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Student Impact Stories

Portrait of Maiya

Maiya Felan, ’22

Digital Media Production

Without scholarship support, the college experience wouldn’t be possible for some students. Maiya Felan, a Digital Media Production student, shared how her college experience wouldn’t be possible without the support of donors.

“Personally, I wasn’t going to go to college if I didn’t have scholarship support,” Maiya shared. “I felt like I would be in debt and it would keep me trapped in the same place that I had always been.”

Something that really drew Maiya to EMU was the diversity of the campus. There are students from all walks of life at Eastern, and they are not limited based on their ethnicity, age, or income. EMU has a strong community feeling that not many other places have, and students really have a voice.

“Donations to Eastern mean a lot to me personally, because they’re the reason I’m in school today. Thank you so much for making a difference.”

Portrait of Jaden

Jaden Zayas, ’23


Coming to EMU as a first-generation college student means so much not just to the student, but often to the entire family. Jaden Zayas, a Biochemistry student here at Eastern Michigan, explained how the beginning of his college experience was quite stressful.

“Being a first-generation student was really stressful for me,” Jaden shared. “I didn’t have family members I could ask questions like how do I get scholarship money, or how do I see what type of degrees could I pursue.”

For those who are the first in their family to attend college, financial support can mean everything. Knowing that there are donors supporting students in all walks of life can be inspirational for students, especially those who may not have had the opportunity to attend a school like Eastern Michigan without donor support.

“I definitely think I’m reaching my potential here at Eastern,” Jaden explained. “I’ve seen major growth ever since day one, where I was a shy and introverted kid. Now, I am a leader on campus and in our Admissions Welcome Center.” 

“I want to thank the donors who are supporting me and my education. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today as the man I am.”

Portrait of Brianna

Brianna Terrell, ’21


Transferring to a new university can be intimidating for many students. Providing a campus environment that is welcoming, not only to first-year students but to all seeking opportunity, is a priority here at EMU. Brianna Terrell transferred to Eastern Michigan University to pursue a Biology degree and hasn’t looked back since.

“One of the things that really caught my eye as a transfer student was the fact that it is a smaller school,” Brianna shared. “I knew that there would be more opportunities for me to connect with my professors and my classmates.”

Something that appealed to Brianna right away was the opportunity to excel beyond the classroom. As a Biology major, Brianna is hoping to pursue a career in medicine. Eastern provides hands-on learning experiences not only for those in the sciences but all across campus.

“Being able to have involvement in the world of medicine at such an early time in my academic career is so exciting,” Brianna said.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank donors because I would have never imagined myself being here a couple of years ago. Because of all of the resources available to myself, I have been able to rise to a certain standard.”

Portrait of Hamza

Hamza Milhem, ’22


For many international students, the financial commitment of attending a school in the United States can be intimidating. Students like Hamza Milhem, an accounting student from Amman, Jordan, may not have had the opportunity to study here if it weren’t for scholarships and other financial support.

“I received a scholarship at Eastern, which is one of the biggest reasons why I came here,” Hamza said. “That scholarship meant a lot to my family because I wanted a college education, and the international fees can really be a lot.”

Hamza felt instantly at home when coming to EMU. His older brother studied here as well, and the small community made the transition to college much easier.

“The campus is small, the community is small, professors help you, and you are able to build relationships here,” Hamza explained. “You know almost everyone around you.”

“The support of donors means the world to us. شكرا لك — Thank you.”

DONOR Impact Stories

Jillian Boone portrait

Jillian Boone, BA’09

Jillian Boone fell in love with Eastern Michigan University for the same reason that many other alumni, students, and donors do: it just felt right. The former volleyball player first visited EMU on a recruitment trip, and it was then she decided Eastern was the place for her.

“I wanted to go to class and be around real people,” Jillian explained. “Everyone here is just working hard and making the best out of their situation.”

Jillian is now a Magistrate and Court Administrator, as well as a proud alumna and member of the GameAbove at Eastern Michigan University advisory board. GameAbove is a team of passionate alumni who desire to make a difference for all of EMU and the Ypsilanti community. Members of the advisory board all have one commonality: a love for Eastern Michigan and a desire to give back.

GameAbove was able to provide a way for Jillian to give back to EMU through channels she hadn’t thought of before. Many alumni think that the only step to making a difference is to have name recognition or be able to contribute financially. GameAbove helped Jillian realize that everyone has something to give.

