Residence Life encourages students to apply for Gail Hurley, Fotis scholarships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Residence Life is offering two scholarships to support undergraduate students who exemplify selfless dedication and leadership to their residence hall community. Applications are due by Feb. 18.

The Gail Hurley Scholarship is awarded to students who serve as a resident assistant (RA) or active member of any of the residence area governments.

The Fotis Scholarship is open to any student living in an on-campus residence hall who achieves superior academic success and positively contributes to the community.

“The student who receives either of these scholarships is an active member of the community,” said John Hurst, assistant director of Residence Life. “They do it because they like doing it. You never hear them complain. They’re just there, and they want to do good.”

Ben Lakavage, a fifth-year student studying international affairs, received the Fotis Scholarship in 2021 and the Gail Hurley Scholarship in 2022.

“I’m a first-generation student. I don’t come from a very well-off background, so getting these scholarships really helped me continue to do these things for the community and not have to worry about financing my college career as much,” Lakavage said. “Without the scholarships, I would have had to take away more time from my academic and community goals.”

During his undergraduate years, Lakavage served as vice president of the North Halls Area Government, president of the South Halls Residence Association (SHRA) and an RA. While SHRA president, Lakavage said he enjoyed engaging with residents through community building activities — including springtime egg hunts, pumpkin carving, snow globe making and a “learn to dreidel” event.

“I’ve tried very hard throughout my four and a half years at Penn State to stay very involved in the residence life community,” Lakavage said. “During that time, I really put an emphasis on community building. It’s a lot of fun to see students come out and get to know each other.”

Krystal Leung, a fourth-year computer science major and Fotis Scholarship winner, became an RA to serve as a resource for new students. She and her fellow RAs have hosted walks to the Arboretum, visits to Webster’s Bookstore Cafe downtown and floor dinners with their residents.

Leung is in their fourth semester as an RA for Ally House, a living option in Watts Hall intended to support LGBTQ students and allies.

“I think it’s so important to have a space on campus where queer people can feel safe in their environment,” Leung said. “When I received the scholarship, it was just nice to know that the work that I do as an RA and as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community was appreciated by the University.” 

For Natalie Royal, receiving the Fotis Scholarship in 2021 and the Gail Hurley Scholarship in 2022 has allowed her to spend more time contributing to her residence hall community.

“I’m the type of person who applies to every scholarship I possibly can, because every little bit does help,” Royal said. “My education is funded by student loans, so the scholarships have helped me take out fewer loans.”

Royal, a fourth-year human centered design and development student, has served as the secretary, treasurer and president for the West Halls Residence Association. Throughout her four years in west halls, Royal has encouraged other students to become leaders and engage in their community through west hall events and advocacy campaigns.

Now, she is an RA and the director of advocacy for ARHS, the Association of Residence Hall Students. She has enjoyed watching her first-year students grow comfortable at the University.

“I have girls that at the beginning of the semester were crying and homesick, and now they have a great group of friends,” Royal said. “I think Residence Life helps foster that community.”

Royal said the Residence Life community has encouraged her to pursue leadership roles – in student government and as an RA.

“I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the leaders who came before me,” she said. “The scholarships deal a lot with leadership and service to your community. I had a lot of great mentors, former RAs and former student government members who have impacted my life and positively gotten me to where I am today.”

Students can apply to the Gail Hurley and Fotis Scholarships by filling out an online application by Feb. 18. Winners will be notified by the week of March 20.

The Fotis Scholarship also requires students to submit their unofficial transcript to Residence Life staff. Students must email the transcript to Hurst, [email protected], and Residence Life Administrative Assistant Cindy Stattel, [email protected].

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