and said she’s grateful to be enrolled in such a great nursing program “that creates excellent nurses.”

“I believe as a nurse I can make an impact on people despite of my quiet nature,” said Nguyen, also a senior. “Fortunately, to make impact to people’s health somehow became my motivation to challenge myself to speak up and connect to people.

“Hopefully, by the end of the program, I will know which specialty will be my true calling,” she said.

Stephanie Velazquez-Hernandez is a 2023 June S. Anderson Scholarship winner. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

• Puerto Rican native Velazquez-Hernandez moved to Tennessee with her boyfriend, but the relationship turned bad. “I never thought I’d see the day I’d get out,” she said. “I thought I was stuck.”

A coworker helped Velazquez-Hernandez leave that relationship and gave her a home with stability. Now the 26-year-old MTSU sophomore plans to fulfill her dream of working with mistreated and injured horses in an industry dominated by men.

Determined to pay for school without incurring a lot of debt, Velazquez-Hernandez makes a four-hour round trip from her Cleveland, Tennessee, home to attend classes at MTSU while juggling working the night shift at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Velazquez-Hernandez is “focused and dedicated with extreme attention to detail,” MTSU horse science instructor Andrea Rego said in a letter to the Anderson scholarship committee. “Stephanie works hard and will be able to do anything she puts her mind to.”

“I don’t know how I do it and keep myself motivated, but I know it will be worth it in the end,” Velazquez-Hernandez said.

Lucy Young is a 2023 June S. Anderson Scholarship winner. . (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)
Lucy Young

Young enrolled in college in 2011 and planned a double major in Japanese and vocal performance. Two years later, she dropped out due to mental health challenges. After attaining sobriety in December 2015, Young was ready to return.

“It’s always been a huge goal (to earn a degree),” said Young, a single mother, “and I wanted to use my knowledge to help people.”

She enrolled at MTSU and set her sights on a degree in speech language pathology and audiology.

Working full time and taking a full course load isn’t easy, said Young, a senior, “but when you’re motivated and driven, it fills your day with things you want to be doing. I’m so grateful.”

About June S. Anderson

June S. Anderson, for whom the foundation is named, taught chemistry at MTSU from 1958 to 1983. She established the foundation in 1982 to provide scholarships to students in areas of study where women were underrepresented.

Margaret Behm, a Nashville attorney and founding member of the June S. Anderson Scholarship board, talks about the benefactor at a luncheon held May 9, 2023, at Through the Grapevine restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)
MTSU chemistry professor Dr. June Anderson
Dr. June S. Anderson

Anderson founded Concerned Faculty and Administrative Women in 1975 as an academic support service for women and established the Women’s Information Service for Education in 1977.

She also founded Women in Higher Education in Tennessee, participated in the university’s Rape Alert program, conducted women’s studies classes and championed pay equity, child care centers and expanding campus safety lighting.

The June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students on campus also bears her name. Anderson died in 1984.

— Nancy DeGennaro (