When Christian Appia ’18 won a Dean’s Merit Award, he didn’t see the scholarship as something simply for him, he saw it as part of something bigger: “The value of what you give is worth a lot more than money in a bank account. It’s social mobility. It’s changing the course of lives, it’s enabling dreams, and it’s inspiring those who have received to pay it forward.”
This is a lesson Appia learned from his mother. “She used to say something interesting to me when she taught me something she valued or thought was important,” he explains. “She would say, ‘I’m not doing this for you; I’m doing this for my grandchildren.’”
The award from the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences allowed Appia to finish his bachelor’s degree in sustainable community development and go on to work toward a master’s degree in regional planning. The award was funded by an anonymous family foundation with a goal of reducing the debt burden for Sustainable Community Development fifth-year students in the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning program. The scholarship specifically supports students focused on helping struggling neighborhoods with community development solutions.
“That scholarship, that investment, has changed the course of my life forever,” says Appia. With a passion for social justice research, he is paying it forward by helping to smooth the college experience for students following in his footsteps.
He is currently assisting Lynn Phillips in the communication department on a qualitative study of first generation, underrepresented students and their experience of the conditions, practices, and resources that affect their ability to thrive at UMass Amherst. “I am confident that as a result of this research,” Appia affirms, “we can create policy recommendations that can keep students from falling through the cracks.”