Aug. 8, 2023
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Justin Begay travelled to Italy over spring break this past semester, an opportunity made possible to him through receiving a competitive scholarship.

Did you know that there are scholarships out there that can fit the unique needs of any student? 

The Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS) serves all students at the University of Arizona by assisting them in finding scholarships that pertain to their specific interests and areas of study. An added perk for students in the W.A. Franke Honors College is that they don’t have to travel far to access the resources of ONCS, as it is conveniently housed where they live and learn—right within the Honors Village. 

Justin Begay is one of many Franke Honors students who have made the most of the proximity to this valuable resource. 

“Having the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships right here on-site made the process easier for me, since I prefer to talk to someone face-to-face. The staff has been extremely kind and helpful by offering some pointers to ensure I had the strongest possible application,” said Begay. 

Begay is originally from Lake Havasu City, AZ and transferred to the University of Arizona last year from Mohave Community College. He is now a rising senior at the Franke Honors College studying Psychology, which he chose to major in because of his military background working as a hospital corpsman.  

“I had experience working in military treatment facilities but decided that patient care is not what I wanted to do. Around that time, I read an article on emotional intelligence (EQ) and its long-term impact on our ability to manage ourselves and our relationships, which became really important to me,” explained Begay. 

After settling into the University of Arizona and learning about different opportunities available to him across campus, Begay started applying for competitive scholarships. After sending in applications for scholarships that fit his goals, he was selected for the Udall Scholarship and the Gilman Scholarship.  

Both of these awards will allow Begay to reach incredible new heights during his time as an undergrad. As an awardee of the Gilman scholarship, he was able to receive funding to study abroad in Italy during the spring 2023 semester, on the Honors in Italy spring break trip. Now, as a Udall Scholar, he will receive up to $7,000 of support towards his academic expenses as well as gain access to the Udall Alumni Network—an association of change-makers, working in Indian country and environmental fields, sharing innovative ideas, professional advice, and job and internship opportunities. 

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The Udall Scholarship involves issues related to Native American nations and/or the environment. With his interest in the study of psychology, Begay, who is also Navajo, has noticed a significant spike in rates of anxiety and depression, particularly amongst the youth, and especially within the Native population. 

“My long-term goal is to serve in a counseling role for those who may not feel comfortable, for various reasons, reaching out for help with their current school psychologist,” said Begay. “I can easily put myself in their shoes. I was a normal student growing up but could be quite troublesome. Again, there were many reasons for that, and I hope to tap into that experience when helping other Native youth overcome their particular challenges.” 

Justin just returned from the Ronald E. McNair scholars conference at UCLA, where he presented his summer research proposal on "Implementing a School Garden Project for Native American College Students," under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Pope, who is Begay’s research advisor. The goal of his project will be to measure changes in GPA and social and emotional development with Native American college students at the University of Arizona over the 2024-25 academic year. 

Aside from scholarships, Begay is also involved with the W.A. Franke Honors Ambassadors (FHA), The Franke Honors Transfer Advisory Board for Students (TABS), as well as other University of Arizona clubs such as Active Minds, and Fostering and Cultivating Equity and Sensitivity (F.A.C.E.S.)

Justin’s advice for applying for competitive Scholarships: 

“A very simple and easily overlooked piece of advice I was given this year in terms of applying for scholarships (and grad school) is to “follow directions.” Also, asking others to proofread my essays was something I normally would not have done in the past. Be sure to make time to talk with someone at the Office of Competitive Scholarships and ask their honest opinion about your application as you go along.”   

Learn more about ONCS