Though the Class of 2023 has faced challenges on the path to obtaining their degrees, many students’ journeys were greatly enhanced by scholarships. We hope you will be inspired by reading their stories and join us in celebrating their achievements. The Buckeye community is grateful for your generous support of scholarships, which open doors to opportunities in the classroom and beyond.
“The bigger part, though, is the overwhelming impact of knowing that someone believes in me enough to donate and ensure I have what I need to succeed.”
— Neha Rajput ’23 BS
I grew up learning about Ohio State from afar. My father is a native of Akron, Ohio, and a big Buckeye football fan. Although I spent my formative years in New York and New Mexico, Saturdays during the fall were spent tuning into the Buckeyes. I remember even as a kid having a fascination with Columbus and Ohio State, so when it was time to choose a university, there was really no question about where I would go.
My time as an undergraduate here has really bolstered those feelings. The sense of community and belonging on this campus is unmatched. I have had so much support from my advisors and fellow students who want to see me win that pursuing any new opportunities has always seemed within reach.
I have also truly developed a passion for service during my time at Ohio State. I serve on the Foundation Board, helping to inspire philanthropy among alumni and the student body. That has helped open my eyes to the causes I truly care about and has shaped my plans after graduation. Whether my next steps come in the form of a nonprofit organization or a socially conscious enterprise, I know I want to be deeply involved in a mission that is close to my heart. There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed, and I like knowing the work I am doing makes a direct impact on my community.
Being a scholarship recipient has enabled me to pursue my interests, which has informed my Ohio State experiences. Part of that is having the freedom to choose what I spend my time on because I don’t have to worry about getting money together for books or supplies or classes. The bigger part, though, is the overwhelming impact of knowing that someone believes in me enough to donate and ensure I have what I need to succeed.
Everyone always asks what it means to be a Buckeye. The truth is there’s no one thing that makes us all part of the group. What ties us all together is a love for our community and for each other. It’s this community that gives us opportunities and permission to figure out who we are and what kind of impact we want to make. That is really special — something you don’t find everywhere. I’m glad I found it here.
Neha Rajput ’23 BS
“If it wasn’t for my professors at Ohio State Marion or the opportunities that the university has afforded me, I wouldn’t be on the cusp of a career that I’ve had my eyes on since seventh grade.”
— AJ Bennett ’23 BA
My Ohio State story starts in the seventh grade.
I was a huge basketball fan and loved playing the sport. I still am and still do, but that year, I developed a lot of anxiety surrounding the game I treasured. I began to have stress-related, non-epileptic seizures and went to an Ohio State sports psychologist for help.
He gave me a bunch of mental techniques to cope with stressful situations and taught me how to meditate before games. His support had a profound impact on me. My symptoms improved, the seizures stopped, and I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a sports psychologist.
Today, I’m on the path to making that dream a reality thanks to Ohio State. If it wasn’t for my professors at Ohio State Marion or the opportunities that the university has afforded me, I wouldn’t be on the cusp of a career that I’ve had my eyes on since seventh grade.
As a member of the Sports Psychology Club at Ohio State, I had the chance to meet and talk to football coach Ryan Day. He told me how cool he thought it was that I was focused on helping athletes address mental health. He talked about how members of his team value resiliency and why it’s so important we provide resources to help them and athletes of all sports. It inspired me to keep chasing my dreams.
After earning my bachelor’s degree this spring, I plan to enroll in graduate school. I haven’t decided whether to pursue a master’s or doctorate in sports psychology, but my overall goal is to help others. It’s not always about making money. I just want to make a great impact on this world and help other people.
It might be the Buckeye spirit of paying forward in me. I didn’t have scholarships when I first came to Ohio State. Working hard and staying on the dean’s list opened doors for grants and scholarships to come my way.
I was relieved to have that extra support. It let me know that if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, eventually you’ll be rewarded.
AJ Bennett ’23 BA
“Knowing that people are invested in my future and the importance of community pharmacy kept me pushing forward.”
— Riley Evans ’23 PharmD
I’m a new Doctor of Pharmacy, and a Buckeye through and through! I’m from Washington Court House, Ohio, and grew up going to football games and 4-H functions on campus. It was a dream of mine to go to college at The Ohio State University, and I was determined to make it happen.
Coming from a small town, I witnessed the impact a pharmacist has on a community’s health and access to care, where it is often easier to access a pharmacist than a physician. Ohio State has consistently been in the country’s top 10 for pharmacy programs, and that cemented my college choice.
During my time at Ohio State, I was able to pursue my interest in community pharmacy practice to expand access to health care to underserved populations.
During the 2020–21 winter break, I helped administer the COVID-19 vaccine throughout southern Ohio at long-term care facilities. I also participated in vaccination clinics for teachers in early 2021. Everyone was so appreciative. In addition, I was able to contribute to a Centers for Disease Control-funded grant, educating laypeople on how vaccines are created, tested and approved.
