ncu-spring-2018-cover-scholarship-winners

Scholarship Winners Shine
the Spotlight on NCU’s Mission

Written by Judy Tierney & Mary Thorsby

As a University dedicated to scholarship and academic excellence, NCU constantly strives to recruit and enroll outstanding students from around the world. Part of the way NCU gives back is through occasional grant and scholarship programs that support its mission of helping students achieve their full academic potential and become valuable contributors to their communities and within their professions.

Each time NCU offers a scholarship to prospective students, we’re overwhelmed and inspired by the quality of submissions we receive. We’d love to share them all with the world, and are pleased to showcase a few of our recent scholarship-winning rock stars!


"Our current methods of paper collection and storage have led to an overwhelming amount of physical data and, not surprisingly, loss of data. There’s too much paper to handle. My system will help alleviate the challenges associated with that paperwork while dramatically improving accessibility and data use."

Uche Amadi

January 2017 Leading in Your Field Scholarship Winner,  School of Technology (formerly the School of Business and Technology)


According to the World Health Organization, the absence of a common data collection system in Nigeria’s healthcare system means that key stakeholders receive fragmented information—which, in turn, contributes to less-than-optimal decision-making and patient treatment.

Uche Amadi, originally enrolled in NCU’s School of Business and Technology before it split into the School of Business and the School of Technology. Now a Doctor of Philosophy in Technology and Innovation Management (PhD-TIM) student in NCU’s School of Technology, he has a plan to advance the standard of care in his home country with an innovative web-based health data management application. Healthcare workers will be able to use the new system for data collection, storage and proper sharing with patients’ consent.

“Our current methods of paper collection and storage have led to an overwhelming amount of physical data and, not surprisingly, loss of data,” explains Amadi. “There’s too much paper to handle. My system will help alleviate the challenges associated with that paperwork while dramatically improving accessibility and data use. Additionally, through policy development, it will ensure data security and integrity.”

Amadi’s project has already received acknowledgement and applause from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Medical Association.

"Certification from a regionally accredited institution like NCU will give credence to my knowledge and expertise on the subject matter,” he says. “And it will help me further develop the necessary leadership skills and approach to accomplish this important project to benefit the Nigerian medical system and our citizens.”

"No idea is too far out there. Having the encouragement of my NCU professors—just knowing that others see value in my out-of-the-norm ideas—helps me persist."

Diana Brauhn

2017 President’s Scholarship Winner,  School of Technology


Educator and innovator Diana Brauhn is earning her PhD-TIM at NCU with one key goal in mind: using technology and virtual reality to make learning even more meaningful—and fun.

Based in Killeen, Texas, Brauhn, a longtime fan of online education, has been attending, writing and teaching courses for the past 20 years. It was by watching her children play video games that Brauhn recognized the great potential of using avatars and virtual worlds like Second Life as teaching tools. “I saw how engaged they were,” she recalls. “I loved the idea that games made for a purpose could still be entertaining.”

That prompted Brauhn to come up with the idea for AvatarU®. Her vision: a two-year accredited virtual university program where students study core subjects as avatars. They take turns being male or female and choosing different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds for themselves as they “play” across the timeline of U.S. history in an immersive experience. They even dress their avatars in garments of the day.

The approach, Brauhn says, is not only educational, it could be life changing.

“I have seen people become more open minded as they experience the world from another person’s point of view,” Brauhn says. “What was life like for women during the Civil War? What was life like for men? What was life like for people of different ethnicities? We can even let students build their own histories into the experience.”

“No idea is too far out there,” Brauhn adds. “Having the encouragement of my NCU professors—just knowing that others see value in my out-of-the-norm ideas—helps me persist.”

"NCU’s LGBTQ Couples and Family Therapy program has given me the opportunity to be my most authentic self at work and in my studies."

Gustavo Carlos

March 2017 Start Now Grant Winner,  School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Marriage and Family Therapy


As a gay child of Mexican immigrants growing up in El Paso, Texas, and a first-generation college student at Ohio State University (OSU), Gustavo Carlos felt out of place. Starting a job in OSU’s Multicultural Center and Office of Diversity and Inclusion was just what this NCU candidate for a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy needed to fully immerse himself in the work he would come to love: focusing on how race, gender identity and sexuality interact and influence a person’s life experiences.

“After a long period of feeling unprepared for an advanced degree, NCU’s LGBTQ Couple and Family Therapy program has given me the opportunity to be my most authentic self at work and in my studies,” Carlos says.

Now a resident of Cleveland, Carlos works with Safe on the Scene, a Center for Disease Control-funded program focused on providing HIV testing, education and support services to young black men. Due to the federal government’s recent abolishment of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Carlos anticipates that Safe on the Scene will no longer be funded after the program’s grant term ends in 2020.

As a winner of NCU’s March 2017 Start Now Grant, Carlos plans to collaborate with local agencies to ensure that the gap in services to this vulnerable community is filled.

“I intend to continue working primarily with queer people of color and to become a certified supervisor so that I can train marriage and family therapists to be mindful of diversity and to have strong LGBTQ competencies,” Carlos says. “I want to encourage them to be creative, to enjoy their work and to not be afraid to talk about the difference they are making.”

