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Extra credit, extra cash

The best practice that helped one MSU Denver student land a $5,000 scholarship.

By Doug McPherson

May 22, 2019

Recipients of 2109 NEWH scholarship, including Roadrunner Monique BindelSometimes, professors’ assignments pay off – not just academically but financially.

When Michael Wray, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism at Metropolitan State University of Denver, was teaching beverage fundamentals this spring, he gave a curious assignment for extra credit: Complete a scholarship application.

One student, Monique Bindel (pictured second from left), a junior event- and meeting-management major, said her first thought was, “Oh, great! An easy way to earn extra-credit points!”

Her second thought was less joyful: “I didn’t feel like I had much of a chance.”

Still, she filled out the form, wrote an essay and gathered letters of recommendation. A few days later, she was accepted into the second round of applicants, where she was asked to build a presentation showcasing her work and passion for hospitality. Next thing she knew, she won.

In all, the assignment took Bindel about seven hours. The reward: a $5,000 scholarship for the fall semester from the Hospitality Industry Network Rocky Mountain Chapter, which promotes scholarship, education and interest in the industry.

It’s the first scholarship Bindel has won — ever. And it’s the first time she’s ever been assigned a scholarship application. She immediately emailed Wray: “Your extra-credit assignment was a factor in my decision to initially apply.”

She added that it was “absolutely the best extra-credit assignment I ever had,” and that “the assignment is an amazing tool that all college teachers should utilize.”

Wray says the best practice is the brainchild of Christian Hardigree, J.D., dean of the School of HEaT. Hardigree assigned scholarship applications at a previous institution where she taught and encouraged her MSU Denver faculty to do the same.

“I suggested it as a technique to assist students in understanding how to brand and differentiate themselves,” said Hardigree. “Any time we can weave realistic, relevant opportunities into a course to assist students in connecting with opportunities, I believe we have a duty to do that.”

Wray says he will continue with the assignment as extra credit and likely require it in future career-development courses. “We know that many scholarships aren’t awarded due to lack of application,” Wray said. “This best practice works and can go far to reduce student debt if widely implemented across the campus in all fields.”  

Thad Spaulding, interim associate vice president of Enrollment Management in MSU Denver’s Financial Aid Office, said he’s aware of reports that say millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed each year and that he doesn’t doubt that.

Spaulding likes the idea of faculty giving scholarship-application assignments. “I think it’s a phenomenal idea. It’s great for connecting students to resources, and it’s an added bonus that this effort is in class,” he said. “I’m so glad to hear faculty members are doing this, and I hope more do.”

As for Bindel, the whole affair has been life-changing. “Winning this scholarship has given me confidence to apply for more scholarships in the future and truly be proud of who I am in my industry,” she said.

Topics: Academics, Classroom to Career Hub

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