The University of Washington Tacoma Dressel Scholars Program recognizes and rewards exceptional scholarly achievement, community engagement, and leadership potential for any student enrolled at UW Tacoma. The Dressel Scholars Program was created to honor the legacy of Melanie Jan LaPlant Dressel by creating a robust scholarship and mentorship program that affords our students the opportunities to develop their leadership skills and community connections while giving them the financial freedom to fully participate in their UW Tacoma experience.
Students currently enrolled or applying for enrollment for Autumn Quarter in any UW Tacoma undergraduate program. This includes:
Currently enrolled UW Tacoma students not intending to graduate prior to Spring quarter.
Community college students applying for transfer to UW Tacoma for Autumn quarter acceptance.
Currently enrolled as junior or senior students for Autumn quarter
There is a strong expectation that the student will have completed the necessary credits and other requirements to be admitted to UW Tacoma for autumn quarter to complete their baccalaureate degree. Should a prospective student accept the scholarship and then not qualify for transfer or enrollment, the award will be withdrawn and may go unfilled that year.
To be eligible, students must be pursuing their first baccalaureate degree, having earned a high school diploma (or equivalent) before enrolling. Those who already have earned a bachelor’s degree, or are pursuing graduate study, are not eligible for the Dressel Scholars Program. The Dressel Scholars application is open to students who are U.S citizens or permanent residents.
A team of mentors is paired with each Dressel Scholar to serve as that student’s personal mentors for their duration in the program. We recruit mentors from across campus and across the community, representing a variety of professions, backgrounds, and perspectives, and we provide mentor training on an on-going basis in order to create a common understanding and to maximize the potential for our students.
Dressel Scholars are expected to participate in campus and community events that will increase their understanding of our community’s diverse ecosystem of business and nonprofits, as well as increase their exposure to business, civic, and community leaders.
About Melanie Dressel
Melanie Dressel (1952-2017) was a dedicated community leader, building Columbia Bank into a regional banking power, and engaging in the greater Tacoma community in a way that will have impact for generations to come. In Melanie’s honor, the Dressel Scholars program is designed to offer UW Tacoma students financial assistance and a robust mentorship network that will help them engage with this community in ways not available or known to them.
A University of Washington alumna, Melanie Dressel joined Columbia Bank’s founding team in 1993. She became CEO of Columbia Bank in 2000 and CEO of parent company Columbia Banking System Inc. in 2003. Under her leadership, the bank grew from one branch to more than 140 branches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. She was an active community leader with involvement on numerous boards including Puget Sound Energy, Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, Washington Bankers Association, Washington Roundtable, and the Washington State Historical Society. She received countless awards and recognitions including UW Tacoma's Milgard School of Business Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. She was also named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker Magazine multiple times.
2023-24 Dressel Scholars
Maria is a senior double majoring in Communications and Computer Science and minoring in Innovation and Design. Growing up in North Seattle, WA, and coming from a family of Russian immigrants, she has always prioritized her community; she is part of many on and off campus and continues to join more. Her favorite part of being in one is to give back to it because she has gotten so much from it. Through experiences like tutoring kids, helping design a program addressing period poverty on campus, and interning at a non-profit to provide college and career support to students, she helps make positive changes in her communities. After graduation, she wants to continue to be involved in the local Tacoma community. Using a combination of computer science, communications, and design experience, she wants to work on projects that help make positive changes and have a direct impact on the people who live here.
Erin Brown is a first-generation college student who is majoring in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences concentrating on Global Studies. She is also working towards double minors in Teaching, Learning and Justice, as well as Global Engagement through the Global Honors program. Erin has a passion for community and education centering her studies on socio-cultural histories and the intricacies of local and global systems with a focus on social justice. She is particularly intrigued with how justice and equity are addressed within these systems and how they can be further improved with holistic consideration and collaborative innovation. Erin serves with the Tacoma Public School District working closely with the community to support students and educational staff. Previously, she spent time with Metro Parks of Tacoma leading after school programs and activities for K-5 students and with a Tokyo-based international non-profit YouMeWe which provides support for institutionalized and foster youth through technology and English language programs in Japan, the Philippines, Ghana, and Brazil. Erin is actively working on research for the Bamford Fellowship that investigates how diversity, equity, and inclusion in education is addressed in diverse cultural societies to bring about justice based educational structures that may promote higher student achievement and educational innovation. Following graduation, Erin would like to pursue a dual master's in international studies and international Education. After which she would like to achieve her Washington state teaching certificate. In the future, Erin would like to work closely with non-profits, local and international government systems, educational institutions, and local communities to improve the structures and impacts of education to equitably serve all children.
