Thornton Opportunity Scholarship

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The Thornton Opportunity Scholarship is intended to support domestic and international MSU undergraduate students who have experienced hardships due to war or conflict and have demonstrated financial need.

Apply for the Thornton Opportunity Scholarship

This scholarship is available to domestic and international MSU undergraduate students. Recipients may reapply for the scholarship each academic year.

A Thornton Opportunity Scholarship recipient will:

  • Be an incoming or current undergraduate student at Michigan State University;
  • Have experienced difficulties as a result of war or conflict, such as disruption in their education, loss of home, family death, or community destruction;
  • Demonstrate financial need as a barrier to attending or continuing to attend MSU; and,
  • Submit a complete application.

The application form includes two long answer questions. Be prepared to submit a document with each of these prompts:

  1. In a personal statement of 250 words or less, share how you have been affected by war or conflict.
    • Please include hardships you have experienced, such as disruption in your education, loss of home, family death, or community destruction.
    • Share how you were able to survive these challenges and what role continued education at MSU will play in your future development
  2. Please describe how this scholarship would help you overcome the financial burden of studying at MSU. Provide detail that will aid us in assessing your financial need.

About Dr. Kazuko Thornton

Kazuko Headshot .jpgDr. Kazuko Thornton has lived a life of learning.

Born in Shanghai, China, Kazuko's childhood was marked by war - first in China, and then in post-war Japan. Her family endured hardships after her father was killed in the war. Her mother and older siblings worked hard to provide for the family, but in doing so missed out on opportunities for education.

As a small child, Kazuko was sent to live with her uncle's family in northern Japan. The separation from her mother and siblings was incredibly difficult at such a young age. When Kazuko was reunited with her family to start elementary school in Tokyo, her strong accent from several years of living in northern Japan isolated her from her classmates.

"I didn't talk a lot, but I saw, heard, and tried to understand my new surroundings," Kazuko said. This served her well. Soon, Kazuko was leading her class through middle school and then attending one of the top high schools in Tokyo.

Dreaming about going to school in the United States, she taught herself English, crafting her own lesson plans and practicing with American families she would meet on the train. Kazuko came to Marshall University in West Virginia in 1962. She remembers wearing out her English-Japanese dictionary in that first year. Her studying paid off with a full ride scholarship to complete her undergraduate degree with Magna Cum Laude. She also earned summer school credits from the Universidad Ibero-Americana in Mexico City.

A Distinguished Fellowship Contest brought Kazuko to MSU, where she earned her Master's degree, while teaching Spanish at MSU and MacDonald Middle School. She completed a Ph.D. in 1979 and continued to work as a teacher and administrator at East lansing Public Schools. After retirement, she worked for several years as adjunct faculty at MSU.

Kazuko believes that there will unfortunately always be war and conflict somewhere in the world. Creating this scholarship allows her to give hope to a small number of young people whose lives have been disrupted in significant ways due to war. As a child, Kazuko found security in going to school. Education allowed her to create a future for herself, and she wants to help others have similar opportunities.

"You have to be an active participant if you want to get somewhere," Kazuko said. "You are the main character of your life."

Scholarship Recipient Stories

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Karim Garifullin
College of Engineering

Scholarship Recipient for Fall 2022

Karim was born in Russia. His talent for hockey brought him to Canada, and later to school in Massachusetts. He is now pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at MSU.

Although Karim has been in the U.S. for several years, the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine has affected him and his family. He has not been able to return home or see his family in two years and the separation is difficult. He no longer has financial support from his family, but he knows that by working hard and continuing his studies he can build a better life for himself.

Karim is motivated by how his family has sacrificed for him to be in the position he is in today. Although he understands that he will continue to face challenges and uncertainty, he is driven to complete this phase of his education at MSU.

"This scholarship has given me the hope that I will be able to finish my studies," Karim said. "I have never stopped working hard to achieve my goals, and this opportunity will push me to work even harder because people believe in me."