Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 12:15

Grants to Aid Students in Process of Self-Discovery through Service, Research

New Assumption College Grant Program Empowers Students to Use Skills, Talents to Discern Professional Vocation

Assumption College has announced the first recipients of a new summer grant program that empowers students to explore potential career opportunities through the use of their skills and talents in service to others. The High Impact Summer Grants are one of many programs the College has established to reflect the principles that form the College’s mission.

Students in Assumption’s SOPHIA (SOPHomore Initiative at Assumption) program, a new initiative this academic year supported by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Foundation, are eligible to apply for the grants that provide students the opportunity to search for and discover a deeper connection between their spiritual and religious commitments and their personal and professional lives in terms of their vocation. SOPHIA integrates residential, academic, grant, and travel opportunities with the guidance of four faculty mentors. The program’s purpose is to foster a culture of vocational exploration at Assumption and to help students discern and choose lives of meaning.

“This summer grant program empowers Assumption students to apply their interests and skills in a professional setting, where they can obtain real experience that will aid their journey of self-discovery through service to others,” said Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., who is also involved in the program. “Many students are called to a particular field where they may use their skills and knowledge for the greater good, such as helping those with severe disabilities, finding ways to address global hunger, or mentoring orphaned children.”

The student grant program supports pursuits in three categories: community engagement, faith and life of the mind. These reflect the College’s mission to form graduates known for critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service.


The Life of the Mind Grant provides students with resources to explore which academic opportunity will help them realize their intellectual talents and those career paths that would enable the student to make the most effective use of their talents.  Environmental engineering major Kayleigh Murphy ‘16, of Whitinsville, Mass., a student in the College’s 3 + 2 Engineering program with Notre Dame University, was awarded a $2,445 Life of the Mind Grant to research the use of aquaponics to feed a large number of people who endure scarce food sources. 

“A person’s vocation is the place that they are called to be in life. I know that the road to this place can be very rocky, but reaching that niche in life is the ultimate reward,” said Murphy. “As I explore my career as an environmental engineer, I have not determined how this relates to my vocation. I feel, however, that in order for me to find how this occupation is truly part of my vocation, I need to discover how it will benefit others.”

Murphy will travel to the Nelson and Pade Aquaponics Center in Wisconsin this summer, where she will learn about this alternative food production method through observation and classroom instruction. Following the discovery portion of her summer, Murphy plans to research the cost of a large-scale aquaponics farm and if such farming can be conducted in a salt-water environment. Her research will begin with the construction of a small-scale aquaponics system. If possible, she will also explore if aquaponics is a viable and environmentally friendly food production means in ocean environments, potentially eliminating the need to fertilize and spread pesticides through land-based farming. 


Lilivette Viera ’16, a Human Services and Rehabilitation major from Dallas, Texas, was awarded a $3,060 Community Engagement Grant to intern at the Rise School of Dallas, where she will explore career paths that include serving children with disabilities. The nonprofit school provides quality early childhood education services to children with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities, and to children without disabilities. 

Viera’s younger cousin Bryan was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed two years ago with Autism.  She witnessed his struggle to communicate his needs. At the Rise School, Bryan has developed his motor skills such as holding a pencil and practice hand movements, which has allowed him to integrate in a classroom setting at a Dallas elementary school. Through observation of work performed by therapists with Bryan, Viera was inspired to help others with similar disabilities.

“I want to learn, in-depth, about the different careers people in the Human Services & Rehabilitation field can provide to children with disabilities,” Viera explained.  “I hope to find the career I am meant to do by receiving experience in each of the fields I am exposed to. Whether it is to put a puzzle together or just clapping along to a song, I want to work with a child so that they realize they can achieve their goals.  I want to provide them with the opportunity to shine.”

Viera’s award will provide a stipend for this unpaid internship as well as materials and transportation.

A $500 Community Engagement Grant was awarded to Ralph Cola ‘16 of Providence, R.I. Cola will spend one month this summer in Grand Goave, Haiti, where he will volunteer at the Be Like Brit Orphanage to teach American sports to children whose parents were killed in the 2010, 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Approximately 90 percent of the city’s building and homes were destroyed as a result of the earthquake. Cola’s work in Haiti will introduce the orphans to American sports and culture while encouraging fitness.

“If I could be successful at just offering the children some fun and stress relief from their very unfortunate situations, I would consider this time spent in Grand Goave a job well done,” Cola said. “We learn in philosophy, from a secular perspective; and in theology, from a religious one, that it is inherently good for us to reach out to communities that are in the most need, and that our ability to do this determines the significance in our lives.”

After graduation, Cola aspires to serve as an inner-city teacher. This summer’s experience in Haiti, with middle- and high school-aged children, will help Cola to develop patience, compassion and empathy. Cola will be the first student from Assumption College to serve at the Be Like Brit Orphanage. The grant will cover Cola’s food and housing expenses.”

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College
ke.dunbar@assumption.edu @AssumptionNews