I also gained experience in project management and care coordination through the Physicians Care Connection Free Clinic through the Columbus Medical Association. The clinic provides free care to those who need it. I managed a team of pharmacy student volunteers who provided medications prescribed by clinic doctors, communicated with other professionals and individuals involved in the patients’ well-being and offered prescription counseling for clients. These opportunities showed me the impact a community pharmacist can have and reaffirmed my commitment to this field.
The scholarship I was awarded during my fourth year of pharmacy school was a tremendous benefit as that year involves a series of full-time rotations. I was able to be fully present during those experiences thanks to this funding. Knowing that people are invested in my future and the importance of community pharmacy kept me pushing forward.
After graduation, I’ll start a post-doctoral fellowship with CVS Health, working on clinical quality and evolution. I’ll be supporting the work of community pharmacists while determining how they can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
I am grateful I was able to study, work in my field and pursue my dreams at Ohio State!
Riley Evans ’23 PharmD
“Ohio State gave me the support and encouragement to gain a holistic perspective, develop as a leader and grow as someone who is trying to serve humanity.”
— Aisha Ayub ’23 BS
I came to Ohio State to make connections — with my community, with the younger generation of leaders and most importantly, a connection between my passion and my career. So many aspects of my identity appeared as a mural of concepts — my spirituality as a Muslim woman, a desire to serve and my interest in medicine and fashion. My scholarship gave me the opportunity to think about how they could all connect. I enrolled in public health and fashion courses and learned how social environment — where we live, work and play — affects health and how culture plays a role in interactions with health care professionals. Simultaneously, I learned that fashion is one of the world’s highest-polluting industries and impacts the environment, human health and global inequalities.
These lessons inspired me to delve further into research and consequently, my community. My thesis focuses on how the Islamic principle of modesty impacts health care for women concerning patient-provider interactions. I talked to Muslim women in my community to learn about their experiences and discovered that by addressing the social determinants of health and building relationships with patients, we can create a more accepting culture within medicine, ultimately providing better care. Additionally, I realized there was a need for a fashion brand that catered to Muslim women who want to wear high-quality, chic and modest garments — so I launched my own custom-order clothing brand. I’m writing to you from Italy, where I am learning from fashion experts and growing and developing as a designer.
Especially influential to my experience was the cohort component of my scholarship program, where I built relationships with and learned from the younger generation at Ohio State. The exchange of ideas promoted by scholarship and student programs has been the most developmental and fulfilling aspect of my journey. These connections led to my internship with the United Nations, where I saw my lessons in health and fashion applied in the real world.
As I return from my study abroad program and celebrate graduation, I plan to enroll in medical school and continue to expand my fashion brand. Ohio State gave me the support and encouragement to gain a holistic perspective, develop as a leader and grow as someone who is trying to serve humanity. I am grateful for where I am and where it allowed me to go on my journey.
Aisha Ayub ’23 BS
“The impact scholarship donors make has been amplified tenfold, not only having a positive effect on my life, but also allowing me to positively impact so many others.”
— Andrew Pierce II ’23 MPA, BS
Growing up, I always knew that becoming part of Buckeye Nation was in my future. As a lifelong Columbus resident, I have been immersed in life and activities of the Columbus campus. What I did not expect, however, was how much being a student at this institution would change my outlook on the world.
Coming into my freshman year, it was never my plan to pursue a dual degree in only four years. However, because of the pandemic, I was offered the unique opportunity to take courses that accelerated my path. I was also fortunate to receive scholarships from a few incredibly generous donors, allowing me to earn not just one but two degrees.
Because of those scholarships, I had the opportunity to truly delve into the topics I was passionate about, ultimately helping me decide what I would like to do after Ohio State. Public policy has always been my passion, but it wasn’t until I pursued internships and courses that that allowed me to experience different tracks within the public policy realm that I decided to pursue a career in law. Having the privilege to fully focus on my academics without the worry of debt has been a transformative part of my Ohio State experience and instrumental in preparing me for my next steps. I am grateful to donors for allowing me the opportunity to graduate debt-free, and I certainly do not take for granted that this is not afforded to everyone.
I’ve also been able to give back to the community. I served as president of this year’s Undergraduate Student Government, leading an administration that has enacted many beneficial changes on this campus, including organizing a campus-to-airport shuttle to help students travel home for holidays and securing a New York Times digital subscription for everyone. I have taught at local high schools, teaching students about the importance of civics while discussing their plans post-graduation and how to apply for scholarships. I have had the freedom to truly pursue my passions and invest my time and talent in the ways that benefit others. In that way, the impact scholarship donors make has been amplified tenfold, not only having a positive effect on my life, but also allowing me to positively impact so many others.
Andrew Pierce II ’23 MPA, BS
“I’ve become one of the first in my family to earn a college degree, and I’ve had other experiences I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere.”
