New scholarship helps Sarah Staats help others

The graduate student is the first recipient of the Jill Smith Frasco Endowment

Sarah Staats and Jill Smith Frasco at the Plaza of Heroines on the WSU campus. Staats is the first recipient of a scholarship established by Frasco, a 1975 graduate of Wichita State.
Sarah Staats and Jill Smith Frasco at the Plaza of Heroines on the WSU campus. Staats is the first recipient of a scholarship established by Frasco, a 1975 graduate of Wichita State.

The life of a graduate student is often hectic and stressful, and Sarah Staats’ life is no exception.

   A full-time student pursuing her doctorate in psychology, she also works in the WSU Psychology Clinic, facilitates an obsessive-compulsive disorder support group, and this fall will start a practicum working with patients at Via Christi Weight Management.

   But one burden she no longer has to shoulder is her part-time job as a pharmacy tech, thanks to the financial assistance she will get as the inaugural recipient of the Jill Smith Frasco Endowed Scholarship.

   “It was so stressful to have to work on top of everything else. I feel a thousand pounds lighter,” says Staats, a 26-year-old native of Garden City. “It gives me more time for school work and research. And since I was almost completely broke, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

   The timing was significant to Jill Smith Frasco, too. She decided that her 60th birthday was a good time to make a gift to herself and to Wichita State by establishing the endowed scholarship for pyschology, sociology or social work majors. Initially, Frasco had intended to set up the scholarship through a deferred gift. But she credits her brother Bob Smith, WSU alumnus, president emeritus of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and a former associate dean of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with persuading her to make the gift immediately.

“It is a great feeling to help students and see the recipients of this scholarship benefit right away.”

- Jill Smith Frasco '75

   “The need is there, and it’s an important need,” says Frasco, who graduated from Wichita State in 1975 with a dual degree in psychology and sociology. “It made me feel so good to hear that this scholarship will make it possible for Sarah to not have to work, and to focus on her education and research.”

   It’s also gratifying to Frasco that her gift is being made at a time when two of her favorite former professors, Ron Matson and John Bardo, are now leading the university. Matson is interim dean of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Bardo became WSU president in 2012.

   “To be able to establish my endowment under their watch is perfect,” she says.

   Frasco is retired after a 33-year career with Westar Energy. Her late husband, Larry Frasco, owned Portobello Road restaurant in Wichita from 1973 until his death in 1993.

   Staats (rhymes with hats) is in the third year of a five-year doctoral program. She’ll receive her master’s degree in psychology in December. Her biggest area of interest is something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of psychotherapy in which people learn to accept their inner thoughts and feelings while committing themselves to changing the behavior those feelings might provoke.

   This fall, she will begin a practicum at Via Christi Weight Management in which she will try to use ACT to influence obese clients to become healthier through physical activity.

   “These are people whose lives and health may depend on them getting out to the gym or exercising in some way. So if I can help change their lives, if I can give them the missing piece to do that, that would be so rewarding to me.”

   She decided to attend Wichita State because it was close to home and she liked its emphasis on integrating with the surrounding community.

   “I wanted those opportunities to work with community organizations and to serve a diverse population,” Staats says. So far, that has been one of the most rewarding parts of her experience at Wichita State.

   “Working with real clients with real struggles and challenges has been everything I had hoped for. I feel like I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”


circle arrow If you would like to establish a scholarship to help deserving students in the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, please contact Michael Rishell, WSU Foundation director of development for the Fairmount College, at 316-978-3945 or at

Velma Wallace

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