The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Odyssey Project helps adults facing adversity get a jumpstart on a college degree. Over the past 12 years, participants have journeyed from poverty and incarceration to meaningful work in the community. This year, the new Lisa Munro Next Generation Scholarship grants $1,000 to an Odyssey Project graduate who is continuing her educational journey.
Josephine Lorya-Ozulamoi immigrated to the United States with her family after growing up in East Africa, where she escaped the war in South Sudan. She discovered the Odyssey Project as a means of earning credit at UW-Madison, taking advantage of the free tuition and textbooks. The program empowered her to make the transition to college, and she’s now studying for a master’s degree in social work at UW-Madison.
Lorya-Ozulamoi has persevered as a student despite financial challenges and the need to support her family. With her husband’s help, she kept up her studies even while pregnant and working full-time to make ends meet.
“I am pursuing my degree because I have a passion for helping others,” Lorya-Ozulamoi says. “My family and I came to this country as refugees, and the main goal my mom had for my siblings and me was to get an education. My husband and I are similarly reminding our two children about the importance of education. I have faced a lot of struggles, but I have never and will never give up. I was given a second chance to education when I applied for the Odyssey Project.”
Lorya-Ozulamoi will be honored at a reception on Tuesday, April 28, in Varsity Hall at UW-Madison’s Union South, 4:30-6:30 p.m. The reception will also recognize winners of other adult student scholarships and awards.
The Lisa Munro Next Generation Scholarship includes a gift of $300 for a young person chosen by Lorya-Ozulamoi. The gift is inspired by the recommendations of the Race to Equity Report, which identified extreme racial disparities in Dane County. It is meant to support a child in grades K-12 by providing not only funding, but also mentoring by the Odyssey Award recipient. Lorya-Ozulamoi plans to give the award to her daughter, who will use it for enrichment opportunities at UW-Madison.
Funded by private donors, the Next Generation Scholarship is named for Lisa Munro, a tireless advocate for adult students since joining the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at UW-Madison in 1970. Munro, who retired in 2003, spent the last 24 years of her career with the Adult Career and Special Student Services in the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. She encouraged many adults as they pursued their dream of a college degree.
“Former Dean of Students Mary Rouse proposed the idea of an Odyssey Project scholarship, and it’s a great honor for me to have it created in my name,” says Munro. “Having worked with returning adult students during most of my career, I’m thrilled to be a part of this effort to help Odyssey graduates pursue their education. The Odyssey Project has enabled many adults facing significant challenges to make positive changes in their lives. I’m deeply grateful, through the scholarship, to be a part of this transformative process.”
Lorya-Ozulamoi hopes to become part of the process herself when she achieves her dream of being a social worker.
“My goal is to become a therapist working with underserved populations, such as refugees,” she says. “Upon my graduation, I would also love to use my expertise and volunteer as a mentor to the Odyssey students.”