The anatomy of a scholarship

BY MICHELLE KEARNS

When Charice Thompson, BA ’18, MS ’21, returned to UB to finish the bachelor’s degree in political science she’d started two decades earlier, her goal was to show her children the importance of finishing the college education she’d put on pause to open a hair salon.

Zoom image: (Photo courtesy Charice Thompson) Clinical Professor William Barba

(Photo courtesy Charice Thompson)

Then, she headed to graduate school with another ambition—to forge a career and assist Black entrepreneurs, like her. At first, the civil rights movement inspired her ambition to be a lawyer. When she didn’t get into law school, she pivoted.

The memory of a nurturing grammar school librarian led her to GSE’s information and library science master’s degree program. “I realized that there’s more than one way to approach something,” said Thompson. “I had to make a shift.”

Her new ambition developed as she cultivated information science skills. She did legal research during a law library practicum. She learned how to find answers to questions and tackle business conundrums.

In this, her last year, scholarships were a welcome morale boost and financial infusion when the pandemic interrupted business. Last summer, there was a lull at her Amherst Sittin’ Pretty hair salon. Knowing extra money could help, Thompson took advantage of the quiet to search her UB email inbox for scholarship notices.

By November, she had won the two she applied for—along with a GSE tuition waiver based on her academic merit.

A new scholarship in action

In addition to winning a New York Library Association Dewey Scholarship, Thompson is the inaugural winner of the Drs. Henry J. and Bonita R. Durand Scholarship, established by the late Henry Durand, UB associate vice provost of academic affairs and GSE clinical associate professor, and his wife, the former chief of staff to the president of SUNY Buffalo State. It was designed for graduate student alumni of UB’s Cora P. Maloney Center programs. Preference is given to first-generation students and those facing economic barriers as they study at GSE or in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning.

Thompson was moved by the scholarship support. “It means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s more important right now because of the pandemic … A good thing after all that’s happened in the last year.”

A new career begins

Thompson’s experience as an entrepreneur motivated her studies. She’s confronted racism and challenges like a former neighbor who hung a Confederate flag on his door when she opened her first salon decades ago. She also understands difficulties like getting business loans. “Who knows what my business would be if I was able to secure funding when I needed it?” she said. “I dealt with discrimination. I was young. I didn’t have the tools I needed to fight back.”

As her last year at GSE converged with the pandemic and social justice protests, she’s been considering her career and how to use information science to advocate for civil rights, social change and other Black entrepreneurs like her.

“It’s just important to be informed and know what the resources are,” she said. “How can I contribute to informing my community in a way that I wasn’t informed?”

For information about creating and funding new scholarships, please contact Kerri Lehmbeck (EdM ’00), GSE associate director of advancement, at lehmbeck@buffalo.edu.