This fall, Lauren Mattern will study at the school of her dreams, in pursuit of her dream career - and it won't cost her a dime.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded Mattern, a recent Drake University politics and environmental policy graduate, a full-ride scholarship to the graduate school of her choice. She's the first candidate from Drake to receive the scholarship. Of nearly 1,100 applicants nationwide, only 77 were selected this year.
"Candidates are competing with America's elite institutions, and multiple candidates from their own institution - acceptance is a statistical improbability. But it happens for the individual who stands out among the rest," said Matt Esposito, Drake's representative for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and assistant professor of history.
Esposito said Mattern's mastery of the English language, near-perfect 3.96 grade-point average and focused career path made her an ideal candidate for the scholarship.
"We've only ever had two or three students who clearly qualified for the award," Esposito said. "Lauren was one of them."
The foundation will provide Mattern, a native of Omaha, Neb., with up to $50,000 every year for as many as five years of schooling. The foundation awards the scholarships based on financial need, demonstrated academic success and a dedication to improving our society.
"I'm feeling very, very lucky," Mattern said.
Mattern will study city planning at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. She says she's interested in "fighting urban sprawl - keeping cities vibrant and compact - and leaving a positive environmental and social legacy with how we build our cities and develop our land."
Mattern says the strong connections she built with Drake professors helped her succeed.
She met with other scholarship recipients last week in Washington, D.C., for orientation.
"It's definitely the best thing that's happened to me. I'm just happy that my stars aligned," Mattern said.