Davidson College is pushing back against the ugly trends: higher tuition, bigger debt and gaps in finishing college.
Davidson’s tuition increases rank lower than its peers. The Davidson Trust means students are not asked to borrow money as part of their financial aid package. And students aren’t just graduating at a rate of around 95 percent, they’re launching from campus to jobs, grad schools, nonprofits or government roles where they immediately make an impact.
They can do this because of the scholarships you helped to fund—scholarships bridge circumstance and opportunity. The Game Changers: Inspiring Leaders to Transform the World campaign raised more than $255 million for new and existing scholarships. In five years, total scholarship awards increased by more than 30 percent.
The students highlighted here—and so many others—benefit every day from gifts that become scholarships. And Davidson is richer because of their unique perspectives and diverse passions.
Bry Reed ’20
Bonner Scholarship, Mary and C. Robert Henrikson Scholarship
“My grandmother, the daughter of a bartender, was a hustler for knowledge. She was in one of the first classes of black women to study nursing at a local high school. She had books on her nightstand—books that professors and scholars read. She took me to hear Maya Angelou speak. She taught me that just because someone may not hand you knowledge, that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and find it.”Bry Reed ’20
Bry Reed ’20 is president of the Black Student Coalition, where she is spearheading the fifth annual black student graduation in the spring—an event that has outgrown campus spaces since its inception.
She also co-leads an empowerment program for black girls at West Charlotte High School, where lessons range from college readiness to the art of storytelling through music. Called “SEEDS of Magic,” the program is built upon the phrase: “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.”
“Every space should be a safe space, so we call our space a brave space,” she says. “There’s a real disparity for black girls in urban education and public education, and they need to know what they say has value. They can see themselves in me.”
As a high school senior, Reed narrowed her college choices down to Johns Hopkins University—a quick 20-minute drive from home—or Davidson, which she heard about thanks to a teacher, JD Merrill ’13, at her public magnet high school, Baltimore City College. Merrill thought the first-generation college student would be the perfect fit.
“As an only child, I needed an opportunity to be independent,” says Reed. “Davidson empowers students to advocate for themselves. I don’t know if I would have gotten such a strong lesson in that had I stayed closer to home.”
Reed will graduate in May as an Africana Studies major and a Gender & Sexuality Studies minor. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree and teach English at a liberal arts college—her way of continuing the family quest for knowledge.
Emre Koc ’21
“Sometimes when I see something that’s typical America, like Davidson’s football field or a Chick-fil-A, I think back to when I was in primary school in Turkey, and I had no idea a place like this was an option for me. I think to myself, ‘How am I here?’”Emre Koc ’21
When Emre Koc ’21 first arrived at Davidson from Turkey, he realized his English needed some work. He was fully prepared to communicate in English for academic purposes, but no one understood his jokes or sarcasm. Quickly, he found his way and has taken full advantage of the available opportunities.
“Last year, I won a Meet My World grant, which allows an international student to bring an American student back to his or her home country,” says Koc. “It was truly amazing. My friends from Turkey who attend other schools in the United States cannot grasp that I had that opportunity.”
Koc is in the “3+2” engineering program, a path he chose because he is more motivated by the fun of physics than the grades, but he admits having fun in class helps his academic performance. Koc hopes to travel before entering the “+2” part of the program, which will take him to either Columbia University or Washington University. He’ll specialize in energy engineering and pursue a career in sustainable architecture in urban areas.
“Last summer, I worked in Spain for a company that makes the internet more accessible to people,” he says. “After working for a company that has such an altruistic vision, I realized I have to do something I’m really passionate about—it makes the work more enjoyable.”
Following his second year of high school, Koc started thinking seriously about attending college in America. His dad recognized that the education system in Turkey was getting worse—with lower standards and limited opportunities—and wanted something better for him.
“Turkey is politically unstable right now, and most of my high school classmates went abroad and don’t plan to return, so I see the brain drain at the first level,” says Koc. “It makes me sad. I want to somehow motivate my friends to do something to help our home.”
Jassyran Kim ’20
Mackey McDonald Family Scholarship
“I’m proud to say I’m from Lynn, Massachusetts. It’s a beautifully diverse place, but my younger brothers need to know that is not what they are confined to—everything I do is to be a role model for them. I want to show them that success can look different from what they’ve always seen from our town.”Jassyran Kim ’20
Jassyran Kim ’20 and her mother have matching tattoos on their wrists—reminders that they are strong and can overcome whatever comes their way. Kim’s mother raised her daughter as a 19-year-old without any guidance from her own parents. She fought against the stereotypes of teenage parenting and continued to pursue her own education, eventually becoming a licensed practical nurse.
“Mine says ‘unbreakable’ and has her birthdate underneath,” says Kim. “My mom’s says ‘unstoppable’ with my birthdate. My parents have absolutely shown me what success means, even though, for them, it wasn’t in the form of high-level degrees or income.”
Kim first saw Davidson when she moved to campus Aug. 18, 2016. A college counselor mentioned that she should check out the place even though she previously set her sights on Duke. After some basic research on the website and a decision to trust her gut, she applied early decision. It quickly proved to be the right choice, even though there were some growing pains.
“When I was first choosing classes, I thought the numbers next to the course names were room numbers, not class levels, so my first semester was much harder than it should have been,” Kim says, now with a laugh.
But she has found her way, with help from inspiring professors.
