From Creighton to Cambridge

Ever since Danae Mercer was a little girl, her dream has been to study at Cambridge University or Oxford University. This September, her lifelong dream will come true.
Mercer, an Arts & Sciences senior, is the first Creighton student to win the Davies-Jackson Scholarship, awarded to one student nationally every year.

This scholarship will give Mercer the chance to study political science at St. John’s College at Cambridge on a full scholarship for two years. She will earn a Cantab degree, which is the equivalent of a master’s degree in the United States. Mercer’s scholarship is valued at $50,000, which includes room and board, tuition, travel expenses to and from England and summer living expenses.

The Davies-Jackson Scholarship is awarded to a student whose background closely resembles that of the anonymous donor of the Davies-Jackson Scholarship. The student must be “a first-generation undergraduate with limited financial resources and who has achieved significant intellectual growth through liberal arts studies at a less widely recognized U.S. college or university,” according to the Davies-Jackson Scholarship program Web site.

The day Mercer received the news that she had won the scholarship was one of the best days in her life, Mercer said. Not only did Mercer receive news of her scholarship through different means just a few weeks ago, but she had her future depending on this one scholarship. “I was going to apply to other scholarships my senior year and when I started applying for the others, I realized the only one I truly wanted was the Davies-Jackson, so it’s the only one I applied for,” Mercer said.

Mercer knew she was a finalist a few months ago for the scholarship, but she had not heard news of who the winner was since then, and she was getting antsy. Her advisor and mentor, Dr. James Wunsch, professor of political science and international relations, was the first person to know of her winning when he noticed a letter in his mail on January 26.

“Since it lacked a return address on the envelope, I left it where it was in my stack of mail. I thought it was just another piece of junk mail. When I read it, at first my mind just did not register its contents. I had to reread it a couple of times before it sunk in,” Wunsch said.

Mercer first heard the good news at work in the Student Activities Office through a phone call from Dr. Bridget Keegan, associate dean and professor of English, and one of Mercer’s mentors. Keegan said that Wunsch came over to her office and insisted he talk to her right away. Keegan told him that it would have to wait because she was with a student. But Dr. Wunsch refused to wait.

“After I realized that he wouldn’t go away, I apologized to the student… and he gave me the complimentary letter informing him that she was the recipient of the award. I felt so sorry for the young lady sitting in my office because as soon as I saw it, I let out a yelp and jumped up and down. This poor student probably thought I was crazy,” Keegan said.
As soon as Keegan stopped yelling and jumping up and down after receiving the news, she began to try to track down Mercer. Keegan and Mercer still don’t know what happened to the letter she was to receive, but about a week ago, Mercer finally received her letter with the original postmark date reading January 5, 2009.

“Great teachers, hard work, and coffee,” Mercer said, kept her motivated and focused to push herself to do the best she could in school.

Mercer also said her support system on campus helped her stay positive and kept her pushing forward while applying for the scholarship. Four mentors that she said helped her were Wunsch; Keegan; Lisa Brockhoff, associate director of the Creighton Career Center; and Dr. Terry Clark, professor of political science and director of the Graduate Program in International Relations.

“All four have been family and support. They have just been amazing,” Mercer said.

Even though Mercer’s hard work through high school and college paid off, what really gave this scholarship meaning to her was the fact she is the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.

“That added dimension and gave [the scholarship] extra meaning to me,” Mercer said. “It’s crazy to think that this little girl from a trailer park from California is going to Cambridge.”

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