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2021 Michaela Romano Scholarship Winners Announced by WIU-Quad Cities CAS Faculty

May 10, 2021

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MOLINE, IL – For the 13th year in a row, members of the College of Arts and Sciences faculty at Western Illinois University – Quad Cities have awarded the annual Michaela Romano Scholarship.

While the award has been given since 2009, it was renamed six years ago in remembrance of Michaela Rae Romano (1988-2015), daughter of Western Illinois University professors of biology Michael and Susan Romano. A cum laude graduate of Knox College, with a major in anthropology-sociology and a minor in gender and women's studies, Michaela was an exemplary student of the liberal arts and sciences. At Knox, she received the Academic Achievers Scholarship and Howell Atwood Award, and was an active member of Students against Sexism in Society and the Chinese Club. Michaela subsequently completed a Chinese Language Certificate at Beloit College, and taught English in China.

All five of this year's winners have GPAs of 3.5 or better, and are completing a College of Arts and Sciences degree at WIU-QC in the coming fall or subsequent spring semesters. They were nominated by individual faculty members and selected by an interdisciplinary committee after their submission of 500-word essays about their WIU-QC educational experiences.

"On behalf of the selection committee, we congratulate the winners," said English Professor Everett Hamner. "We will miss them when they graduate, but we're eager to see what they do with the momentum they're building here."

This year's winners, with excerpts from their personal essays, include:

Andrew Round (Geneseo, IL) is a graduate student in English who has now taught as a secondary English teacher for 13 years. His essay exemplifies the perspective of a lifelong learner, celebrating specific professors for having "made [him] realize there are still multitudinous ways literary studies can challenge [him]"; "deftly bring[ing] current existential crises of the world, like climate change and pandemic, into conversation with celebrated texts"; helping him to "think more deeply than ever before about Queerness"; and providing "expertise and motivation for getting a new podcast started."

"I hope the youth of District 30 find a few moments with me that will become life and food for future years," he said, and his faculty has every confidence that this will be the case.

Anna Headley (Moline, IL) is a senior English major who has launched a career as a sports journalist, with a particular expertise in covering hockey. Her essay provides a great example of the broadening potential of a degree in the humanities, a foundation on which she will likely rely in covering a diverse array of athletes and communities for years to come.

"Expanding horizons is a rather vague idea, though to me it means that I broadened my cultural and also academic knowledge through the curriculum offered at WIU-QC," she wrote. "My biases were challenged in courses such as disability and film theory, and I saw literature I was both familiar and unfamiliar with -- the book of Genesis and the Popol Vuh, respectively -- in new lights. These expanded horizons allow me to see the world through different lenses, and viewpoints that are not my own, in order to gain a broader knowledge and understanding of the human condition."

Sparrow Kastelic (Silvis, IL) is a senior liberal arts and sciences (LAS) major. Kastelic's essay addresses a common misunderstanding in our society. "I have been told that if I were to get a degree in the subjects that truly interested me, I would likely be no better off and would be left with a lot of debt, and I began to believe it," she said. "I wondered if having a passionate interest in one's studies was a rare thing reserved for geniuses and the affluent." In fact, everyone needs the opportunity for profound personal growth in areas of interest, just as everyone needs marketable skills, and these priorities are complementary, not opposed. A great many careers value being able to read and write intelligently across a diverse area of genres and media; as Kastelic describes the benefit of taking minors in English, history and sociology through the LAS program.

"It took records kept on flat pages, and added to them the infinite variations and experiences that occur in a more fully actualized reality," she said.

Logan Volkert (Le Claire, IA) is a junior English major and co-editor of WIU-QC's Edge student newspaper. His personal essay speaks directly to the core purposes of College of Arts and Sciences programs.

"At WIU-QC, my professors don't wish to transform me into a robot who can answer test questions on Shakespeare; rather, they wish for me to become a free-thinking spirit who can logically argue that Watchmen parallels The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in its handling of civil unrest," he said. "At WIU-QC, I am comparing classic literature to films and video games that reflect important social and cultural issues, and I am using this knowledge to prepare for a career that allows me to do the same."

Nicholas Widger (Geneseo, IL) will be among the first alumni of WIU-QC's new psychology major. His essay has a great deal to say about the value of studying in a place that one can enjoy coming.

"Being by the river made going to class feel like less of a chore," he said "The scenery is beautiful to see during class, and I can walk or ride my bike along the river before or after class. These two things were great for my mental health."

Widger also exemplifies the value of writing an undergraduate thesis as a student in WIU's Centennial Honors College, noting how a professor's personal encouragement in that direction also led him to contemplate a graduate degree in counseling soon after he graduates.

For more information about WIU's College of Arts and Sciences, visit

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