AHAINA award recipient pays it forward with funds

Normally, scholarships assist college students in paying for credit hours, books and supplies. However, UAA senior and legal studies major Amanda Magnusen gave hers back.

Senior Amanda Magnusen, recipient of the spring 2019 AHAINA Students of Excellence Award, is completing a bachelor’s degree in legal studies at UAA. Photo courtesy of Amanda Magnusen’s ePortfolio.

“Because I am a student who is fortunate enough to have other means and scholarships I was able to obtain, I decided that instead of keeping the funds for myself, why wouldn’t I help others who don’t necessarily have the same resources I do?” Magnusen said in an email.

In the spring of 2019, Magnusen was awarded the African American, Hispanic, Asian, International and Native American, or AHAINA, Students of Excellence Award. Rather than keeping the award for herself, Magnusen worked with the UAA Multicultural Center to redirect the funds toward other students.

The AHAINA Student of Excellence award is a six-credit tuition waiver and amounts to around $2,000, Dr. Andre Thorn, director of UAA’s Multicultural Center, said. A female student and a male student are selected each spring based upon their applications.

The UAA Multicultural Center, or MCC, is committed to promoting the academic and personal growth of traditionally underserved students or underrepresented minority students, according to their website.

AHAINA programs are a part of the Multicultural Center, and are made up of Campus Connectors who work to connect UAA juniors and seniors to resources including academic awards, special recognition at graduation, an international student Thanksgiving feast and one-on-one guidance to connect students with opportunities.

Minority students who perform well academically, display advanced leadership skills and are involved on campus can apply for scholarships such as the AHAINA Students of Excellence Award.

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“[Magnusen] certainly represents the type of student that we love to see engaged in the Multicultural Center,” Thorn said.

When returning the award fund, Magnusen was able to participate in the process of determining which students would receive the funds.

“It was a really cool process — not only was I able to give back to multicultural students like myself, but I was able to take part in truly making a difference in their entire future by investing in their education,” Magnusen said.

Magnusen is Tlingit and Alutiiq, and was born in Kodiak. She moved to Unalaska when she was 6 months old.

Thorn speaks highly of Magnusen’s involvement in the decision to redirect the award funds.

“[The MCC doesn’t] get enough tuition administration scholarships, but we try to leverage and maximize every dime that we get and make sure that it gets to students that need the support,” Thorn said. “But to be in the position to redirect those funds that would have gone to one student to multiple students, that was a great blessing to have to help extend our resources to additional students.”

The process of returning and redistributing the funds from the award was a first for the organization, Magnusen said.

“I worked with the Multicultural Center, since they are the coordinators of the scholarship, and worked through a plan of how we could take my pool of money obtained through the scholarship and work it into a much larger pool of money that we were able to sit down and discuss how we want to distribute the scholarship,” Magnusen said.

Thorn worked with Magnusen to involve her in the decision of selecting recipients for the funds.

Throughout the selection process, Mangnusen was considered to be an honorary member of the Multicultural Center team, Thorn said.

“We treated her like another colleague,” Thorn said.

All information about recipients was kept confidential throughout the process to protect students’ FERPA rights. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s educational records.

The spirit of Magnusen’s generosity matches UAA’s promise of “amazing stories being written every day.”

“We talk about amazing stories, this is indeed one of them. Where a student who has been blessed so much in one area, she gets the opportunity to redirect her blessings to other students who might be deserving as well,” Thorn said.

Magnusen appreciates the opportunity to give back to her peers as well.

“It is extremely humbling being able to know that you are not only investing into your own future, but you have the resources available to reach back into the university and help fellow students where I can,” Magnusen said.

Qualifying students can apply for future Students of Excellence awards during the 2020 spring semester.

Students can learn more about the Multicultural Center by visiting their offices in Rasmuson Hall room 106, during office hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or through their website.