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During the 100 years since the University of Kentucky College of Education began offering four–year degrees in 1923, thousands of graduates have shared a common desire to impact the lives of others.

With the launch of the Centennial Scholarship Fund, the college’s 100th anniversary celebration includes an opportunity to invest in the future. Gifts made to the fund today will help provide scholarships for students to make a difference in the century to come.

The fund was established with an initial gift from Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D., acting dean of the college, to help address an ongoing national shortage of professionals in fields such as teaching and health care. It will help address these shortages by reducing financial barriers to graduation, ensuring more outstanding students are prepared and ready to enter the workforce.

Stevens-Watkins, a native Kentuckian, is an example of someone who pursued a degree in the UK College of Education to amplify the impact of her career on others. She is sharing her story in hopes of inspiring support for the Centennial Scholarship Fund.

“I came to the University of Kentucky College of Education to earn my doctorate in counseling psychology, to cultivate the skills needed to shine a light on health disparities through my research,” Stevens-Watkins said. “I was a student walking the same halls where I’m now the acting dean and I take great pride in being part of this centennial year of celebration.”

Now, part of Stevens-Watkins’ mission is to make sure the next generation is filled with well-trained professionals in the impactful fields for which the College of Education prepares students.

During the past 100 years, the college has built upon its beginnings in teacher preparation to now offer more than 90 degrees and programs – preparing counselors, sport leaders, exercise scientists, health professionals, researchers, teachers and more.

When Stevens-Watkins looks at how the college can continue to grow to make a difference in Kentucky and beyond, one word is at the forefront – opportunity.

“As I think about our college’s beginnings in 1923, my grandfather from Paducah comes to mind. He was born in 1909. During that time, he did not have the opportunity to attend school,” Stevens-Watkins said.

Though a lack of opportunity meant her grandfather never learned to read, he raised five children who earned college degrees, with one becoming a medical doctor.

“Although he did not have a formal education, my grandfather always told us it’s the one thing someone can never take from you. It’s the key to opening doors you cannot even see. This made a lasting impression in my life,” she said.

Through her gift to the Centennial Scholarship Fund, Stevens-Watkins wants to make sure no student ever has an opportunity taken away due to financial need.

“I know first-hand the impact that donors make in students’ lives,” she said. “They help remove barriers for students to see a path forward in which they can be leaders.”

Stevens-Watkins grew up in the south end of Louisville in a single parent household. Her mother always instilled in her that it is important to achieve in order to be independent.

“She told me to always give my best, no matter what I decide to do,” she said. “It is because of my elders who instilled important messages in me that I have progressed in my career.”

Scholarship donors have a similar influence on students, Stevens-Watkins said.

“For many students, receiving a scholarship is the first time they have felt supported in their choice to pursue the career path they are on,” she said. “All students need access and support for high-quality post-secondary training. By creating opportunity, we ensure a continued impact during the next century and beyond.”

For more information about the Centennial Fund, contact UK College of Education Senior Philanthropy Officer Nathan Rudder at or (859) 562-2584. Gifts to the Centennial Fund can be made online or checks can be mailed to: UK College of Education c/o Nathan Rudder, 133B Dickey Hall, Lexington, KY 40506-0017.

Additional support can be given by purchasing tickets for the College of Education’s 100th Anniversary Celebration, “Big Blue Birthday Bash.” It will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at Mane on Main. The event will feature a silent auction and performances by the Coach Mitchell Band.