November 16, 2020
Justina Wilkins believed attending college was essential, even in 6th grade when selected as a Kauffman Scholar. She knew her hard work would pay off once she went to college.
“Staying with the program took a large amount of determination and persistence,” Wilkins said. “I did not have stress-free summer breaks as I studied for the Prep ACT.”
Wilkins, an industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (IMSE) student, credits the Kauffman Scholars Foundation for her academic success prior to and during her college career at Mizzou.
“Kauffman wanted to ensure we were college-ready, and they were willing to do everything necessary to accomplish this goal,” Wilkins said. “Thanks to Kauffman, I stayed on track and graduated as valedictorian of my high school class at Cristo Rey Kansas City High School.”
The Kauffman Scholar program supports, assists and funds selected minorities’ process to get ready for and complete a college education.
Support at Mizzou
Wilkins and her twin sister Julisha chose Mizzou because of its reputation for quality education in business and engineering. Julisha is in the Trulaske College of Business majoring in international business with an emphasis in finance.
“Attending the same college has allowed us to experience our struggles together. When times become tough, we always have each other,” Wilkins said. “Knowing she is always a couple of feet away provides me with comfort, both physically and mentally.”
In addition to family support, the Kauffman Scholar program continues to assist Wilkins and other Kauffman Scholars in college both financially and academically.
“The Kauffman scholarship is an annual renewable award. I must maintain a 2.5 GPA plus submit all the required documentation,” Wilkins said.
In addition to the GPA requirement, Wilkins explained the Kauffman program provides extra support through dedicated academic coaches to guide recipients as they navigate their way through college.
Support also came from IMSE faculty. During the 2019 fall semester, Wilkins’ family member was gravely ill. Wilkins’ Systems Simulation course instructor, Assistant Professor Sharan Srinivas, was very understanding when Wilkins had to balance schoolwork with family health emergencies.
Currently, Wilkins is the Events Coordinator for the Institute of Industrial and System Engineers (IISE) at Mizzou. She is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), having served as their Programs Chair for one year and as the Food and Beverage Chair on the Conference Planning Committee for the 2019 NSBE Fall Regional Conference.
“One of my favorite experiences occurred when I attended the NSBE 45th Annual Convention in 2019,” Wilkins said. “I met engineers from all over the world. It was amazing to see thousands of Black engineers come together to grow, learn and succeed.”
Wilkins continues to explore career options while planning to graduate in May 2021.
“I do know I want to continue my path to success as I walk into the real world,” Wilkins said. “Being an industrial engineer, I am eligible for supply chain positions, production and operations positions, manufacturing and more.”