7 TXST doctoral students receive Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award


Kate Malazonia | December 8, 2023

A collage of headshots of the TXST doctoral students receiving the Love of Learning Award
From left to right, Katie Gerstner, Mariah Moe, Molly Kaplan, Elisabeth Cuerrier-Richer, Hilary Ansah, Candice Oelschlegel, and Amy Biedermann.

The Graduate College is pleased to announce that seven Texas State University doctoral students have received the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award in the 2023 competition.

The 2023 awardees include the following students:

  • Hilary Ansah, doctoral student in geography
  • Amy Biedermann, doctoral student in adult, professional, and community education
  • Elisabeth Cuerrier-Richer, doctoral student in applied anthropology
  • Katie Gerstner, doctoral student in applied anthropology
  • Molly Kaplan, doctoral student in applied anthropology
  • Mariah Moe, doctoral student in applied anthropology
  • Candice Oelschlegel, doctoral student in developmental education

Nationally, 200 students from 24 institutions were selected for the award this year, with TXST ranking third for the most awards received.

Phi Kappa Phi is an honor society composed of the “best and brightest from all academic disciplines — a community of scholars and professionals building an enduring legacy for future generations.” Membership in Phi Kappa Phi is by invitation only, which requires nomination by a chapter.

The $1,000 Love of Learning Award helps active members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies. These range from costs associated with doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, and travel expenses for teaching, research and/or learning. Since The Graduate College began offering external funding advising services in 2016, nearly 40 TXST graduate students have received this competitive award.

TXST’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi also recently received the 2023-2024 Silver Circle of Excellence commendation. This award is given to the society’s top chapters that “excel in recognizing and promoting academic excellence on their local campus and engaging the community of scholars in service to others.”

The 2023 Awardees

While some awardees have used the award for taking foreign language lessons to help with communication in their respective field, others used the award to fund the travel needed for their research. Therefore, while this award is relatively modest, it offers a wide array of benefits in how it can be disbursed and what it can cover. The awardees had many useful insights and tips to offer future applicants.

“How will the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award contribute to you and your graduate studies?”

Oelschlegel, a first-generation student, attended a professional networking event with the support of the award, an opportunity she would have otherwise missed out on.

The building of professional networks component of graduate degrees does not get enough attention,”Oelschlegel said. “I remember wandering around conferences excited to be there but not sure how to engage in conversations about [her] work or how to continue a conversation post-conference. The award gave me the support to get back in the room to build my professional network with better-developed skills.”

Cuerrier-Richer will use the award funds to cover lodging expenses for a doctoral research data collection trip to Cuba in December.

Kaplan, similarly to Oelschlegel, used the funds for a professional development opportunity.

“The Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award allowed me to expand my professional horizons internationally by supporting my participation at a Latin American forensics conference,” said Kaplan.

“What did you learn about the process of applying for the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award, and what do you think contributed to your selection?”

Oelschlegel focused on the rigorous writing aspect of the applications.

“Eventually, your writing is ‘good enough’ and [you] just [have to] hit that submit button,” Oelschlegel said. “I went through so many versions of my application, and it felt like every time I looked at it, it never felt finished or perfect enough to send. Finally, I got to a point where I had to stop my self-criticism and just made sure I was telling my story.”

Sharing personal information with strangers is never easy, and it took Oelschlegel several drafts to write in the tone she believed best suited her application.

My advice is lean into your unique need; don’t see it as a deficit, instead position it as an asset or as a purpose for accomplishing your goal along with how this award helps you accomplish it,” Oelschlegel said. “Also, use specific examples and overwrite your first draft. Get all your ideas in writing so removing redundant or irrelevant information becomes easier.”

Similarly, Cuerrier-Richer recommended a thorough review of all application materials.

“I highly encourage future applicants to take the time to prepare a quality application with the help of The Graduate College external funding coordinators,” Cuerrier-Richer said. “Their input has been extremely valuable in helping me win two PKP awards in the last year.”

Prospective Applicants

For more information on the eligibility, timeline, application process, and resources available, visit the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award webpage. The Graduate College’s external funding coordinators (Andrea Hilkovitz, Ph.D., and Brian Smith, DMA) encourage all Phi Kappa Phi members, including master’s students, to apply for the Love of Learning Award because it can be used to fund many different activities, including travel and research-related expenses.

To explore other external funding opportunities, visit The Graduate College’s External Funding webpage, where you can find information on first steps, past awardees, presentations and trainings, funding databases, and more.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922