“Before, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t make a difference,” Jillian said. “But it really doesn’t take much. Share a social media post, volunteer to mentor a student, reach out to your old department to see if you can speak to a class. You have nothing to lose!”

Learn more about GameAbove at Eastern Michigan University here.

Portrait of Michael Bailey Smith

Michael Bailey Smith, BS’88

EMU alumnus Michael Bailey Smith contributes much of his success to his beginnings at Eastern Michigan University. The former actor and football player proudly calls EMU home, and his time with the University helped set the stage for a lifetime of opportunity.

“At EMU, we’re taught to never give up,” Michael said. “That attitude is now ingrained in me.”

Michael took that attitude to heart, and found himself in Hollywood auditioning for a role in “Nightmare On Elm Street.” Now, Michael has been in over 50 films, 100 episodes of TV, countless commercials, and has won multiple awards for his acting career.

“I knew someone had to make it, and I figured why couldn’t that someone be me!” Michael shared. “It’s been an incredible ride, and I learned so much of what I know now from Eastern. The school makes you feel pretty special, and it was a huge blessing in disguise.”

“It took me a long time to come back to Eastern,” Michael explained. “I felt like I wasn’t worthy enough to come back, but then my college roommates encouraged me to get involved.”

Being involved in giving back to the University that gave him so much is important to Michael. If it weren’t for Eastern, Michael says he would never be where he is today.

“It just makes you feel good to help people out,” Michael said. “It makes you feel in touch with humanity.”

Portrait of Betty Brown-Chappell and Micheal Chappell

Betty Brown-Chappell and Michael Chappell, BS’70

For EMU Foundation Trustee, Betty Brown-Chappell, and her husband, Michael Chappell, giving has become essential in their family. The couple both had very different experiences with Eastern Michigan, yet their shared mission of giving back to the University that gave them so much is what makes the two a charitable force to be reckoned with.

Michael’s EMU experience began when he transferred to the University from a community college in Lansing. Betty’s story with Eastern Michigan is very different. She completed a doctorate at the University of Chicago, and after which came to EMU as a faculty member. Ultimately, she became the Assistant Director for the EMU’s Honors College and is now a member of the EMU Foundation Board of Trustees.

Although Betty and Michael’s EMU journeys began in separate places, both share a strong commonality regarding the University— their desire to give back in a meaningful way. 

“Many students at Eastern have extraordinary promise to society, yet they don’t have their basic needs covered,” Betty shared. “It’s just not right.”

The couple now has their own endowed scholarship, the Brown-Chappell Honors Student Endowed Scholarship. Reading the applications of students and learning about how incredible our student body is solidified their dedication to helping current and future students.

“The first time I ever read scholarship applications, I was blown away by the talent of the people applying,” Michael said. “EMU students deserve more than the little we can give them, they deserve a full-tuition scholarship!”

Providing scholarship support to students is one of the main priorities of the Give Rise campaign. By giving to an existing scholarship or starting your own, you are supporting the success of EMU students.

Portrait of Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson, BBA’81

All students come to Eastern Michigan University seeking opportunity—the opportunity to succeed, to get an education, and to ultimately make a better life for themselves. Some students, however, can also face unexpected and challenging circumstances.

Alumnus Keith Johnson is hoping to guarantee that all students are able to continue their education no matter what life throws at them. As a donor to the College of Business Student Emergency Fund, Keith is providing the chance for those experiencing financial hardships to shift their focus back on completing their degree.

“During my career, I’ve seen people who for a variety of reasons are in a financial crisis,” Keith shared. “Sometimes a setback can stop someone from finishing their education, and I just don’t want that to happen.”

For Keith, the act of giving back to his alma mater is personal. “The moment I heard about the College of Business Student Emergency Fund, I said to count me in,” he explained. “It brings together those in need with those who can give, and it just made sense!” The fund is a resource for students who have exhausted all other financial options and are unable to register for the next semester due to an outstanding balance on their account.

The Student Emergency Fund gave a direct route for Keith to impact students. The money helps the student graduate, provides the University tuition, and creates a new alumnus that one day might do the same.

“Everyone wins and my wife and I feel good about doing our small part,” Keith said.

If you would like to make a gift to the College of Business Student Emergency Fund, click here