Gordon C. Burris Scholarship
The Gilbert J. Sullivan Scholarship and the Gordon C. Burris Scholarship are awarded to rising third-year students who have a demonstrated record of citizenship, leadership, academic achievement, and financial need. These two $7,500 annual scholarships cover a portion of tuition and fees for the recipients’ Third and Fourth years.
In addition to the application template (emailed to all second-year students early in the spring semester) and a resume, applicants must have a letter of recommendation sent to email@example.com. Letters of recommendation may come from anyone, however, we recommend asking a UVA professor or dean to write about your citizenship, leadership, and/or academic achievement. The application process typically closes in early March, and recipients are announced at the Parents Fund Committee spring meeting. Applicants are advised to be available to attend a reception that evening, if possible, in the event that they are selected. Email Anna Patchias, UVA Parents Fund Development Associate, with any questions.
Gavin Restifo (Engr ’20)
Hailing from Erie, Pennsylvania, third-year student Gavin Restifo never shies away from a challenge. In addition to majoring in chemical engineering, the ambitious scholar is pursuing a minor in physics.
Passionate about helping others, Restifo leads his own small group as part of the University’s Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship organization. Throughout his time on Grounds, he’s also served as a teaching assistant in UVA’s computer science department.
While the possibilities for his future are endless, Restifo is currently unsure of which career path he’ll follow. After graduating, he plans to spend a year
in the mission field and may ultimately attend graduate school prior to entering the workforce. “I feel I need to take a year off to see where I’m being led,”
Finances have been a challenge for Restifo and his family for some time. He initially became interested in UVA through QuestBridge, an organization that connects the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education.
Restifo is honored to be the 2017-18 recipient of the Gordon C. Burris Scholarship. “Life for my family has been challenging,” he said. “This scholarship is an incredible blessing that’s helping to lessen our financial burden. When I broke the news to my mom, she broke down crying. Our entire family thanks the UVA Parents Fund for its generosity.”
Originally hailing from Iraq, third-year student Daliya Saadoon is redefining what it means to be busy. In addition to being enrolled in UVA’s prestigious classics honors program, the double-major is also pursuing a degree in biology with a premedical focus.
A lover of both extracurricular and volunteer opportunities, Saadoon serves as president of the Arab Student Organization, as well as an executive board member of the Middle Eastern Mentoring Program and an active Madison House volunteer.
Saadoon moved to the U.S. in 2009 when she was in sixth grade. Attending junior high and high school in Northern Virginia, she completed studies in ESL and participated in activities ranging from student government to soccer.
While Saadoon’s future is bright, she’s currently unsure of which career path she’ll follow. She envisions herself working either for the U.S. State Department—where she hopes to facilitate stronger communications between the U.S. and Middle East—or as a pediatrician. “They’re very different fields,” she said, “but each is rooted in helping people.”
Saadoon is extremely thankful to be this year’s recipient of the Gordon C. Burris Scholarship. “I’m so grateful to the Parents Fund and the Burris family for this extraordinary opportunity,” she said. “Because of their generosity, I’m free to focus on my studies without having to worry about finances. My future is wide open.”
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.”