— Jay Lin ’23 BS
My parents are immigrants from China. As kids, my sister and I sometimes had to act as their interpreters. I’ve seen firsthand the barriers they had to face, including in health care. I’m a first-generation college student, and it just felt right to pursue a career where I could help minimize some of those barriers and provide resources to others in similar situations.
When I was in middle school, my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was caught early enough that he made a great recovery, and the experience showed me the power of medicine. Without it, my dad might not be where he is today. But it’s more than just bringing life back to people. It’s about patients, their families and their circle of networks.
That’s why I decided to pursue a degree in biochemistry on the premed track. I intend to continue my education in the field of medicine, so I can help minority patients and their families get the care they need. I’m inspired by how rewarding that work will be.
I’m so thankful for my time at Ohio State. I’ve become one of the first in my family to earn a college degree, and I’ve had other experiences I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. As a research and teaching assistant, I’ve learned how much I like helping people learn. I served as president of Daebak, a vocal group where Ohio State students perform Asian music. And I spent two and a half weeks in Italy, studying abroad as part of my minor in art history.
Without the support of scholarships, these experiences wouldn’t have been possible. It has taken a lot of stress off my shoulders, and off my parents.
All these experiences have proven to me how supportive the Ohio State community is. I was a little nervous about coming to such a big school, but I’m so glad I did. I found my own small world within the Buckeye community, and I’m better for it.
“Throughout my undergraduate journey and development as a young scientist, Ohio State has provided me with career-enhancing connections and invaluable access to role models.”
— Aleacia Laird ’23 BS
Ever since I was a child, gardening and growing food with my family in Springfield, Ohio, I’ve had a passion for plants. My interest truly blossomed in high school, while attending the Global Impact STEM Academy. When it came time to choose a university, I chose to be a Buckeye largely because of Ohio State’s wide diversity of majors offered within plant science — a field I was in love with by then.
At Ohio State, I’ve been fortunate to be able to study the plant science area that I’m most genuinely interested in, plant pathology, while also minoring in horticulture and crop science. I’ve gained tremendous research experience, having worked for the past two years with an esteemed faculty member, Dr. Francesca Hand, in the ornamental pathology lab where I study winterberry and its disease, fruit rot.
Throughout my undergraduate journey and development as a young scientist, Ohio State has provided me with career-enhancing connections and invaluable access to role models: leaders in my field like renowned faculty and PhD students who have shared their incredible knowledge and expertise with me and other mentors, such as my extensively supportive advisor.
Equally impactful have been the close-knit, almost family-like, connections I’ve made with other students in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). As the president of the Student Council for CFAES, I’ve enjoyed being able to give a voice to fellow students and create positive change for them as a leader.
My Ohio State experience has been so rewarding that I’ve decided to pursue graduate studies here, continuing my research under Dr. Hand while earning a master’s in plant pathology — and preparing, perhaps, to lead research and teach undergraduates in a lab of my own one day. I can confidently say that I would not be able to pursue these aspirations if it weren't for the scholarships that I have received these past four years. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for donors who provide scholarships and make it possible for students to pursue careers that we love.
Aleacia Laird ’23 BS
“Right after I turned 18, I became the youngest student at Ohio State to earn a pilot’s license.”
— Torrington Ford ’23 BS, BA
I grew up close to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. I had family in the Air Force, and a friend of my grandfather was one of the original Red Tails — Black pilots who served in World War II. I was always around planes as a kid. When I got older and realized I could make a career out of it, aviation became the natural choice for me.
After visiting the campus, I chose Ohio State. Everyone I talked to was extremely inviting, and it inspired a lot of confidence in me. I love how Ohio State is such a big school, but it still feels homey and intimate. I really appreciate the community presence.
When I started here, I was only 15 years old. I graduated high school earlier than most people and earned an associate degree simultaneously from a local community college through dual enrollment. I was excited to jump in and take advantage of everything Ohio State had to offer and chose to pursue a double major in aviation management and air transportation.
Right after I turned 18, I became the youngest student at Ohio State to earn a pilot’s license. My friends still joke that I learned how to fly before I learned how to drive — which is true. I’ve been in the pilot’s seat more than the driver’s seat, and I’ll feel forever grateful about that.
I’m so thankful for everything Ohio State has given me. I’ve gained mentors on the aviation and business sides of my studies, and I’ve made lasting friendships as part of Kappa Alpha Psi. I am grateful for the scholarships I was awarded that allowed me to graduate debt-free.
I’m planning to use everything I’ve learned to one day start my own aviation company. My experience here has involved a lot of hard work, but it’s also been filled with lots of joy and happiness. Anything worth having does not come easy. That’s been true of my time at Ohio State, but I’m so glad I chose to become a Buckeye.
Torrington Ford ’23 BS, BA