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Honors students at ASU thrive with scholarships

ASU student Emra Muslim holding a sign that reads "Thank you so much!"

Emra Muslim, a first-year student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU and recipient of the Austin James Service Scholarship, aspires to be a lawyer. Photo courtesy Barrett, The Honors College at ASU

September 15, 2023

For Emra Muslim, a first-year student in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, a donor-supported scholarship is the boost she needed to start off right at the university. For Mary Murphy, a senior honors student, a scholarship has helped her keep going in the face of despair.

Both students say they’re grateful for the scholarships they received through the honors college, but for vastly different reasons.

Muslim, a political science major, feels that the Austin James Service Scholarship will help pave her way as a freshman and first-generation student whose parents immigrated from Bosnia to the United States in 2001. Murphy, a senior majoring in Russian and political science, said the Barrett Emergency Student Fund is the lifeline and support she needed to remain at the university after escaping with her young child from an abusive marriage.

There are many merit- and need-based Barrett Honors College student scholarships available to students in need, and applications for the 2024–25 academic year open on Nov. 1 and close on Feb. 1, 2024. Need-based aid requires that a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be on file. Oct. 1 is the FAFSA form submission deadline.

Paola Gale, associate director of development for Barrett Honors College with the ASU Foundation, said the impact of scholarships is significant in the lives of students.

“Scholarships provide the essential funds needed to obtain a top-tier education, and in some cases, keep students in the university. But the positive effects of the scholarships extend beyond the student recipients. The impact that will happen as a result of their future professional endeavors is incalculable. Many lives will be changed for good, as a result of one donor, one student, one scholarship philosophy,” she said.

Recalling the challenges her parents faced leaving their beloved, but politically unstable and war-torn homeland in eastern Europe, Muslim is equally as grateful for their sacrifices as she is for the opportunities the four-year Austin James Scholarship affords her.

“As a daughter of immigrant parents, I know that I’m having this experience because of the sacrifices they made for me to be here today,” said Muslim, who aspires to be a lawyer serving the Bosnian community. “Being chosen to receive a scholarship means someone believes in me and what I want to accomplish."

Three weeks into the fall 2020 semester, physical threats and stalking forced Murphy and her child to flee their home — leaving everything behind, including a job, car, apartment and personal belongings — and enter a high security shelter.

“With a lot of help, I stayed in classes that semester. By the end of the semester, though, I made the decision to drop out of Barrett in order to provide stability for my child and myself, as I could not see a way to continue to provide stable housing and continue studying in Barrett,” Murphy said.

She notified her Barrett thesis director and honors academic advisor of her situation and they encouraged her to apply for the Barrett Emergency Student Fund, which provides support for students to continue their education while experiencing life challenges.

“The support and help offered enabled me to not only stay in Barrett and continue toward completion of my degrees, but also to thrive here,” said Murphy, who used funds for housing expenses.

“The benefit extended far beyond the financial help I received. Support from the Barrett leadership, faculty, staff and donors in the form of this tangible financial help made me feel valued and seen, and helped me remember I was not alone. Knowing that they are all in my corner and want me to succeed in my education encouraged me and helped me to keep moving forward,” she added.

Muslim and Murphy are two of many honors students who have received scholarships specifically designated for Barrett students.

In the 2022–23 academic year, 662 honors students were awarded scholarships with a total value of over $1.3 million. In the same time period, 23 students received a total of $13,522 in assistance from the Barrett Emergency Student Fund.

According to Gale, there are many opportunities to support Barrett students and initiatives. Donors can make gifts of cash and stock, put Barrett Honors College in estate plans or take advantage of company matching gift programs. To inquire about these options, contact Gale at

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