"By solidifying my expertise in the field of psychology and expanding my understanding of the mind and brain, I’ll be able to offer better services to our youth and help them become happy and productive global citizens."

Sharmeen Mahmud

2018 Soar Scholarship Winner,  School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Psychology


The effect of gun violence on U.S. school children has never been as heartbreaking as it is today. School shootings and shootings nearby have a traumatic impact on students’ emotional and mental health. School lockdowns, helicopters swarming overhead and SWAT teams racing through hallways result in fear, tears and scars that can last a lifetime.

Sharmeen Mahmud, associate marriage and family therapist and NCU Department of Psychology student, still sees the effects of the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting at the small charter school where she works. While no students were physically hurt in the event that happened just blocks away from the school, the emotional stress remains. And it’s not just that isolated incident that causes hardship. Many students are frequently exposed to crime, gang activity, family violence and incarceration.

Mahmud, who develops and manages comprehensive mental health services for the school, says trauma and chronic stress are among the most pressing issues facing today’s educators, and society at large.

“I am regularly approached by teachers who are not prepared for the challenges they face daily in educating students who struggle with toxic stress,” she says.

“The symptoms of trauma can largely go unrecognized because they manifest as other problems such as frustration, acting out or difficulty concentrating,” Mahmud notes. “Too often students are misdiagnosed with anxiety, behavior disorders or attention disorders, when it’s actually the trauma that’s driving those symptoms and reactions.”

Mahmud is on a mission to make a difference. A winner of NCU’s 2018 Soar scholarship, she is pursuing her PhD in Psychology to better understand how children and adolescents cope with trauma and the psychological stress associated with extended periods of feeling at-risk.

“By solidifying my expertise in the field of psychology and expanding my understanding of the mind and brain,” Mahmud says, “I’ll be able to offer better services to our youth and help them become happy and productive global citizens.”

"When I talked to Dr. Shanderson, I knew it was destiny. Knowing that you have people on your side who want to invest in your education and see you advance is an incredible feeling."

Kyren McGary

January 2018 Health Sciences Grant Recipient,  School of Health Sciences


As the first student enrolled in NCU’s new School of Health Sciences, Kyren McGary feels a great sense of responsibility to pave the way for students who will follow. “I know there are many eyes focused on this program,” he explains. “People are looking for pioneers and leaders for guidance. This is an opportunity for me to shine.”

McGary is no stranger to leadership. The Kroger pharmaceutical technician and Master of Health Administration (MHA) student graduated from Morehouse College last year with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a concentration in pre-law. At Morehouse, he was a lead student ambassador, an outstanding scholar and an intern for the district attorney’s office.

Connections and networking led him to the American Public Health Association convention where he met the NCU School of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Laurie Shanderson. “When I talked to Dr. Shanderson, I knew it was destiny,” says McGary. “Knowing that you have people on your side who want to invest in your education and see you advance is an incredible feeling.”

McGary says his own life experiences have taught him about adversity and helped him develop a greater sense of compassion for people. He plans to follow his MHA with a law degree so that he can influence policy and regulations to ensure our communities are getting proper healthcare.

“I love living my life and doing great things,” says McGary. “I don’t do anything unless it has the potential to boost me personally, professionally and spiritually, and bring others along with me.”

"English is a way to seek and secure health care, mental health support and nutrition. Access to language represents safety, security and possibility. It represents hope."

Kathleen Shiverdecker

2017 Kick-Starter Grant Winner,  School of Education


“Don’t ever forget...you are in the business of saving lives,” her father called out from the front porch. “It’s a privilege that you have, honey. Your kids and their families are depending on you. You were sent for them and they were sent for you. It’s up to you.”

It was Easter Sunday, and Kathleen Shiverdecker, doctoral student in NCU’s School of Education, was leaving—she would later realize—her last visit with her father in her childhood home.

Less than a week later, she rushed to the hospital, just in time to look into her father’s eyes and hear him utter a final word, “Remember.”

For the past 20 years, Shiverdecker has served as a teacher, principal, coach and supervisor in the public school system in Aurora, Colorado. Working in a district that has a nationally recognized welcome center for refugee families and students seeking solace from unsafe conditions has given her the opportunity to share her love of language with people from around the world. It’s a gift, she says, that came from her parents.

For the families she serves, English is a gateway to school, work and success in the community. “English is a way to seek and secure health care, mental health support and nutrition,” she explains. “Access to language represents safety, security and possibility. It represents hope.”

As a winner of NCU’s Kick-Starter Grant, Shiverdecker plans to honor her parents by creating the Margaret Keating and Gene Edwin Hartman Language Center at the Aurora Public Schools Welcome Center – which supports the largest number of student refugees and their families in the metro area. The center will provide access to language support and community services for thousands of newcomer families in the district each year.

“One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems asks, ‘What will you do with your one wild and precious life?’” Shiverdecker says. “In honor of my dad and his last word on earth, I will always remember.”