UConn student wins epilepsy scholarship through telling her unique story

Emily R., a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Connecticut, has recently won the $10,000 UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Emily R., a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Connecticut, has recently won the $10,000 UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship.

Emily said she preferred not to disclose her full identity for this publication.

The UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship is a scholarship available to students who personally have epilepsy or an immediate family member who does. Students can apply for scholarship this year on their website.

Emily said she won this scholarship through telling her story.

“Seizures caused me to lose my license several times, causing me to have to take ‘incompletes’ and ‘withdraw’ from classes several times,” Emily said.

Emily said although it took a toll on her academic career, it did not prevent her from completing her degree. Even though Emily has not let her condition stop her from anything, she has noticed a lack of understanding in students around her.

“I had a recent experience at the School of Social Work, where a fellow student told me there are a lot of demonic possessions in the world, that I needed to pray for healing rather than take medication and that he would pray for me,” Emily said.

There are treatments available which can prevent seizures from occurring. The first treatment for controlling epileptic seizures is almost always medication, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

She said it was a “wakeup call” that a future social worker would feel like this about mental illnesses. The university should work to raise awareness for all types of disabilities amongst faculty and students, Emily said.

Epilepsy is a condition that causes people to suffer from seizures and it is estimated that one in 26 people will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

“By raising awareness of disabilities and impairments, we show students (and staff) who live with them, that we value their unique experiences and will encourage a more open environment where all students can feel comfortable sharing their stories and further educating others,” Emily said.

Schools hold a vital role in the education on different disabilities and should use their position to educate students, Emily said.  

“I saw a need for social workers with lived experience and I knew that my experience would serve me well and help me become an effective social worker,” Emily said.

Emily said she plans to continue her studies in social work at UConn and is pursuing a certificate in Disability Studies. She said she is glad that the university offers this certificate.

Emily said she has been involved in the Connecticut Epilepsy Foundation and plans to continue her involvement with them, and eventually hopes to present to the community in order to raise awareness of epilepsy.

“I believe my understanding of what it means to live with a disadvantaging condition and the roadblocks that can be put in one’s way, have made me more effective working with individuals in need,” Emily said.  


Caesar Valentin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at caesar.valentin@uconn.edu.