WKU student receives national Goldwater Scholarship

Molly Dobberstein, News reporter

Vivian Rivera, WKU junior and Mahurin Honors College student, recently received the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate STEM scholarship in the United States.

Rivera said she was originally asked by the WKU marketing team to do a “student take over” on their Instagram page. From there, Lindsey Houchin, assistant director of the Office of Student Development, reached out and  offered her the opportunity to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship, Rivera said.

“It was a very long application process,” Rivera said. “I had to first apply to WKU and get accepted to be nominated from WKU.” 

Rivera said with the WKU application, she had to write a two page document, structured like a scientific paper, as well as several personal statements. A blend of previous research as well as current research were put into the document, Rivera said. 

After acceptance from WKU, Rivera said that she then had to apply to Goldwater, consisting of more writing and research. 

“The point of Goldwater is to really encourage and support students who are serious about research and science,” Rivera said.

While the scholarship received goes towards tuition and schooling expenses, Rivera said that it is more than the money to her. 

“It’s not even just about receiving the scholarship money, it’s about the prestige of the scholarship and the experience writing my application,” Rivera said. 

Rivera said that through her application, she was able to connect different aspects of her personal journey. 

“Being able to connect [my] Hispanic culture to my actual academic, scientific career pursuits, that was something I gained along the way,” Rivera said.  

Academically, Rivera said the world of medicinal plants has interested her since childhood, and it is something she wants to further study, with her major in biology and a minor in chemistry

“I think a huge support to my application was my focus,” Rivera said. “ I have wanted to be a botanist since I was about 12 or 13, in middle school.” 

Rivera said that next year she plans on applying for the Fulbright Research Grant, and if she receives it, she plans to research in Ecuador and the Amazon.  

“Should that not work out, I will go to graduate school and get my PhD,” Rivera said. 

The experience she gained through the application process would have been enough for her, even if she had not won the scholarship, Rivera said. 

Moving forward with the receival of the Goldwater Scholarship, she is excited to pursue further scientific research.

“It’s like putting a sticker on you that says ‘this person is serious about science and STEM,’” Rivera said.

News reporter Molly Dobberstein can be reached at [email protected].