Students Share How Scholarships Help Them Achieve Their Goals

GW will hold day of giving in support of student scholarships and financial aid.

Emilie Brandt relied on philanthropy for her college experience.
Donor-based aid was essential to Emilie Joe Brandt's college experience. (Courtesy Emilie Joe Brandt)
March 10, 2021

By Ruth Steinhardt

Growing up the child of a single mother in Atlanta, Emilie Joe Brandt knew at a young age that she would need financial support to attend college.

“We struggled financially when I was younger,” she said. “That really informed my experience in high school, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to college without outside help.”

Ms. Brandt is now a junior studying international affairs at the George Washington University. She’s interned in the U.S. Senate, eaten lunch outdoors in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden and holds leadership positions both in her sorority and in advocacy organizations on campus. And none of it would be possible, she said, without aid from the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation Fund, a donor-based scholarship she received through the Women’s Leadership Program in her first year at GW.

“Thanks to philanthropy and donor generosity, I have the opportunity to study in the nation’s capital and be a part of a community that has become so special to me,” she said.

To drive attention for the critical financial need faced by over 43% of undergraduate students who rely on philanthropic support to fund the education they deserve, GW will hold its first official Giving Day on April 7 in conjunction with the university’s ongoing bicentennial celebration. Giving Day will highlight student scholarship and financial aid across all GW Schools and Colleges, as well as other university and school and college priorities, often with matching funds being provided by loyal GW supporters. An anonymous donor has also generously decided the first $200,000 in gifts on Giving Day will be matched 1-1 to go to scholarships for GW students.

“Giving Day is a great opportunity for us to come together and build the foundation that will lead GW into the next 200 years, while supporting those members of our community who are most in need,” said Donna Arbide, vice president of development and alumni relations. “We will engage every member of the GW community to provide students access to world-class academic opportunities that empower them to influence the greater world.”

Image of Abdoul Diallo

(Courtesy Abdoul Diallo)

For many students, financial aid allows them to focus on the education they’ve worked hard to achieve without the strain of navigating dual careers in school and work.

“This scholarship has made my academic and personal experience at GW that much easier to navigate,” said Abdoul Diallo, a junior in the School of Business concentrating in sports management. “I have seen that financial situations can cause enormous stress on students. But this scholarship has reduced the mental and financial burden of paying for college for my family. Education has always been a priority for my family, and this scholarship allows me to fully focus on that.”

Image of Pary Aflaki
(Courtesy Pary Aflaki)

Pary Aflaki will graduate in May with a master’s in elementary education from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and she plans a career in education. “There has always been a passion in my heart for teaching,” she said.

Ms. Aflaki, a child of Iranian immigrants, said she was long aware of the burden of her parents’ sacrifice: “I am always in awe, thinking that they risked moving halfway around the world in order to give us the chance to pursue greater opportunities.”

But as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her life and education, she worried that the career in teaching she’d worked so hard for might slip from her grasp—until she received a 2020-21 Sylven Seid Beck Endowment Award.

“Because of the generous donation of the donors of this award, I have been able to receive one of the best educator-preparation programs that is preparing me for a lifetime of teaching from the heart,” Ms. Aflaki said. “Thank you infinitely for helping to make dreams like mine come true and letting me call GSEHD home.”

To read more stories from students impacted by philanthropy and learn how you can help, please visit

Student Life, University News


Power & Promise Makes Giving Personal

April 15, 2019

Annual dinner brings together GW students with donors whose philanthropy enabled their education.