Catching up with the first Wilson Scholar, Jenna Meyer

Jenna Meyer jumps for joy while celebrating her achievement in late May as the newly-minted inaugural Wilson Scholar. PHOTO BY JONATHAN MEYER

Although Jenna Meyer is quiet, her newest accomplishment speaks volumes. A member of the South Tama County High School Class of 2024, Meyer was awarded in late May the newly established David W. Wilson Scholars Endowed Fund Scholarship from the University of Northern Iowa. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board, and fees while also including bonuses for the recipient.

The newly created scholarship comes on the heels of a $25 million donation to UNI by California resident David Wilson, a 1966 graduate of North Tama County High School and a 1970 graduate of UNI. A portion of the gift establishes the Wilson Scholars Fund which will be used to provide full ride scholarship support annually to graduates of Tama County high schools.

Meyer started her senior year like many other students, in search of what the future holds. She visited many colleges and nothing spoke to her quite like UNI did. By the time winter rolled around, she had decided to attend UNI like her parents Kristi and Jeremy Meyer, members of the Class of 2000.

After being accepted to UNI, Meyer began applying for scholarships as many incoming students do. In one of her scholarship packets, she noticed the new David W. Wilson Scholars Endowed Fund Scholarship and began doing some research. After realizing the magnitude of the opportunity Meyer went to work on the application, starting with two 500-word essays gauging her interest in being a business major as well as her financial need. Fueled by both drive and excitement, she finished the essays within a day.

After submitting her essays in early April, Meyer waited for an update and results on the first round. Over the next few weeks and after some emailing with Elisabeth Soliz, the Director of the Office for Professional Distinction at UNI, Meyer was named a finalist for the scholarship and a phone interview was scheduled.

A scary moment for Meyer was on a normal day in class at STC. Her phone started ringing and a Cedar Falls number popped up. Unable to answer the call due to being in class she figured the missed phone call might have something to do with her ongoing scholarship bid. Following some emailing back and forth, an official phone call was set up for the next day.

“During the actual phone call, I was nervous knowing I’m one of the finalists,” Meyer told the newspaper. “If I sounded dumb I knew I wouldn’t be a good candidate. In the interview, Elisabeth [Soliz] told me all the info about the scholarship. She asked questions about a lot of things. Stuff like participation, jobs, my family, and my interests.”

With the phone interview complete, Meyer called her mom to fill her in on how she thought the interview went. Feeling confident, Meyer was thrilled that Soliz commented on her professionalism.

After a brief phone call with her mother, the two said goodbye and hung up. No more than 15 minutes later, Kristi Meyer’s phone rang again, but this time it wasn’t her daughter calling, it was STC High School Counselor Dan Lopez informing Kristi that her daughter had just won herself a full ride scholarship to study business at UNI.

A surprise announcement was planned with Meyer’s friends and family in on the surprise for an agonizing 11 days. With some coordination, Meyer was awarded the scholarship in person by Leslie Wilson, Dean of the Wilson College of Business. Joined by friends, family, staff, and a small UNI media crew, Meyer’s life changed right in front of her.

After being presented with the scholarship, Meyer spoke on the magnitude of this scholarship.

“I am so grateful and honored to be the first recipient of the David W. Wilson Scholarship. I can’t wait for this fall to make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Meyer also talked about her intended major.

“I plan on majoring in human resource management. I hope to one day make a positive impact in the work environment. The major is very versatile and lends itself to many situations and opportunities in business.

“Although this major will bring its fair share of challenges I think it will keep me on my toes and always striving to be a better person and businesswoman.”