Help students like Connesia Handford achieve their dreams

Connesia Handord feature

SUMMARY: Third-year doctoral student, Connesia Handford shares how donations on Giving Day can make a big impact on the lives of graduate students, opening doors that may not otherwise be opened.

By Brooke Z. Graham, Strategic Leadership doctoral student

The new Advancing Intelligent Minds (AIM) scholarship will help students like Connesia Handford find their voice. Connesia states that “there are so many important initiatives or projects that would not have happened if students with culturally unique perspectives had not been afforded help to be in the room so their voice could be heard.”

Connesia is a third year doctoral candidate in JMU’s Combined-Integrated Clinical and School Psychology Psy.D. Program. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Emory University and her Master’s Degree from Brenau University. She was drawn to JMU to complete a combined and integrated Psy.D. Program. She finds the intensity of professional growth and self-confidence she has gained during the program to be outstanding. She has already presented at multiple conferences and recently signed contract to co-author a book that will address racial trauma in primary and secondary school systems.

According to Connesia, “as a Black woman studying racial trauma in a program and field where my ethno-racial group has been historically underrepresented” there are many challenges. She points out that it is difficult to navigate many things that come from being a part of an underrepresented group. Connesia states that the AIM scholarship will help students reduce the need to worry about how they will pay for their studies. She believes that graduate students’ time can be better spent meaningfully contributing to their field.

Connesia states that opportunities like the AIM scholarship eliminate significant barriers and provides students with access to higher education. She notes that “the travel grants that I received allowed me to present at many different conferences. It was at one of those conferences that my classmate and I were approached to write a book about racial trauma. If I was solely responsible for paying to register and attend conferences, I more than likely would not have gone to that conference”.

Connesia notes that the AIM scholarship will have a ripple effect. When students from various backgrounds are able to study under this program, there will be less cultural isolation for individuals with that background.  Each student who benefits from this scholarship will inspire other students from the same group and more of these students will participate in similar programs in the future. The scholarship program increases the representation of particular groups in a profession, inspiring  more students to believe they can also achieve in a certain field.  And the cycle continues.

James Madison University is holding its annual Giving Day on Thursday, March 21! Gifts and donations to the Graduate School benefit students directly in various ways. One of these opportunities is Advancing Intelligent Minds (AIM), a scholarship initiative that supports the recruitment and retention of brilliant students from groups that are currently under-represented in the academic field in which the students study. The fund supports students who have backgrounds or socio-economic conditions that create barriers to the achievement of their tremendous potential.

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Published: Monday, March 18, 2019

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021

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