Scholarships Propel UM’s Next Success Stories

UM students, from left, Jesi Price, Chinonyelum Maduka, Alexis McDonald, and Chloe Harrison. 

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

UM students, from left, Jesi Price, Chinonyelum Maduka, Alexis McDonald, and Chloe Harrison. 

Scholarships Propel UM’s Next Success Stories

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
Alumna Alice Vilma addresses students at UM Black Alumni Society and Woodson Williams Marshall Association Scholarship Reception.

Alice Vilma can still recall the experience as if it were only yesterday. Representatives from Morgan Stanley were coming to the University of Miami campus to meet with students about summer internship opportunities, and Vilma, who was a freshman majoring in finance, knew that attending the session could help boost her career.

On the day of the meeting, Vilma arrived 45 minutes late, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. When she saw that other students were dressed to the nines, she decided to leave, only to have her hasty exit prevented by a Morgan Stanley analyst who convinced her to stay.

For Vilma, that turned out to be a “a life-changing moment,” she recalled Thursday evening inside UM’s Newman Alumni Center, where she delivered the keynote address at the UM Black Alumni Society and Woodson Williams Marshall Association Scholarship Reception, which honored and awarded funds to students for academic excellence. “I realized that I had a little bit more to learn about the real world,” Vilma said.

She was obviously a quick study, earning her degree in finance from UM and eventually an M.B.A. from Harvard. Today, she is executive director in Morgan Stanley’s Global Capital Markets Division, working with companies in the power and utilities and MLP (master limited partnership) sectors.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Vilma, who is the sister of former Hurricanes linebacker and three-time NFL Pro Bowler Jonathan Vilma, told students she never envisioned she would achieve such success when she was “sitting where you are today.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s stopped setting new goals. “Continue to push the bar higher,” she said, urging scholarship recipients to challenge themselves. “Your time at UM is a life-changing event…and will put you in a prime position to succeed.”

Vilma also told students to grow their networks, use all the resources available to them, and to “run with a faster group,” her latter piece advice a pun on the fact that she’s been able to lower her marathon times by training regularly with a group of elite marathoners.

Scholarship recipient Alexis McDonald, a sophomore majoring in electronic media, took Vilma’s advice to heart. “It makes me want to invest in the students who will come after me,” she said.

A total of $64,500 in scholarships was awarded at the ceremony to 18 students majoring in fields as diverse as biology, biomedical engineering, art history, and microbiology and immunology. Five of the awards were Dr. Robert Moore Scholarships, named for the longtime School of Education and Human Development associate professor who has served as a role model for countless students.

Shelby Mays, a criminology and psychology major from Atlanta, had no idea she would be receiving a scholarship at the ceremony, but was ecstatic at the news because it brings her a step closer to achieving her goal of a career counseling at-risk teenagers from underserved communities. The 18-year-old Mays recently participated in an alternative spring break program at Middle Way House in Bloomington, Indiana, helping children who are victims of domestic violence.

“You hear about the problems these kids have, but coming face to face with it, you come to realize how serious it is,” Mays said. “They are victims who end up falling behind, but many of them have a strong desire to succeed. Now, I’m more determined than ever to help them.”

Citing a new UM Alumni Association project honoring the first 500 black graduates in UM history, Provost Thomas J. Leblanc called Mays, McDonald, and the other students attending the ceremony “the next great success stories of the University.”