Anna Buchannan carries a motto that we can all relate to right now.
“My motto right now is that if I could just get through this year, that would be enough,” she says, speaking via videoconference, which the pandemic has made ubiquitous for college students.
It’s been a year of changes for Anna — a move from Metropolitan Community College to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a switch in majors, a new job and, of course, adjusting to the new virtual life of a college student in 2020-21. But she’s not letting these challenge slow her down from achieving her goal of a UNO degree.
“Because I transferred majors, I’m a little behind on my classes, and I want to graduate with my class — that’s a really big focal point for me,” she said. “I know for others, it’s like, ‘who cares if you graduate later?’ But that is not me. I want to graduate with my class.”
Fortunately for Anna, UNO alumni and donors have made all of the changes — and hitting her goal of graduating on time — just a little bit easier to manage. This fall, Anna became one of seven promising UNO Fund scholarship recipients, receiving financial assistance thanks to hundreds of generous alumni and supporters of the UNO Fund.
“It was a super big relief,” Anna said, “because it took out a lot of stress of me having to take a loan. I’ve gotten this far in my college career without having to take out a loan. It was amazing. I was so happy!”
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer Anna a renewable scholarship to cover much of her tuition through her expected graduation in 2022.
An Omaha native and Millard West High School graduate, Anna initially struggled with deciding on a major. She started her collegiate career at MCC, defaulting to nursing because she held a CNA certification. After some time working in the field, however, she questioned whether it was the right career for her.
“As I was almost done finishing my gen eds for nursing, I had gotten my second job as a CNA, working inpatient, and I just had a total change of heart in what I wanted to do,” she said. “I felt like it wasn’t for me to do that for a long time.”
Anna switched her major to business, which offered more options to transfer credits to a four-year institution. She graduated from MCC in the spring of 2020 and started taking courses at UNO in the fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business, with a concentration in human resource management and a minor in marketing.
“UNO has a really good business program,” she said, “and I have a million things I would love to do [with the degree].” For the time being, she’s keeping her options open, mentioning that she could envision herself working in human resources, medical sales, nurse recruiting or in management at a hospital or clinic. Additionally, she’s excited to see what opportunities her summer internship will bring. Through a UNO business class, Anna secured an internship with Werner Enterprises in summer 2021, allowing her to get real-world experience in human resource management and recruiting.
“I’m really excited for that because instead of me just being a sidekick, I’m going to be almost like an actual employee getting a full-on, hands-on experience,” she said.
The UNO Fund scholarship and its donors are helping make these experiences possible for her. Currently, Anna is living at home and working part-time to pay for her classes. Before she learned she was a recipient of the scholarship, she was worried she wouldn’t have the funds to pay for her classes and graduate on time.
“I didn’t know how I was going to pay for my spring semester classes,” she said. “I was going to have to take out a loan. Instead, with the scholarship, I got reimbursed for the fall semester, and I used that money plus the money for the scholarship for spring to pay for spring classes.”
“I think as a college student one of the biggest things and one of the biggest stressors we worry about is how we’re going to pay for classes — whether we’re going to have to make payments on it, or if we’re going to have to take out a loan, which then affects years and years of your life,” Anna said. “For me, this scholarship helped me out so much. I’m taking five classes now, and that’s the most I’ve taken here at UNO. I like to focus more on school. Prior to me finding out about this scholarship, I was going to have to work a lot more, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to balance school and work and studying and get everything on the same page. For me, this took off the stress of one, having to pay a debt for this semester, and then two, having to work even more than what I am now. So I got to keep the same work schedule because I was able to have this semester covered for me, so I get to focus way more on my studies.”
The scholarship allows Anna to focus on her course load and catch up with her graduation timeline. Thanks to the supporters of the UNO Fund, Anna expects she’ll earn her degree and graduate next spring.
“I just want to say thank you, because working as a college student and trying to do college in a work-life schedule is seriously so much stress,” she said. “Knowing that people are able to donate money for us to have our school covered and not have to worry about loans or debt or working as much so we get to focus more on our school and our studies is a huge relief, and I’m very thankful for it.”
Anna added that one day, she hopes to pay the generosity forward with her own gift to the UNO Fund scholarship.
“I would definitely consider becoming a donor myself, especially if I’m in a place where I can. Because I’ve been in the position, I would definitely like to relieve that stress for someone else, because I know how big a relief it is.”