By University Advancement Staff

Merci Best ’17 first discovered her love of science as a middle school student in Richmond, Virginia. Now, she’s passionate about helping future generations of students — especially women and people of color — develop a love of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math).

Starting the summer after eighth grade, she worked in John Warrick's research lab at the University of Richmond, where she used fruit flies to study the human brain. She is now a doctoral student at the University of Virginia studying Alzheimer's disease.

A neuroscience major and community studies minor at William & Mary, she started her own business, STEAMTRIX, to introduce students to STEAM careers. She also volunteered in local schools as a Sharpe Community Scholar — a program that advances community-based research and teaching — and conducted research through the W&M Scholars Undergraduate Research Experience program into the reasons women are underrepresented in STEAM fields.

“I felt like I was a better scientist because I took the time to take upper-level education courses on how to do research while engaging the community and how to teach students from different backgrounds,” she says. “People who look like me are underrepresented in science. So how do I pursue my dreams and aspirations, but still provide a pathway for other students who may not know this is available to them?”

She chose to attend William & Mary not only because of its strong academics, but also because of the scholarships she received, including the Spirit Scholarship. Established by Nancy Burgess Gofus ’75 and Joe Gofus HON ’18, it provides need-based scholarship assistance to a student who exemplifies the William & Mary spirit: leadership, community and international service.

A highlight of her W&M experience was studying abroad in South Africa through the Reves Summer Scholarship, something she didn’t think she’d be able to do as a science major always in the lab.

“It is vital to know what scholarships exist, and the Center for Student Diversity showed me what was available and how to apply,” she says. “That’s why, even though I’m still getting into my career, I give back to the Center for Student Diversity.”

Carter Trousdale

Carter Trousdale ’20

Major: International Relations

Carter joined W&M as a transfer student and is passionate about connecting people across cultures. He speaks four languages, studied abroad in Morocco and has had internships on three continents.

“Scholarships empowered me to transform my possibilities into my realities. A Reves Center scholarship enabled my unpaid internship at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels with the State Department, giving me a front row seat to the inner workings of the government and international relations. The Robert M. and Rebecca W. Gates Scholarship allowed me to study abroad in Morocco, exploring new languages and cultures. The W&M Washington Center scholarship made it possible for me to live and work in D.C. for a summer, forming new dreams and friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Lindsey Buckheit ’15

Lindsey Buckheit ’15

Major: Marketing

As a W&M Field Hockey player, Lindsey created 10 for the Tribe, an initiative to foster engagement and philanthropy among student-athletes.

“My scholarship allowed me the ability to attend a prestigious institution and garner a lifelong community within the Tribe — an opportunity I would not have otherwise afforded. The tremendous education I gained has prepared me professionally, building the foundation for a career in brand marketing, and now allows me to give back to the place that has given me so much.”

Jack Dean ’21

Jack Dean ’21

Major: English and Environmental Policy

Scholarships for out-of-state students, in addition to the Carroll F.S. Hardy Scholarship, created in memory of a beloved and influential university leader, helped Jack afford the opportunity to attend William & Mary.

“My scholarship made it possible for me to develop my interdisciplinary interests in English and environmental policy. I’ve been able to take courses and reach out to professors that highlight the intersection of these fields, and those interactions have inspired me to write poetry and a memoir that explores my relationship to ecology.”

Dennis Kim M.B.A. ’19

William & Mary’s legacy of military service spans three centuries, and Dennis Kim M.B.A. ’19 follows in that tradition. Before attending W&M, he served as an Army Medical Corps Service Officer in Afghanistan — “Twenty-two years old and thrown into the fire to lead,” he says. He managed five aid stations and forged bonds with fellow service members, civilians and allies.

Scholarships allowed him to join the many active duty service members enrolled at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, where he studied leadership, organizational behavior, business analysis and more.

“My courses reinforced the idea that the study of leadership never ends. As I transition from the tactical to the strategic side of the military, I will keep that mantra in mind. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend William & Mary, partially sponsored by both the military and by private scholarship support. Thank you for investing in America’s future.”

Jackie Valles ’19

Jackie Valles ’19

Major: Psychology

Jackie spearheaded the inaugural Ceremonia Raíces, a graduation ceremony for Latinx students to celebrate their heritage and their accomplishments.

“My scholarship made it possible for me to go to class at William & Mary every single day. Now, having graduated
a little more than a year ago, it has provided a peace of mind and comfort. I now recognize that my scholarship was a privilege and has allowed for bigger financial opportunities. It gave me an even start with my peers at W&M.”

Zach Fetters

Zachary Fetters ’16, M.A.Ed. ’18

Major: Philosophy, Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction

After playing W&M Football and beginning a coaching career, Zack was inspired by his younger brothers, who have autism, to return to W&M and become a special education teacher.

“My scholarship gifted me the opportunity to pursue my passion with experts in the field, while also bringing me lifelong mentors, friends, and a support system for which I am eternally grateful.”

Alton Coston

Alton Coston ’23

Alton is double majoring in Public Policy and Africana Studies. He is a part of multiple organizations across the William & Mary community including the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the African American Male Coalition, the Mock Trial team, Students for University Advancement, the Reparations Committee and Merrimac Mentors.

"Thank you for giving a young, humble and resilient kid from Richmond, who has an interior fire and passion brewing deep inside him for bringing about change, the opportunity to live out his dreams and aspirations."

Sage Stanish ’22

Sage Stanish ’22 grew up in the tiny 300-person town of Seldovia, Alaska, where the only way in or out is a six-seater bush plane or small boat. By age 16, he was captain of a commercial fishing rig, but fishing was never his dream.

Scholarships made it possible for Stanish to come to William & Mary, pursue a double major in physics and math and meet people from all over the world. He hopes to go on to graduate school for his doctorate.

“It is because of scholarships to attend W&M that I find myself well prepared for a career in the sciences. Grants have not only made it possible for me to attend college, but to pursue my own funded research in mathematics, an experience that I love more than any other pursuit I have tried thus far.”

Khalil Russell ’21

Khalil Russell ’21

Major: Biology

Khalil is a 1693 Scholar as well as chair of Students for University Advancement and its philanthropy chair. He has conducted extensive research with VIMS on topics ranging from water body surveys to the ocean quahog, a species of edible clam.

“My scholarship has made it possible for me to see new parts of the world, learn new ways to think, and develop parts of myself I didn’t know were there. Most importantly, though, it put me in the perfect place to meet my Tribe, the second family I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

Timothy Beck ’17

Timothy Beck ’17

Major: Kinesiology and Health Sciences

Before attending William & Mary, Tim served two combat tours in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger. He is now a medical student at the Duke University School of Medicine and is also conducting a clinical trial.

“My scholarship made it possible for me to afford my education, which allowed me to reach beyond the goals that I thought were possible for my life. But more importantly, it made it possible for me to meet the friends and mentors who helped shape what my life is today. Helping others get those opportunities inspires me to give back."

Rachel M. Becker ’19

Rachel M. Becker ’19

Major: Government

Rachel turned her challenging childhood into a passion for helping support child and family rights. She is now a policy advisor to Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources.

“Because of the Parent & Family Scholarship, I was able to live and work in Washington, D.C., for a summer. That internship was a pivotal moment in my life, where I learned my passion for child and family advocacy. I now work on policy and legislation to support Virginia’s families. It means so much to me that it was W&M’s parents and families that made it possible for me to pursue my career. Providing opportunities like this shows we truly are One Tribe, One Family.”