Scholarship Recipient Appreciates Opportunity to Give Back
Like most Baylor seniors, Susanna Sage is excitedly looking to the year ahead, which includes final classes, last moments with friends and applications to graduate school. Sage, a psychology major from Thousand Oaks, California, is thankful for the scholarships she has received and said they are the main reason she was able to attend Baylor.
“Had I gone to a community college or a state school, I’m sure I could have had a good opportunity and a good experience, but I wouldn’t have had a Baylor experience,” Sage says. “A lot of schools can promise a lot of great activities and resources and a degree at the end of the day, but I don’t think you can beat what Baylor has given me.”
Sage’s perspective on Baylor is framed in gratitude — an appreciation for the community and relationships that have supported her in the most formative years of her life. That gratitude has shaped her Baylor journey. According to her supervisor, Collins Residence Hall Director Madeline Peña, Sage has made an impact on the lives of hundreds of Baylor students, particularly those at Collins Hall.
“Susanna has put more than enough time and energy and love and care into the women of Collins,” Peña says. “That has had such a ripple effect, truly, on the University because of it.”
Sage has been a community leader (CL) in Collins since her sophomore year. She lives with 30-40 residents and provides mentorship, leadership and support. She is a direct link between students and the residence hall director and staff. Last year, Sage took on more responsibility as the Collins Hall Community Leader Mentor (CLM), mentoring the 16 CLs who support the hall’s nearly 600 residents.
Peña said Baylor’s intentional community-building within residence halls epitomizes what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. She said community leaders are at the forefront of that effort.
“A lot of schools can promise a lot of great activities and resources and a degree at the end of the day, but I don’t think you can beat what Baylor has given me.”
“CLs are the first to hear about things, whether that be a mental health crisis situation or sharing joys and excitement,” Peña says. “They are walking through life with our residents and providing resources and support.”
Sage’s decision to become a CL stemmed from the impact her own community leader had on her freshman year. She has dealt with trials and tribulations from afar during her time at Baylor, including the loss of two family members, wildfires near her family’s house and a mass shooting in her hometown.
“We had some friends that were experiencing some different crises, and my CL played a huge part in helping us and guiding us through those situations,” she says.
Sage also found comfort and guidance from her hall director and resident chaplain, all of whom encouraged her to apply for the CL position. She feels fortunate to have been cared for by those in her community, and she now gives back to other residents and community leaders.
“I want my CLs and my residents to know that they, too, are supported at Baylor, that they’re seen here and that they matter here,” she says.
Because alumni-supported scholarships made her Baylor journey possible, Sage feels a sense of duty to give back to the University. She sees her work as a CLM as her way to accomplish that. Sage, who receives multiple need- and merit-based scholarships, is amazed by the generosity of benefactors who provide financial support for students they may never know.
“Every dollar does matter,” she says. “That collective effort is tangible evidence that I’m wanted at Baylor and that it doesn’t matter that I come from a single-parent, single-income household. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have the resources and the funds that a lot of Baylor students do have. It matters that I’m here, that I’m willing to give a part of myself and to sacrifice for my education and to enjoy my education.”
The Baylor Family has established more than 600 endowed scholarships to benefit undergraduate and graduate students since the beginning of Give Light — the University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign aimed at resourcing efforts to become an R1/Tier 1 Christian research university. Alumni, parents and friends have pledged or given more than $233 million to endowed scholarship funds and more than $23.6 million to current scholarships. Gifts to endowed scholarship funds constitute roughly half of the total gifts and pledges to endowment within the Give Light campaign, which has created significant momentum in growing dedicated, perpetual support of scholarships through endowment.
In October 2020, the Hord Scholarship Challenge was established through a $30 million gift commitment from Dan and Jenni Hord of Midland, Texas. The Hord Scholarship Challenge encourages the Baylor Family to come alongside their support of merit-based scholarships, helping to bridge the gap between merit- and need-based financial aid and unmet financial need for Baylor’s brightest students.
Dave Lamkin, associate director of scholarships in Baylor’s Office of Financial Aid, says every contribution helps, whether it is $1,000 or full tuition.
“If someone gives a scholarship for $500, that could be books for the semester,” he says. “Every amount that someone is giving is benefiting a student, helping to keep them at Baylor or getting them to Baylor, and allowing them to be successful when they leave.”
Lamkin’s five staff members work diligently to process scholarship requests and provide support to students in administering Baylor’s endowed scholarships. Though the volume of requests coming through their office is significant, Baylor Financial Aid tries to see each student’s individual needs and meet them with available resources.
Many of Baylor’s faculty are charged with nominating students they mentor or have in their classes for departmental scholarships. For these faculty, this process is a rewarding extension of the supportive community reflected in Baylor’s mission statement.
Chris Hansen is professor and chair of Baylor’s Department of Film and Digital Media (FDM) within the College of Arts & Sciences. He says students need to know that faculty care about them.
“Whether it’s through scholarships or whether it’s praying for our students and creating a community through our department so that students feel like they’re part of a smaller community within Baylor, that’s important to us,” Hansen says. “Scholarships are a way to encourage that and to communicate to students who have greater need that they belong to this community, and we want them to stay.”
Hansen also sees scholarships as opening students to the full scope of the Baylor experience. In some cases, scholarships allow students to reduce their out-of-school commitments so they can participate in programs that build upon classroom teaching, enriching their experiences and the experiences of their classmates. These include FDM’s Baylor in New York program, student-led organizations and service projects.
A Legacy of Impact
Sage plans to make the most of her senior year, along the way experiencing traditions that have made her time at Baylor memorable for the last time as a student. She hopes to pursue a Master of Social Work and wants to use her undergraduate psychology degree and criminal justice minor to help underserved communities, especially people experiencing addiction, mental illness and incarceration. She aspires to make her mark on the world, continuing a life of service that has benefited her Baylor community over the last four years.
Sage’s scholarships were established by alumni and parents of alumni who are no longer living. However, the legacy they leave behind — of service, of faith and of support for Baylor’s students — continues to shape the lives of more than their scholarship recipients. Sage says that is what makes Baylor’s caring, Christian environment special.
“At Baylor, every student matters,” she says. “We consider, in the Christian tradition, that every piece, every part of the body of Christ matters, and we need each other to function. Baylor cares for students and does a really good job of showing them that they matter and of giving them a good experience.”