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Shock the World Campaign
In This Issue


Helping students with financial need attend college

When you read the stories of Callista, Levi and Star, you will see just a sampling of the hundreds of WSU students who wonder day to day how they’re going to afford to stay in school. Helping students like them is a top fundraising priority in this final year of the Shock the World Campaign, with a goal of raising more than $8 million from our friends and supporters for need-based scholarships. With 47 percent of WSU students the first in their families to attend college, the need for meaningful scholarships is stronger than ever.

Callista Owens

Kansas City junior, 20, majoring in violin performance and music education

Career aspiration: To play professionally

Callista faced a hard choice this summer. Ready to enroll for her junior year at Wichita State, she still owed the university a hefty sum from her sophomore year. With no ready cash to pay the debt, she was prepared to take a year off school to raise the money by working. Then the College of Fine Arts learned of her predicament and, with the help of a generous donor, was able to help her.

“I almost couldn’t believe it. These people were willing to give their money to help a student like me,” says Callista, a talented violin student and member of the WSU Symphony Orchestra. “This is one of the things I appreciate about Wichita State. They treat you like family.”

Callista’s parents have a limited ability to help her financially, so she has relied on scholarships and working to pay for college. She started playing the violin at age 8 but it was at age 11 that she saw a TV advertisement for the Kansas City Symphony and told her mother, “That is what I want to do.”

Levi Lowe

Sedan senior, 21, majoring in applied computing and psychology

Career aspiration: Information Security

Levi grew up in the southeast Kansas town of Sedan, the oldest child of a police offcer father and a mother who worked in a feed store. He is the first in his family to attend college, though his mother currently is attending community college.

“I’m pretty much on my own in terms of paying for school,” says Levi, who holds an internship at a company providing cybersecurity services to businesses. “It’s been a struggle to find the right balance between work and school, having enough time to focus on my classes.”

He has worked between 30 and 40 hours a week since starting college and although it’s a challenge to juggle everything, he also thinks he’s better prepared to enter the job market. “Working is more than just drawing a paycheck. It helps build a work ethic and gives you a real-life look at the business world.”

Levi receives a scholarship that provides about $5,000 an academic year, but he also has had to take out student loans to make ends meet. “I’m so thankful for that scholarship. It definitely takes away some of the stress of figuring out how to pay for everything myself.”

Star Billingsley

Wichita sophomore, 19, majoring in pre-law psychology

Career aspiration: Regulatory lawyer

Star is the recipient of a scholarship that provides about $10,000 an academic year for students with financial need. That amount fully covers tuition and fees for Star, who relies on financial aid and income from working to pay for college.

“My parents will help out if I need them, but I don’t want to put that pressure on them,” says Star, a residential advisor in Shocker Hall. “They did what they could to help my sister graduate from Wichita State, so they’ve done a lot already.”

Despite that help, Star’s sister racked up about $38,000 in student loans, a burden Star is hoping she can avoid. “I’m thankful for my scholarship. It allows me to focus on my classes and participate in the activities that are important to me.”

Besides working as an RA, Star works about 12 hours a week in the WSU Career Development Center. Star founded the Black Academic Honor Society, which requires WSU students to maintain at least a 3.0 grade-point average to join. She hopes the organization will help elevate the profile of high-achieving black students on campus.

The Financial Gap*

As WSU’s director of financial aid, Sheelu Surender sees student need first-hand. She commented about that need in a recent interview.

“More than one-third of WSU students have a gap in the financial aid they’re receiving versus what they need to pay for tuition and fees. For many in the middle, who are just outside of grant eligibility, it’s a significant gap that determines whether they can even attend WSU.

Financial aid has not kept pace with inflation. At the same time, the cost of education has been increasing. Students today have a diffcult choice. Do they go to school to prepare for a career or work to meet the basic needs of food, housing and health care?

Any scholarships or aid a student receives means less student loan debt. It also means they can participate more fully in their classes and engage in campus life. Ultimately, it means being able to make a choice to attend Wichita State.

When you give philanthropically to WSU students, you are changing lives through the gift of a college education. It’s about changing the future for that student and the future generations of that student’s family and, ultimately, our greater community and society as a whole.”

For more information

If you would like to find out how you can help, contact Darin Kater, WSU Foundation associate vice president, at 316-978-3887 or

Darin Kater