Burris Scholarship Recipients
Casey Balamut, of Naples, Florida, is a kinesiology major. She’s busy combining her interest in service with helping others improve their health. Her positive attitude gives her energy, motivation, and determination.
Balamut is an active participant in Madison House’s Medical Services program. As program director of the UVA Children’s Hospital Acute Care Pediatrics program she oversees all acute pediatrics volunteers, who provide comfort care to pediatric patients and their families. She is trained as a “baby cuddler” to hold babies during their hospitalization. Balamut asserts that “it is by far the most incredible and rewarding way I spend my time.”
Balancing a part-time job with her studies and volunteer activities is demanding, but Balamut finds ways to engage with students while pursuing her interests. Her role as a UVA peer health educator keeps her involved while she helps educate her classmates about college wellness issues.
After graduation, Balamut is considering becoming a physician’s assistant. She explains that her experiences have taught her that patient contact and empathy make valuable contributions to the healing process. “Medicine is the ultimate outlet to do what I love,” she said.
UVA offers the strong sense of community that is so important to Balamut. “I absolutely love UVA and it has truly become my second home. I enjoy how people at UVA care about a vast array of different topics, and also care about UVA and each other.”
UVA Parents are a special part of that community, and show their caring through the scholarship support that gives Balamut self-confidence. “Thank you so much for choosing to invest in my future,” she said. “The financial support of the scholarship not only gives me freedom to pursue my dreams but also the confidence in knowing that people believe in me, and for that I am immensely grateful.”
Originally from Bangor, Maine, Lauren Nalley is majoring in chemical engineering, with a minor in materials science. Nalley came to the University of Virginia seeking an incredible education balanced by opportunities for student leadership. So far, she’s found both.
Nalley is the secretary of Student Council and the service chair of the Rodman Scholars Council in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She loves to participate in community service, and does so through the Rivanna Trail Foundation, the Society of Women Engineers, and Alternative Spring Break. Her passion for volunteer work is also reflected in her participation on a Jefferson Trust Fund research team, which has spent the past two semesters taking census data of all service work done by student groups on Grounds and organizational partners in Charlottesville.
Nalley also spends time in a biology lab collecting data on flowering plants’ responses to light at various elevations. She hopes to attend graduate school for public policy to balance out her engineering education and prepare her for work in the public sector. She’s particularly interested in municipal water policy, and hopes to work for either a nonprofit organization or government agency. In summer 2016, Nalley interned at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., studying the global applications of citizen science.
The Burris Scholarship is helping Nalley achieve her highest aims and ambitions. “The Burris Scholarship will enable me to spend less time working, and more time pursuing my interests both inside and beyond the classroom,” said Nalley. “I am very grateful to have been chosen as a recipient; it will allow me to do more with my time at the University and reach my goals for the future.”
Walter Floyd (Col ’17), the 2015 Gordon C. Burris Scholarship recipient, is a music and prospective neuroscience double major. In addition to his studies, he works on the Spectrum Theatre’s publicity committee, as a lab hand in the neurology department, as volunteer coordinator in the McIntire Department of Music, as librarian for the University Singers, and in the biology greenhouse.
“What I most like about UVA is this idea of student self-governance,” Floyd said. “Some of my most rewarding experiences have been in leadership positions in which I’m required to delegate tasks. It really has made me feel as though, if something were to happen where I would be thrown into the real world this very instant, I could thrive.”
Walter is grateful for the Burris Scholarship, as it has allowed him to stay focused on his studies. “Coming from a lower-income family, it can be hard to stay motivated when you know that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away so easily. The phrase, ‘What’s the point?’ becomes extremely easy to identify with. This scholarship has helped me to see the point, and has motivated me to achieve my goals.”
After graduation, Floyd aims to work as part of a research fellowship, and then continue on to graduate school to pursue an MD/PhD in neuroregenerative medicine.
It was love at first sight for 2014 Burris Scholarship recipient Erika Fernandez. As a high school student, Fernandez (Nurs ’17) visited the Grounds for a summer weekend program sponsored by her school’s Latin American Students Association. She recalled the excitement of staying in a dorm and seeing, in her words, “how happy all the students looked and alive the Corner was.” Now a nursing major with an interest in pediatric oncology, she appreciates the School of Nursing’s challenging academics and culture of collaboration. “We get to know each other very well and want to help one another rather than compete against each other,” she said.
In her free time Fernandez stays busy. She’s served as the El Salvador director for Student Nurses Without Borders and president of the Multiculturalism in Nursing Today student group. She is also a student ambassador for the UVA Compassionate Care Initiative.
As the first recipient of the Gordon Burris Scholarship, Fernandez was especially honored. “I thank everyone who gave to support the scholarship. I am so thankful for being able to study and be involved in the UVA community.”