Introducing the Thomasson Scholars. Three bright, hardworking, and dedicated young individuals dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world. They come from different backgrounds and have different stories, but they gather at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy this fall to begin their academic careers studying philanthropy.
We want to introduce you to these amazing young women. We’re sure you’ll hear more about them as they commence, and further, their philanthropic dreams.
Sylvana Jajou’s passion for philanthropy also began early. She spent all four years in high school on the youth advisory committee, making decisions about to whom and where to allocate grants.
“That experience of understanding the powerful effect of these grants, as well as seeing individuals in a community working together in a myriad ways put a name to what I had always cared about: community, underserved people, and having an impact on those around me. I realized that I wanted to serve others through philanthropy after that experience,” she said.
When looking at universities, she hadn’t considered attending school in Indiana until a coworker at her internship at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (Michigan) told her about IUPUI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Jajou thought about it, and decided that she would apply and see what happened.
“I love philanthropy. I thought it would be nice to study what I actually want to do. Before, I didn’t know I could study philanthropy until learning about the school,” she said. “When I looked at the course list, I knew I had to be here.”
She was accepted to IUPUI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, but the Michigan native didn’t know how to cover the out-of-state costs for university.
Luck struck when she learned about the Thomasson Scholarship. She applied for it and after the interview process, found out she was chosen as one of the Fellows.
“It was amazing; knowing that I’m able to study philanthropy because of this huge philanthropic gesture means so much,” she said. “It’s the missing piece for me to be able to study here, and has given me the opportunity to attend the school and follow my dream to empower communities.
“It’s clear that this scholarship is an investment in future community leaders in order to help move the needle and change the world.”
Moving forward, she hopes to earn a master’s degree in philanthropic studies and is also interested in law school to help connect communities and government: “I hope to see myself as a bridge and help form partnerships that can help communities overall. I want to be the best tool I can for communities, and the opportunity to study here will help me do so.”
Emma Rota-Autry grew up around philanthropy through volunteering when she was younger, but it wasn’t until her father was diagnosed with ALS when Rota-Autry was in middle school that she became fully passionate about helping others.
Assisting in taking care of her father after his diagnosis, Rota-Autry realized that she enjoyed taking care of others whom she loved and cared.
When she started high school, she became involved with Best Buddies. Through her friendship with a fellow student, Rota-Autry learned more about philanthropy and helping people. “It showed me how to create a friendship while also being a mentor and helping in various ways.”
Adopted from China, she also has a particular interest in studying Chinese, China, and global philanthropy. After studying Chinese for six years, Rota-Autry had the opportunity to study abroad through Indiana University’s Flagship Program. Five weeks in China helped cement her desire to give back. When she saw individuals with disabilities living on the streets outside of famous landmarks in China, she knew that she could combine her passions.
All of this led her to IUPUI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Her father worked at IUPUI for 25 years, and Rota-Autry grew up on campus. After she chose to attend IUPUI for college, she learned about the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Ready Your Roar, an event for committed IUPUI students.
“When I started learning about the philanthropy program from Pamela Clark and Greg Rathnow, it just clicked,” she said. “This is what I knew I wanted to do.”
It led her to applying for a Thomasson Scholarship, and when she shared her passion for helping people with disabilities, the panel was quite impressed. Rota-Autry says she was simply happy to be sharing her story.
“My life changed the day I found out I was chosen. I’m really excited to have opportunities to study abroad and live on campus,” she said. “This scholarship will also give me better opportunities after I graduate to pursue an advanced degree, and then give back to others as well.
“Long-term, I want to make a difference for how people see others. I’m excited to take classes that will help me in a career where I can help people see others in a positive light and look at them for who they really are and what’s in their heart, rather than by their facial expressions. That’s what truly matters.”
Lucy Hauser is passionate about philanthropy and Central Indiana. The Brownsburg, Indiana native and Herron High School grad grew up just outside of Indianapolis, and has had always had a philanthropic mindset due to her mother’s influence.
“My mom has served on nonprofit boards, and has always shared the work they are doing in the community,” Hauser explained.
She didn’t learn about the issues facing this area, though, until she attended a United Way youth leadership program during her sophomore year of high school.
“That program really opened my eyes to learning about different issues in this area. When you speak to someone who has personally experienced homelessness, or works in education, it’s a different experience than just hearing about it,” Hauser explained.
Participating in a mock board meeting one day as part of the program also helped her learn what it was like to be involved with a nonprofit.
Her experiences at Herron High School this past year has also helped Hauser get to know Indianapolis more. “I really got to learn about what makes this city unique.”
When it came time to apply and choose a university, she believed she wanted to major in global studies. Knowing that she wanted to learn how to help people, Hauser’s mother encouraged her to apply to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
“I started to look into it, and it was amazing,” she said. “I thought, ‘how did I not know about this place before?’
“After I applied, was accepted, and came to visit, I knew it was the right place. Speaking to current students here showed me that they want to do what I want to do.
“I never thought that I would find a place where I fit in so well.”
After hearing about the Thomasson Scholarship, Hauser knew she wanted to apply. “I knew that if I could earn this scholarship, it would help take weight off my shoulders while in school.”
After completing the interview process, she learned that she was chosen as a Thomasson Scholar.
“I couldn’t speak when I first heard, then I started calling everybody I knew,” she said. “It’s hard for me to honestly put it into words. I’m so grateful; it’s this huge honor that the Thomasson family is giving me.
“I’m so excited to learn more about issues like education, philanthropy and policy, and learn how to encourage people to take action and make a difference.”