Scholarship awarded to School of Health Professions student

Golden trophy in front of green wall with stars drawn on it to represent the winning joy
School of Health Professions student Araceli Ortiz recently received a scholarship from the Association of Retired Faculty and Associates.

When School of Health Professions student Araceli Ortiz learned she would be receiving a $2,000 scholarship from the Association of Retired Faculty and Associates (ARFA), she was thankful that her passion for helping others shined through in her scholarship application.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ortiz, a first-year student in the Masters in Speech Language Pathology Program, had volunteered her time to review educational audiobooks for the Learning Ally platform to help individuals with difficulty reading. This was a cause close to Ortiz’s heart.

When Ortiz was nine years old, she and her family had moved from Mexico to the border town of Brownsville, Texas. At the time, Ortiz spoke little to no English. Now, the graduate student is passionate about helping others encountering any language challenges.

“I want to help people with similar situations,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz’s scholarship was donated from funds raised by the members of ARFA, a group of approximately 100 university faculty and staff who retired after working at the university for at least five years. Each year, the scholarship rotates among the university’s schools.

Association President Rajia Tobia said that it’s rewarding to provide students a scholarship that can help make a difference in their education.

“As a retired employee and member of ARFA, I am very proud that I can contribute to the university’s educational mission by providing a scholarship each year to a deserving student,” she said. “I know that other ARFA members feel the same as I do since awarding a scholarship is an important part of ARFA’s mission.”

The association was started around the 1980s to provide retired university faculty and staff an opportunity to meet with former colleagues and stay informed about the university and its programs.

“Normally, we have three or four programs a year that are luncheon programs where we invite someone from the university to present about their department or … for example, next year we’re going to have a tour of the new multidisciplinary and specialty hospital,” Tobia said.

At the end of the year, the group meets for a holiday luncheon, followed by a business meeting, where the year’s scholarship recipient is announced.

The association raises the scholarship funds during its annual appeal for funds. Once the funds are raised, they go into an endowment and the university’s Financial Aid office reviews scholarship applications to determine eligibility. This year, eligible candidates were sent to the School of Health Professions’ scholarship committee of seven faculty members from each of the school’s programs.

The committee reviewed a list of 215 eligible candidates to determine if any of the students have been previously awarded any scholarships and reviewed the students’ financial needs.

The committee also evaluated students’ essays, extracurricular activities and community advocacy efforts, said David Henzi, EdD, FASAHP, associate dean for academic and student affairs, School of Health Professions.

Ortiz’s extracurricular activities and volunteer service stood out, Henzi said.

Ortiz said receiving the scholarship has truly helped relieve some of the worry associated with finances.

“It helped with a lot of stress and anxiety because, as a low-income, first-generation student, … getting this scholarship helped get the financial stress out of my mind so I could focus on my education.”

Tobia said that being able to award the scholarship and help others is one of the many benefits of joining the association.

“I think it’s good for the retired community to stay in touch and to have that feeling of still belonging to an organization,” Tobia said.

University faculty and staff who have worked for the university for at least five years and are contemplating or nearing retirement can join the association by completing an online membership form or contact Community Engagement and Special Projects Coordinator Cindi Adcock at

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