• Image by Sumners Foundation
    Image by Sumners Foundation

Southwestern students Selena Chisom-Payne, Megan Nair, Laura Rativa and T.J. Vela have been named new Sumners Scholars for 2018-2020. Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships and Professor of English Dr. David Gaines says of these students, “This year’s cohort of Sumners Scholars is a particularly impressive and eclectic group of current and future leaders. They will make much of the exciting opportunities the Sumners Foundation provides and make differences on our campus and in our shared public life.”

These esteemed scholarships, awarded by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation of Dallas, recognize some of the university’s most gifted and engaged students. Sumners scholarships are awarded in the sophomore year for use during the students’ junior and senior years. Each recipient receives $5,000 per semester or $10,000 per year. A rigorous selection process focuses on each candidate’s academic history, extracurricular activities and leadership experience, culminating in an interview with the trustees of the Sumners Foundation. 

In addition to scholarship assistance, Sumners Scholars receive access to notable programs sponsored by the foundation, including a distinguished lecture series; a variety of public policy, leadership and civic participation programs; and several educational and internship offerings in Washington, D.C. Such programs and events provide exceptional opportunities for Scholars to network and learn about key contemporary political and social issues.

This year’s scholarship recipients were honored to be selected and are incredibly excited to take advantage of the opportunities in store for them.

Selena Chisom-Payne, of Hallsville, a small town near Longview, TX, wanted to attend college reasonably close to her family, but far enough from home to live life on her own terms. She says that Southwestern’s beautiful campus and quiet Georgetown setting turned out to be “perfect for a small town girl like herself.” Currently a sophomore majoring in feminist studies with a minor in Spanish and sociology, Selena is also the president of Ebony, a black student leadership organization that helps her make connections across campus and within the greater Georgetown area. Selena says that she was “ecstatic and honored to be chosen as a Sumners Scholar” and she plans to “utilize every resource the Foundation has to further my knowledge of the world around me as well as network with everyone connected to the Foundation.”

Megan Nair, of Amarillo, TX, is a political science major pursuing a minor in Mandarin Chinese who says she was attracted to Southwestern specifically for its “small classes, rigorous academics, and great professors.” While she participates in numerous campus committees and student clubs, Megan is most excited to be involved with political science research on campus this summer, studying political engagement through protest. Given the number of worthy Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship applicants, Megan says she was “stunned, honored and excited” to be named one of this year’s Scholars. She’s confident that “the scholarship will provide many opportunities to be civically engaged and remain politically involved.”

Laura Rativa, originally from Columbia, has lived in Georgetown for the last five years and values the community environment at Southwestern that allows her to have strong connections with faculty and staff. She plans to double major in political science and communication studies, underscoring that she is “very passionate about social justice and community service.” Laura is a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and is actively involved with The Locker, a non-profit in Georgetown that empowers youth to meet the needs of others in their community so that every child can be successful in school and develop a strong sense of normalcy. Her interest in countering social and economic disparities extends into her future plans as well. For Laura, receiving the Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship “means to me that I have support in achieving my dream of becoming a U.S. Supreme Court Judge.”

Pedro “T.J.” Vela came to Southwestern from Odem, TX, to pursue a business major and a minor in communication studies. Coming from a small high school, T.J. knew that he wanted a university with small classes and personal connections, but the academic rigor of Southwestern really clinched his decision. T.J. says that he was looking for “a place that would be challenging and also allow me to grow as a student and person” by broadening his perspectives. He currently volunteers at a Georgetown elementary school—a commitment that began as a class assignment, but that he continues now simply because he enjoys hanging out with and helping these students. For T.J., finding out that he’d been named a Sumners Scholar was “awesome” because, as he says, the opportunities to attend various leadership conferences “will give me the tools to go out in society and help create change.”


The Sumners Foundation, created in 1949 by former Congressman Hatton W. Sumners, has a strong program focus on effective government and informed citizenship. Scholarship candidates must exhibit academic excellence, a sense of civic responsibility and the potential for leadership. In accord with the Foundation’s Statement of Purpose, the Foundation works to further enhance these traits and skills in each Sumners Scholar by making additional, unique educational experiences available. Students majoring in areas such as political science, history, pre-law, and education may be selected for scholarships based on their academic history, extracurricular activities and leadership experience.

For more information visit:

Hatton W. Sumners Scholarships: http://www.hattonsumners.org/index.htm

The Locker in Georgetown: https://www.thelocker.info/