Scholarships: Beyond Face Value

April 28, 2021

By: Michael Ryan

Dilek Ince at work on the set of Amal, which earned her the Directors Guild of America Jury Award in the category of Outstanding Women Student Filmmakers (photo courtesy of Dilek Ince)

It’s scholarship season, and this year the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication is fortunate to be bestowing approximately half a million dollars in philanthropic scholarship funds to our students to assist in their pursuit of an education. This student support is in addition to the other forms of financial aid available to our students. Many receive federal aid, as CSUN is among the highest in the nation in number of Pell Grant eligible students. Students also receive help from the State of California in the form of Cal Grants, and other university aid or government subsidized loans. However, the average student has roughly $5,000 in unmet need annually, and this is where these scholarships can have a great impact. 

Philanthropic scholarships are provided by donors, many of whom are our alumni. Scholarships can be provided on an annual basis, or can be endowed, where funds are invested in the California State University Foundation’s financial portfolio and the earned interest fund a scholarship, or more than one, in perpetuity. Some scholarships are created by a donor in their name, or in honor or memory of a loved one. We have scholarships created by alumni, family, staff, and faculty who have personally witnessed and encouraged the efforts of our students to persevere in the face of great challenges to complete their degree.  We have scholarships from corporations, foundations, and caring members of the community who value CSUN’s admirable impact on the elevation of the socio-economic forecast of our region. CSUN is now ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNET’s 2020 Social Mobility Index, which analyzes and ranks which U.S. colleges and universities most effectively provide an education that elevates their students’ socio-economic prospects. 

Some may assume that all scholarships are designated primarily for those who have the greatest need. While these need-based philanthropic scholarships do require that students are receiving financial aid, scholarships can also based on accomplishment. Merit-based scholarships are based on achievement only, and can promote and recognize excellence in artistic expression, outstanding service to the university, self-directed accomplishments, and more.  

Of course, the primary benefit a scholarship provides to students is the monetary assistance. But receiving a scholarship has a value beyond the financial. There is recognition. A committee of faculty has chosen the student among all of the applicants, which certainly boosts the student’s confidence and self-esteem. There is the fact that the additional money may allow the student to work less during the academic year and engage more fully with classes, peers, faculty, student clubs, resources, events, and activities that help a student develop a better sense of belonging, which can lead to higher rates of graduation. A scholarship can help a student’s résumé stand out on that post-graduation job hunt. It also can help a student’s chances if graduate school is the next step. A merit scholarship confirms they are an outstanding student who would be a great addition to the school. 

What better way to understand the above-mentioned impact than through the voice of students themselves. Dilek Ince ’18, an international student from Turkey currently pursuing her MFA in Screenwriting at CSUN, won the Director’s Guild of America Jury Award with her senior film Amal in 2018. Dilek, who received support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Scholars Endowment—a fund that seeks to support traditionally underrepresented populations in entertainment—wrote the following:

"It was hard to find ways to express myself growing up in a male-dominated society. I am deeply thankful and appreciative of HFPA’s support in my educational journey, which has given me the opportunity to study stories and discover my voice."

Shari Coleman marks her graduation in front of the Soraya performing arts center at CSUN (photo courtesy of Shari Coleman)

Shari Coleman ’19, who received multiple scholarships while a student at CSUN, including the prestigious Jean Picker Firstenberg (JPF) Family Scholarship, wrote about the impact of these funds:  

"They offered me not only a boost in confidence to continue to pursue my dreams within entertainment but also a validation of my hard work, which can be especially hard to come by when pursuing something artistic. Even more so, specifically with the JPF Family Scholarship, they introduced me to new friends and even a mentor that continue to help me succeed even after graduating."

Theatre alumna, Armine Tadevosyan ’15, was moved by the scholarship she received from the Arts Council for CSUN, an active group that supports arts-related departments of the Mike Curb College with volunteer service and scholarship funds. Armine referenced the quote Be the change you want to see in the world as inspiration. She explained, “It’s important to think of treating others the same way you want to be treated. I felt that from the Arts Council.” Less than two years after graduating she created her own scholarship for a Theatre major with an interest in stage management, which was her focus. 

Even more recently, Gabrielle Burton, who is in her senior year, wrote the following upon learning she received a scholarship last summer:

"The notification of being a recipient of your award came at a time of uncertainty and fear, fear of the pandemic, fear of corrosive change, and for the first time not knowing what my next step was going to be. In the midst of all these emotions, I received an email from the university. It was like a sign: Don’t give Up. You’re halfway there. Your donation reanimated me. It reminded me of what I was doing and where I was going. It centered me. That is priceless. I vow to repay you in a promise to succeed. By awarding me the Scott M. Weiss Memorial Scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden, allowing me to continue to nurture and cultivate my skill and thrive in my education. I hope I am able to play a pivotal role in helping students and those in need in the same way you’ve helped me."

If you would like to discuss establishing a scholarship fund to help our students succeed, feel free to reach out to the Mike Curb College Development staff at (818) 677-2246 or by email at either or