The Gates way to a college education
Gates Millennium Scholars choose to pursue their
degrees at UTA
by Sherry Wodraska Neaves
At a spending rate of $1,000 per day, it would
take three years to spend $1 million. To spend $1 billion would
take 3,000 years.
Bill and Melinda Gates are spending one of their billions to fund
20,000 college scholarships, and they'll do it all in the next 20
They launched the Gates Millennium Scholars program
in 2000. During the first year, 4,000 "high-achieving, low-income
minority students," including three at UTA, were awarded the
Chineme Esimai, DaLesia Brown and Gloria Rubio
rank among those students identified by the Gates foundation as
having high academic and leadership promise, but they needed assistance
in fulfilling their educational ambitions.
Honors College Associate Dean Martha Mann helped
locate the UTA students to apply for the award.
"I kept having students tell me that they
couldn't keep up with school because they had to work to support
themselves," Dr. Mann said. "When I saw the announcement
of this scholarship, I started going through our student database,
sorting by class standing and GPA. I identified students and invited
them to apply and also to attend a scholarship clinic that we offer."
The Gates Millennium Scholars program targets
the disciplines of mathematics, science, engineering, education
and library science, seeking to increase the numbers of African-American,
Hispanic, native American/Alaskan native and Asian Pacific American
students pursuing degrees in those areas. And it's not just for
undergraduates. Once the scholarship is awarded, students can renew
it annually, through graduate school.
"Sometimes you really have to encourage students
just to apply for the scholarships," Dr. Mann said. "Many
of them are very accomplished, but they're also very modest.
"Many students, particularly minorities,
don't go to grad school," she added. "And often, finances
figure into that decision. This scholarship, and others, can make
advanced studies possible."
Leading the way
Rubio is seriously considering a master's degree after she graduates
in May with her bachelor's in bilingual education. "The money
is there," she said, "and I want to go on." This
semester she's working to complete her teaching residency at Garcia
Elementary School in Grand Prairie.
Born in Juarez, Mexico, Rubio grew up in El Paso. After graduating
second in her high school class, she was the first member of her
family to attend college. She started out at New Mexico State University,
partly because it was close to home, then transferred to UTA as
"Coming to UTA is the best thing that's happened to me,"
she said. "There are many more scholarships available here,
especially for bilingual students."
Rubio saw a need and became a motivating force in establishing
the University's Bilingual Education Student Organization. She also
made a difference in her calculus class, taught by mathematics Associate
Professor Larry Heath, who later wrote a recommendation for her
"I've always found Gloria to be efficient and a pleasure to
be around," he said. "She was always happy and friendly
and liked to kid with me before class. I've incorporated some of
the suggestions she made about the course into my class, and I think
the course is better as a result."
Esimai came to UTA as a 16-year-old freshman. In December, she received
her bachelor's degree in accounting, graduating cum laude.
Originally from Nigeria, Esimai and her family moved to the United
States just six years ago. Her mother, Grace Esimai, is a senior
lecturer in the UTA College of Business Administration, and her
father is an engineering researcher at SMU.
"My mom always told me good stories about UTA," she said.
"It's the perfect size. The tuition rate is good. It's close
to great culture and employment opportunities. So, here I am.
"With parents in education, you definitely aspire higher.
They set such high standards."
And Esimai met those standards, maintaining a 3.7 to 3.8 GPA even
while working full time. But the Gates scholarship has improved
even that impressive record.
"I've applied for a lot of scholarships," she said. "Most
give $1,000 or $2,000, and that helps, but the Gates pays according
to your need and it covers everything that's not paid by other financial
"In the past year I've received enough to pay for everything.
I don't owe a thing. And with the scholarship, I don't have to work
40 hours a week. Now I'm making a 4.0."
Those grades will certainly polish her graduate school application.
Esimai plans a quick return to UTA for her master's degree in accounting.
Outside of class, Esimai has served as a UTA Ambassador, a Student
Congress representative, an officer in the College of Business Constituency
Council and a mentor to high school students in Upward Bound. One
of those students eventually became another Gates Millennium Scholar:
graduated from high school in Fort Sill, Okla., but with a dad in
the military she has lived in several states and spent more than
six years in Germany. Her first glimpse of UTA came as a high school
senior participating in the summer Upward Bound program.
Lonita Fantroy, an Upward Bound learning specialist,
immediately identified Brown as a "dedicated student, intelligent,
cooperative, assertive and friendlyher leadership abilities
were readily observed in her interaction with students and faculty."
After that first good look, Brown liked the University so much
she decided to come back.
"UTA is big, but the professors are very approachable,"
she said. "You get lots of one-on-one attention. I feel like
I can excel here."
A pre-business sophomore, Brown plans on a career in corporate
law and hopes that her Gates funds will follow her to law school.
"A lot of young people don't know about all the scholarships
that are available," she said. "So many don't try because
they're not aware of the possibilities and options. My parents always
told me that I could do anything I want to."
Through their own efforts, and with timely assistance from the
Gates Millennium Scholarship program, Rubio, Esimai and Brown will
continue to pursue their goals.
After all, as Esimai said, "When I saw the Gates name on the
scholarship, I thought he might have a million or two to share."