Scholarships at WSU Tri-Cities make a difference for first-generation student

By Lacey Desserault

For some students at Washington State University Tri-Cities, scholarships and financial aid can be life-changing. An estimated 55% of students at WSU Tri-Cities do not pay out-of-pocket for tuition, allowing students to focus on their academic pursuits without the stress of financing it.

Edgar Bustamante, junior in the electrical engineering program.

For Edgar Bustamante, a junior in the electrical engineering program, the road to educational success has not been easy. “As a first-generation college student and an immigrant, my educational journey has been both challenging and rewarding. For a long time, I have been dedicated to financing my education entirely out of pocket, striving to achieve my academic goals against all odds,” he said.

With the help of two WSU Tri-Cities staff members, Bustamante was able to receive assistance through financial aid, and was the recipient of two scholarships, including the Lee D. Phillip Electrical Engineering Scholarship Endowment and the Atkins Engineering Scholarship.

“Attaining a more secure financial footing will significantly contribute to fostering a positive and focused mindset throughout my educational journey at WSU. By alleviating the burden of financial stress, I can wholeheartedly dedicate myself to my academic pursuits, and make the most of my university experience,” he said.

Bustamante credits Jana Kay Lunstad, campus registrar and director of financial aid, and Stassia Feltes, interim director of GEAR UP OVP Programs, for helping him along the way.

“Jana Kay has actively helped me get the most out of my financial aid and scholarships. Her help has literally made the difference between being able to attend full time versus part time some semesters. Stassia helped me from day one at WSU Tri-Cities. I enrolled during Covid and was dealing with some hardships related to that, as well as other life events. There was a point where I didn’t know if I could even stay in school. Stassia went out of her way to help me work around my external problems and keep me on the track to being able to stay at WSU,” Bustamante said.

“Working in financial aid and scholarships is a privilege because it allows me to connect with students and it’s rewarding to assist them in securing funds for their education,” said Lunstad. “I’ve worked with Edgar for two years and admire his determination to excel in school while balancing work and family commitments. He embodies the qualities employers seek. I take pride in connecting him with these donors and opportunities.”

When Feltes first met with Bustamante online through TRIO during the pandemic she recognized his strong desire to pursue higher education despite facing some unfortunate and challenging situations. “I kept reaching out to Edgar to check in and provided all the necessary support possible so he could stay close to his goal of earning his bachelors. He kept pushing through and showed his resilience in the face of adversity,” said Feltes. “When I met Edgar in person for the first time on campus, I was so excited to see him there and knew he was going to continue to persevere.”

From an early age, Bustamante knew he wanted to pursue a career in engineering. “I always knew I wanted to become an engineer and was partial to the electrical field due to my dad being an electrical motor technician. Once I started taking introductory engineering classes in middle school, I found electrical to be the most challenging, which spiked my interest in the field even further,” he said.

Thanks to the scholarships and the university’s local industry partners, Bustamante was able to participate in several internships alongside his classes. “I have completed an internship with Cadwell Industries during the summer 2023 and am currently participating in a co-op internship with HMIS that will hopefully last through graduation.”

Edgar Bustamante (second from the right) participates in the Clean Energy Ambassadors Network outside of class

Outside of classes, Bustamante has supplemented his education with extracurricular activities. “I am in the CEAN (Clean Energy Ambassadors Network) Energy program, where I am an ambassador,” he said. “Our team got second place during our CEAN clean energy presentation back in the spring 2023 semester. I am also a part of TRIO, which I am hoping to be a little more involved in during this academic year. I also joined our SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) chapter and will be looking to join IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).”

Bustamante plans to graduate in the spring of 2025 and will pursue a career in electrical engineering. “My enduring commitment is to embrace a lifelong learning journey, continuously striving to attain mastery in the discipline I am pursuing throughout my career. I hope to continue to expand my knowledge of the field through whatever emphasis I end up pursuing within the electrical field. The engineering program, which has been an invaluable source of knowledge and growth for me, has provided numerous opportunities for learning and development.”

Learn more about scholarships at WSU Tri-Cities.