In the current economic environment, a growing gap exists between the demonstrated financial need of our students and the resources available on campus to assist them.

In 1999, Southwestern partnered with the Texas Methodist Foundation to create the Dixon Scholarship Fund, named in honor of the late Ernest T. Dixon Jr., a leading United Methodist Bishop and advocate of higher education. The Dixon Scholarship Award was created to benefit high-achieving African American, Hispanic and Native American students.

To be considered for a Dixon Award, students must rank in the top 10 percent of their high school class and are selected based on the quality and rigor of their high school academic record, their performance on the SAT or ACT, their level of extracurricular involvement, the quality of their written essay, their personal interview with a member of the admission staff and the content of their recommendation letters.

Relying on gifts from alumni and friends to maintain and grow the level of scholarship support offered, the Dixon Fund has provided full and partial scholarships to 160 deserving students headed to the Southwestern campus over the past decade.

The Dixon Scholarship Selection Committee is currently made up of five professionals, four of whom are Southwestern alumni. Southwestern sat down with the committee to learn more about what’s involved in applying for and possibly receiving a Dixon Scholarship.

What drew you to the Dixon Scholarship Selection Committee?

Curtis: I’ve been part of the committee for eight years. I value diversity in our environment, and I believe differences of opinion allow us all to grow and become better citizens.

John: I was a Presidential Scholar in the inaugural year of that Southwestern scholarship, so when I was asked to be on the Dixon selection committee, I saw it as an opportunity to help others as I’d been helped as a student.

Lynette: Dixon creates interest in Southwestern and opens doors for students who might not otherwise come here. I’ve been on the selection committee from the beginning, and it’s gotten harder every year to make our decisions.

Maggie: This was my first year on the committee. My grandfather and Bishop Dixon were friends, so I’m especially happy to help; it does so much good for the students and the University.

For a committee member, what is the application process like?

Candy: The Southwestern Office of Admission receives more than 150 applications each year from minority students who meet our requirements. The admission counselors narrow those down based on academics, test scores, extracurricular activities and financial need as well as other subjective factors. Ultimately, we consider about 50 applications a year. Each committee member has to review all 50 within a week’s time.

John: The application materials are so interesting to read that you lose track of time.

How does the committee come to make scholarship offers?

Curtis: We each spend a long weekend reviewing applications. Once we make our selections, the top 25 students are invited to Southwestern and personal interviews are held over two days. The committee makes its final selections within a couple of days after the interviews and then offers are made. It’s a fast process.

Do Dixon recipients have to reapply every year?

Candy: No. Dixon Scholarships are awarded annually for up to four years. Recipients must maintain a minimum grade point average to keep their scholarship.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being part of the selection committee?

Curtis: The biggest reward is getting to know the kids (the applicants). Their level of maturity and confidence, and their willingness to answer questions is amazing. The challenge is trying to identify the students who will flourish at Southwestern—students that might not find their way to the University otherwise.

Maggie: Going through the applications was arduous, but I was so impressed with the caliber of the students. It’s amazing to see what they’ve already accomplished and what they can bring to Southwestern.

John: It’s really humbling to learn about the big plans these students have for themselves, even after—in some cases—having overcome difficult circumstances in their lives. They blow me away!

Candy: Reading about students’ specific life circumstances can be emotional. But it’s great to see the plans they have for their futures.

John: The challenge is making the decisions. We want to offer something to all of them.

Do you look for depth or breadth of experience in activities?

John: What I look for is passion. It may be passion for one thing—sports, arts, church—or it may be a passion for learning in general. Either depth or breadth can be good, it just depends on the student.

Curtis: Personally, I like to see both. You can’t have one without the other. If (the applicant) has depth in only one area, have they really explored enough to know what they like or what they want to do? On the other hand, we need to see some depth, otherwise it looks like their activities are just résumé fillers.

Lynette: I hate to see kids who’ve spread themselves too thin. It depends on the student and what he or she has done in their activities, but I like to see quality over quantity.

What makes an application memorable?

Curtis: Those students that stick out in my mind are the ones that clearly want to make a difference. They have a plan and an expectation that they will succeed.