“Professor Fitz made an 8:15 a.m. economics class feel worth going to, even if the subject matter made me want to rip my hair out at times,” says Kim. “And Professor Stremlau let me decompress in her office while eating chocolate out of her candy bowl. She encouraged me to accept what I can and cannot do— it’s helpful to get advice from someone who wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear.”
Kim will start her career next summer with Accenture, likely in Charlotte, after securing four internships with the company during high school and throughout her time at Davidson.
Cade Vela ’22
CarolAnn and Eugene W. Adcock III M.D. ’62 Endowed Scholarship
“After my first recruiting day at Davidson, I told my mom this was home. Being at a place where I could have academics, football, service and a social life—that was huge for me. People here want me to succeed just as much as I want to succeed.”Cade Vela ’22
Cade Vela’s schedule, like any Division I scholar-athlete’s at Davidson, is full. And even with classes and practices and travel for games, he has remained true to one of his passions that developed at an early age—service.
“My mom works with children with special needs, and she would always bring them to our house when their families needed help,” Vela ’22 says. “It always taught me the importance of helping others. I got involved with volunteering in special needs classes in high school and have continued that focus here at Davidson. I have helped with the Special Olympics, and I am on the community service committee of the Student Athlete Advisory Council, where we identify ways we can make an impact.”
Vela was selected for this role by his teammates, and being a sophomore, it meant a lot that they saw leadership potential in him. The football team also runs a chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which works to raise awareness of rare diseases. Vela hopes to take over as a co-chair when the two senior current chairs graduate.
Vela plans to pursue architecture after Davidson, but his interests are expanding every day, most recently thanks to a cryptology class that allows this “big math guy” to decipher codes and messages in the context of history. Whatever his path, he plans to leave room for service.
“Everyone here is so smart,” Vela says. “Davidson advertises academics and showcases students doing one thing or another, but I didn’t fully understand it until I became a part of it. I love to ask people what they did over the summer, what they’re doing now. One of my teammates is a political science major who is campaigning for Bernie Sanders right now during the season. The students here have so much potential, and we’re encouraged to take advantage of big opportunities.”
Addie Clark ’20
Women’s Pooled Field Hockey Scholarship
“I’ve always done art—my parents could tell I was decent at it—but I thought I should stick to the worn path and do art on the side. Most of my essays and research throughout school have argued against typical educational models, encouraging acceptance of all mediums. Now I’m an art major. Makes a lot of sense.”Addie Clark ’20
Addie Clark has failed a couple of classes. She has struggled to find the best medication for her ADHD, which was diagnosed her junior year of high school. She struggled to get quality sleep her first year at Davidson, exhaustion straining her commitment to the field hockey program and to academics.
“I’m Christian, and I did feel like God guided me to Davidson,” says Clark ’20. “Even going through struggles, I knew I had not misread the signs. It’s probably better that I didn’t know how hard it was going to be—I maybe wouldn’t have jumped in on the front end. Before college, I hadn’t really failed at anything, so it’s been nice to have failures under my belt. It has shaped me.”
Clark, a creative, hands-on learner, grew up making houses and sculptures out of shoeboxes. Standardized testing and lectures have caused frustration. Still, Davidson won her over.
“I told my parents I wanted a big school that wasn’t so hard academically,” says Clark. “But then my visit was so idyllic.
I had to be here.”
The future could take Clark in a number of directions—possibly down paths focused on design or advertising. Now a senior and more confident in her ability to navigate challenges, she says she’ll be happy as long as there are creative opportunities.
Cole Mitchell ’22
Sarah Worthington Duncan Endowed Fund for Scholar-Athletes, Gloria and Vernon T. Anderson Jr. ’59 Scholarship
“Davidson truly does athletics right. The professors, while they will definitely help you out, you have to put in the work. Instead of encouraging shortcuts, they make sure it gets done and gets done well.”Cole Mitchell ’22
After his first collegiate race, The Davidsonian wrote that the cross-country team had discovered a gem in Coleman Mitchell ’22. That first race ended with a Davidson-leading 5th place finish and A-10 Rookie of the Week honors.
“As soon as I visited campus, Davidson moved into my top five … and then my top three … and then my top two,” Mitchell says. “It was the strongest school, academically, of all the ones recruiting me.”
Big schools—N.C. State, Wake Forest, Georgetown—wanted the star, who has been running since age six and won the Junior Olympics and other national titles at a very young age. But he has found his home at Davidson, where first-year challenges haven’t dashed his hopes for an A-10 conference championship.
“I had never been injured before college, and I had two injuries my first year,” Mitchell says. “Balancing my packed schedule was also a challenge, but my coach immediately set me up with two professors, Professor Henke and Professor Denham, both German Studies professors. They didn’t even teach me, but they spent time coaching me through time management and helping me get acclimated to college life. Once I learned how to section off time and regulate my day, it got a lot easier.”
Mitchell may not take German, but language and culture play a big part in his educational path. He plans to declare this year as a double major in economics and Mandarin, with the goal of a career in international business.
“I came in thinking I would study medicine and pursue pharmacy—I even did a related internship at UNC after my junior year of high school,” says Mitchell. “But I changed my mind soon after that and landed on international business. I’m very interested in business and can see how I would enjoy doing it outside of the classroom. I also love to travel and could imagine living overseas and moving around a lot to see the world.”