Roland Heyne is a first-generation student and a junior majoring in finance with plans to get his JD after graduation at UW Tacoma. Roland was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and has landed in Tacoma by way of Texas. He is currently the chair of the Student Activities Board (SAB) and the Director of University Affairs on ASUWT. Roland reignited the pride pack (UW Tacoma's LGBT+ organization on campus) by re-founding the club and by planning pride week on campus which included several events focused on queer identity and celebration. Roland is currently working on supporting and evaluating campus safety to make sure that students feel safe while pursuing higher education. He finds his joy in helping his friends and family to become the best version of themselves that they can be and learning more about himself through promoting growth and compassion in others. Roland hopes to become a lawyer and to work with nonprofits to help people who are in need. He credits his current position and privileges to countless teachers, friends, family, and community members who convinced him that he has the ability to inspire positive change in the world.
Christian James, or CJ, is a senior in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences majoring in Biomedical Sciences. CJ also serves as the Vice President for UW Tacoma's Black Student Union. As the son of a retired Army veteran, CJ finds a way to give back to the military-connected student community through his work as a VA Student Assistant in the Veteran & Military Resource Center. During his free time, Christian edits videos, learns Tagalog, and volunteers at MultiCare's Allenmore Hospital as a Med/Surg Volunteer Trainer. After graduation, and subsequent medical school, Christian aspires to work in an underserved area as a Family Medicine Physician and eventual medical center CEO — dissolving healthcare disparities on both the individualistic and population-based levels.
Aaliya is a senior studying Urban Design with a minor in Innovation and Design. She has a passion for all things design and is interested in transforming public spaces. Aaliya has worked on multiple projects with UW Tacoma faculty, staff, and community affiliates to promote campus wide unity. Aaliya also serves as a Leadership Development Coordinator through the office of First-Generation Student Initiatives, whose goal is to connect and provide support to first generation UW Tacoma students as they navigate college life. Aaliya is also an Architectural Intern at Environmental Works who specializes in creating designs that support healthy, community centered living, and dedicate services to those who are under-resourced. Upon graduation, Aaliya hopes to start a career in Urban Design where she can make an impact on how people function in the spaces that they are in. During her spare time, Aaliya likes to explore the world, assemble Lego, and flip through the pages of Architectural Digest.
Jamie Nguyen is a sophomore in the Milgard School of Business. While her primary focus is on business, she has developed an interest in the fields of law and social work during her time at the university. Notably, Jamie is committed to giving back to her community. She has chosen to return to her high school by working as an AVID Tutor and program assistant for Proyecto Mole, an organization dedicated to support Latino youths. For the remainder of her college years, Jamie is determined to explore various fields to develop self-growth and discovery. After graduation, Jamie aspires to enter a role that allows her to open doors for underserved members of her community. Her journey is rooted in the desire to pay it forward to the organizations that have played a role in her own life.
Lluliana is a first-generation college student and a junior pursuing a bachelor's in business administration. She is passionate about helping people, especially underrepresented diverse members of her community. Her passion began when she realized the need in bridging the gap between ethnic and cultural barriers that present challenges for new immigrants and their first-generation American raised children. As a native Spanish speaker born and raised in Los Angeles, California by Mexican immigrant parents, she can personally identify with these cultural challenges. Because of her prior career experience as a Paralegal, she has been able to use her individual experience to connect with her community, in providing advocacy and assisting their various needs. From legal resource assistance, translation services, and youth mentorship, Lluliana has developed a passion for inspiring young adults and children in her community in gaining confidence in achieving their dreams. She is the co-founder of a family-owned residential plumbing business, and through this avenue, Lluliana aspires to expand her outreach in her community to offer technical training and career opportunities to those being limited in their educational and career goals.
Jada Simpson is a senior at the Milgard School of Business and Marketing major with an interest in Business Data Analytics. She became involved in the Milgard Success Center and received her Milgard Gold, Platinum and Ambassador Business Certificate. Jada’s passion for helping people began when she volunteered at the YMCA and raised money to supply a year's membership for two families. Driven by a desire to help more people and reduce student loan debt, Jada is starting a nonprofit business and setting up a scholarship foundation with financial technology. Jada plans to obtain her Master of Science Business Analytics and apply the knowledge and skills gained toward her nonprofit and other business ventures. In her spare time, Jada enjoys traveling, reading, learning new skills, and exploring new languages and cultures.
Kalea Velasco-Cosare is a senior majoring in Healthcare Leadership and minoring in Global Engagement. Kalea serves as the Senator for the School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, President of the RSO (Registered Student Organization) Partners in Action to Transform Healthcare (PATH), and Global Honors Student Leadership Council Co-Chair. In her free time, Kalea volunteers at Mary Bridge Children's Urgent Care in their Rehabilitation Department and enjoys working out and exploring the PNW. She believes that everyone should have access to culturally appropriate healthcare that prioritizes prevention, affordability, sustainability, and equity and acknowledges the importance of seeing people from one's own community within the healthcare field. Post graduation, Kalea aspires to become a Physical Therapist and dreams of opening her own physical therapy clinic in her ancestral homeland of Hawai'i providing care to historically underserved populations.