Lynette: Each year it seems we have groups of students who all do the same thing; one year we have a lot of athletes, another year a lot involved in the sciences. So, for me, the essay is the best way to get to know them as individuals. The most memorable for me was an essay written by a girl about her grandmother. She ended up graduating from Southwestern and going on to law school.

John: I like to read an essay that gives me insight into the student’s life. What’s memorable to me is a student who demonstrates strong character and the ability to succeed even in the face of adversity.

Maggie: The essays distinguish one applicant from another, but the interviews are also really eye-opening. It’s inspirational to hear some of the background stories and see the motivation of these goal-oriented students.

Candy: What’s memorable? Students who have a passion for learning, who recognize the possibilities in front of them, who are able to articulate what they will bring to Southwestern.

 

For more information on applying for the Dixon Award and other scholarships, go to www.southwestern.edu/assistance.

If you would like to make a gift to the Dixon Scholarship Fund, please call the Southwestern Development Office at 512-863-1482.

10 Years of Success for Dixon Scholars

High-achieving African American, Hispanic and Native American students arrive each year at Southwestern with knowledge, skills and life experience, as well as drive, ambition and a desire to succeed. That’s what is required to be a Dixon Scholar.

Of these students, the University retains 95.7 percent, compared to a 86.4 percent retention rate among Southwestern students as a whole. Dixon Scholars also maintain an average GPA of 3.42 with 87.3 percent graduating within four years, while the student body as a whole has an average GPA of 3.29 and a 75.9 percent graduation rate.

Upon graduation, Dixon Scholars are ready to go out and make a difference in the world. One graduate says, “Ethical, corporate responsibility … that’s what Southwestern University taught me. It’s not enough to practice the status-quo, you’ve got to get out there and redefine it.”

Dixon graduates have embarked on a variety of journeys, achieving success and making a difference in many ways. Some of their accomplishments have included:

  • Law degrees from The University of Texas, University of Chicago and Harvard Law School, to name a few.
  • Involvement in projects like “Street Law,” teaching Chicago high school students their basic legal rights.
  • Ph.D.s in economics and computational chemistry from institutions like Emory University.
  • Medical degrees from Southwestern Medical School and the University of Texas Medical Branch; one alumna making the commitment to return to the Rio Grande Valley to practice medicine.
  • High school teaching positions, specializing in speech and debate, humanities and Spanish.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures like a home décor company that advocates fair trade with suppliers, all of whom are the original artists and live in impoverished regions of Central America.

One of the original Dixon Scholars, Yesenia Yadira Garcia ’03, recently wrote a letter to Charline Hamblin McCombs ’50, Southwestern’s earliest Dixon donor, filling her in on the past five years and thanking her for her support. Following is an excerpt of Garcia’s letter:

“Thanks to the Dixon Scholarship Program … I was able to complete my double major in theatre and communication studies from Southwestern and have since received my MFA in acting from The University of Texas at Austin and have had the opportunity to perform … my bilingual multi-media one-person show … originally conceived … at Southwestern. I now own my own film company…”

Garcia’s personal Dixon testimony can be seen at www.tinyurl.com/mptjw6

Learn about a recent Dixon graduate, Ricardo Levario ’09, in “Senior Stories”.

How Do You Stack Up?

With so many applicants, how do committees choose? Academic achievement and other technical qualifications aside, how do you distinguish yourself on an application or in an interview?

Scholarship selection committees, admission counselors and employers, for that matter, all have something in common. They are looking for something special. How do they choose the best candidates for the scholarship, the incoming class or the job? The application and interview can make all the difference.

These are some things the Dixon Scholarship Selection Committee looks for:

On Paper: Make it Memorable

Give a sense of who you are and what you can bring to the community.

  • Write a dynamic essay or cover letter.
  • When completing a form or questionnaire, distinguish yourself with detailed answers.
  • Show a level of commitment to an activity other than that for which you’re applying.
  • Demonstrate your leadership experience.

In Person: Speak Up

Express your individuality through the personal interview.

  • Be true to yourself: your activities, family and faith.
  • Communicate your passion.
  • Be friendly. Make eye contact. Be comfortable, as though you’re sitting down with a friend.
  • Give open, detailed answers and be sure to include specific anecdotes or examples.