Jennifer Keliher-Venegas Will Earn her B.S. in Biology, Made Possible Through Scholarships


Tuesday, December 20, 2011 – Taken from SDSU NewsCenter

Among all the factors that attract students to SDSU — nationally ranked programs, undergraduate research, a diverse, inclusive campus — there is another, less often referenced.

The University Honors Program is a highly competitive program for 650 of SDSU’s most exceptional undergraduates.

Popular program

Since 2001, applications to the Honors Program have jumped from 250 to more than 1,500 annually. Students accepted to the program benefit from:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Community residential space in one of SDSU’s residence halls
  • Dedicated academic, scholarship and study abroad advisers
  • Faculty guidance in producing a senior thesis or project similar in scope to most graduate theses

Access, achievement and excellence

The Honors Program’s emphasis on access, achievement and excellence draws many students like marine biology major Jennifer Keliher-Venegas.

The first in her family to attend college, Keliher-Venegas has taken her studies beyond the classroom to produce original research on the endangered vaquita, a type of porpoise. Her conservation-based work has the potential to influence the management of small-scale fisheries around the world.

Keliher-Venegas and her fellow Honors Program students come from diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Nearly two-thirds who applied for financial aid have unmet need of more than $10,000. They rely on the generosity of SDSU donors to support the program as state support is cut.

Kaplan challenge

In 2010, a $1 million bequest to SDSU from the estate of Maurice and Charmaine Kaplan was designated as a catalyst to secure an endowment for the Honors Program.

“The Kaplan challenge gift is an opportunity to create a stronger Honors Program that can truly change young people’s lives,” said Geoffrey Chase, dean of Undergraduate Studies, which oversees the program.

Every dollar raised for the Honors Program through June 30, 2013, will be matched by the Kaplan bequest.

These funds will enable the Honors Program to offer additional scholarships for diverse students, provide support for learning experiences outside the classroom — such as study abroad — and furnish a means of sharing Honors programming, such as guest speakers, with a broader university audience.