Scholarship helps first-generation college student pursue dreams

The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Jannifer Phan has options her parents never did

Jennifer Phan

Jannifer Phan will graduate with a nursing degree in December. She says she would like to see more of the world as a traveling nurse, but also might pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.


Jannifer Phan is precisely the kind of student that Marie Miles wanted to help when she established a nursing scholarship in honor of her late husband, Gene.

   Just 20 years old, Phan is set to graduate from the WSU School of Nursing in December. She’s managed to earn a 3.47 GPA while working about 30 hours a week in the emergency rooms for Via Christi hospitals in Wichita. Getting her degree at such a young age has taken perseverance, hard work and scholarship assistance from people like Miles.

   “If I didn’t have these scholarships, I’m sure that I’d be working in some low-paying job instead of going to school,” says Phan, who graduated from Derby High School at the age of 16. “I never wanted to depend on my parents to pay for my college. I see how hard they work and I didn’t want to ask them for the money.”

   When Miles established the scholarship in 2006, four years after her husband died, her vision was to help students who didn’t have financial means, but had plenty of drive and ability. “Good for her,” she said admiringly when told of Phan’s progress. Though Miles hasn’t been able to meet many of her scholarship recipients, she says that she wishes them all well.

   Just this year alone, the Gene J. and Marie A. Miles Endowed Scholarship/Fellowship in Nursing provided financial assistance to five undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Nursing. With his wife, Gene Miles built, owned and operated four nursing homes in the Wichita area. The couple often had a difficult time finding skilled nurses, Marie Miles recalls.

   “We knew there was a real need for nurses,” she says. “They were so much in demand. I thought one good way to help was to set up a scholarship to help people who really wanted to be nurses, especially if they didn’t have the financial ability to afford the education.”

   Phan is a first-generation college student. Her parents came to the United States as Vietnam refugees, living in several cities before ending up in Wichita. Phan, who has four brothers, is humble about her accomplishments. Yet she also believes her parents are proud of her.

   “I hear them talking about it. They say, ‘She’s only 20 and she’s about to graduate from college.’ But they also expect it of me. I’ve always been this way.”

   Also proud of her is Tahmina Trisha, Phan’s academic advisor through Student Support Services at Wichita State. Phan has a strong work ethic and insists on holding herself to high standards, Trisha says.

   “She refuses to allow her current status as a first-generation, limited-income student prevent her from achieving academic success,” she says. “She is determined to rise above her obstacles and is willing to work hard in order to fulfill her dreams.”

   Phan is not sure what kind of nursing she will eventually practice, although she has a dream of being a traveling nurse so that she can see more of the United States. “I’ve never been anywhere,” she says with a laugh. And she also is considering earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Wichita State.

   “Working in the hospitals, I see the nurse practitioners and everything they are able to do,” she says. “I can see myself doing that someday.”  

circle arrow If you would like to establish a scholarship to help deserving students in the College of Health Professions, please contact Lynette Murphy, WSU Foundation senior director of development for the College of Health Professions and University Libraries, at (316) 978-3441 or at

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