Nontraditional student receives Hollings Scholarship to study meteorology
Never give up on your dream -- that's the message from one Kansas State University student who is just starting to live hers.
Heidi Ramzel, junior in physics and geography with a minor in chemistry, Bartlesville, Okla., is receiving a 2013 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The scholarship will help her focus on her dream job of becoming a research meteorologist.
The Hollings Scholarship offers a maximum of $8,000 per year for students with two years left of undergraduate study and a summer internship at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility. Ramzel is one of 126 students selected nationally this year as Hollings Scholars out of a pool of more than 900 applicants.
"Students often struggle to balance academics with competing life responsibilities; I think Heidi's success should inspire others," said Jim Hohenbary, the university's assistant dean for nationally competitive scholarships. "She has been a very determined and dedicated student at K-State, and she has excelled in a challenging double major. Her interest in the relationship between climatic change and severe weather also fits perfectly with the atmospheric and oceanic science focus of the Hollings Scholarship. It's really exciting to see her goals and hard work affirmed through this opportunity."
Growing up in the middle of tornado ally, Ramzel has been interested in meteorology since she was a little girl. Heartbroken over the loss of a neighbor's bunnies after a tornado, Ramzel took an interest in weather patterns.
"I started to be glued to the Weather Channel and was borderline obsessive," Ramzel said. "I became really interested in knowing when a tornado was coming and why."
Ramzel graduated high school and attended one year of college before life interrupted her dream. A series of delays, including having a child and going through a divorce, did not stifle her desire to continue her education and pursue her dream job. Her daughter, Aria, now 5 years old, does homework along side her mom.
"When I got pregnant I realized I never wanted to show my child that she should ever give up on her dream," Ramzel said. "So I have to be that role model. It's been a very challenging process to say the least."
Ramzel has worked hard not only at her school work but also at turning off the negative voice in many mothers' heads that says they can't accomplish what they dream because of other priorities.
"I know I can, so I urge others to put up a fight against any negative thoughts that run across their minds," Ramzel said. "If you can just overcome that negative voice, then you can soar to great heights. After all, the sky really isn't the limit -- we can go beyond it and so can our impact."
The scholarship's summer internship at one of the administration's facilities will provide Ramzel with practical experience in research, science and technology. She hopes to work side by side with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers on the effects of climate change linked to severe weather.
"I am particularly excited about the internship because I have the opportunity to work along side top researchers in my field with whom I will share a similar thirst for answers to the questions I have been asking for years," Ramzel said. "I hope to gain a lot of experience with applied research."
Getting to this point has taken years of effort by Ramzel. She credits her family support as well as the friends and connections she's made while at Kansas State University, along with her faith.
"Finding my home away from home was vital to my success," Ramzel said. "I've had to manage my time really carefully and some nights I haven't had a lot of sleep, but I just have to remember the next day is going to be worth it."
Ramzel is a part of the University Honors Program and is a member of the Physics Club, Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Pinnacle nontraditional student honor society and Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society. In the fall 2013 semester she will help first-year students learn about weather as a community learning assistant for the university's Connecting Across Topics, or CAT program.
A graduate of Bartlesville High School, she is the daughter of E. Bruce and Mary Ramzel and the granddaughter of Anne C. Rawlins, all of Bartlesville.