Flinn Scholars Newsletter

February 14, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Welcome to your newsletter!

Dear Flinn Scholar Alumni,

I am thrilled to welcome you to the inaugural issue of our quarterly newsletter, News from Home, a new initiative designed to foster connection among our alumni community. 

This platform will share significant happenings within the Flinn Scholars Program and the Flinn Foundation, alumni stories, and how you can remain involved with the program. Our goal is not only to keep you informed but also to celebrate the incredible Scholar community. After witnessing the turnout at our alumni gathering in December, we realized the obvious: you all need more updates from us, or maybe just more excuses to get together! 🙂

Thank you for your continued support and involvement in the Flinn Scholars Program. We look forward to staying connected and hope you find this newsletter both informative and a reminder of the incredible “Flamily” you joined your senior year of high school.

With a smile,

Anne Lassen

Alumni join current Scholars for Life Hack Day

Nearly 70 current Flinn Scholars will come together this Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Phoenix Art Museum for Life Hack Day—an annual event that started in 2012 as “Career Day” at the suggestion of a board member. The event has evolved over the years to provide current Scholars with guidance beyond their career path. This year we have nine alumni and one Flinn-Brown Fellow from the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership at the Flinn Foundation who will be sharing their life experience with current Scholars. Table topics include goal setting, civic engagement, handling failure, networking, how to prepare for an internship, and personal finance.

A big thank you to our alumni who are sharing their time and wisdom this weekend:

  • Benjamin Driggs, Class of 1990, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, Honeywell Aerospace
  • Enrique Favaro, Class of 2016, CPA, Financial Controller, Culdesac
  • Tina Kwasnica, M.D., Class of 1987, Acting chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Neurorehabilitation, Barrow Neurological Institute
  • Anna Mian, Ph.D., Class of 2012, Electron Microscope Applications Specialist, NanoMEGAS USA
  • Sami Mian, Ph.D., Class of 2012, R&D Manager, Amazon Robotics & Kuiper
  • Gayatri Sadachar, Class of 2015, Public Health Educator, Phoenix Mobile Health Unit
  • Julie Swarstad Johnson, Class of 2006, Archivist & Outreach Librarian, University of Arizona Poetry Center
  • Mitchell Turbenson, J.D., Class of 2008, Attorney, Ballard Spahr LLP
  • Suhitha Veeravelli, M.D., Class of 2013, OB/GYN Resident Physician, UA College of Medicine – Phoenix/Banner Health
  • Avery Xola, Flinn-Brown Fellow, Voter Education and Grassroots Outreach Manager, Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission

In addition to Life Hack Day, this event also includes an orientation for first year Scholars preparing for their group seminar in Finland. More information will be shared about that trip in our next newsletter.

A magical night

Breanne Bushu, a Class of 2002 Flinn Scholar and chair of the Flinn Scholar Alumni Council, writes a reflection about the Dec. 20 alumni gathering at the Flinn Foundation.

There is something magical that happens when Flinn Scholars get together. The air vibrates with possibility. We come together throughout our college years to learn, to travel, to celebrate, and to find connection. In between those moments, we are a busy bunch, so there is always much to catch up on. And then there is graduation, at once an honor and a catalyst for pulling us in different directions. We’ve learned time and time again, though, that bonds built through the scholarship never really go away.

In the last few years, the Flinn Scholar Alumni Council has been supporting opportunity for connection by hosting mini alumni reunions, both locally and across the nation, virtually and in-person. This initiative supports the Flinn Foundation’s goal of engaging, connecting, and celebrating alumni by fostering community. When alum Leslie Harris’s holiday travel plans meant she just missed one of our gatherings in 2022, she asked Flinn staff if they could consider an event with more lead time, so she could plan for it the following year. When Anne Lassen, Vice President, Scholarship and Education Initiatives for the Foundation, brought this idea to the Council, we could not have agreed any faster or with more enthusiasm than we did.

Putting our heads together, staff and the Council wondered if we could expand our smaller happy hour-type events and invite all alumni, including some special scholarship supporters who have played a substantial role along the way—an updated “DRINKS WITH JOHN MURPHY.” We could not have anticipated that more than 120 alumni, along with some of our greatest supporters, would come together in what was supposed to be just a “mini” reunion! 

I know I was not the only one who spent the entire evening with a smile plastered across my face—the photos speak for themselves. But the real magic came after. The lingering high that stayed with me for days after. The fact I still get a warm feeling just thinking about the night. The intense urge to immediately do it all over again. Our alumni reunion turned into a homecoming, and all of us alumni were welcomed with open arms back to the Foundation from which all our relationships began. 

Following the success of this reunion and our smaller convenings across the country, the Council would love to provide more frequent opportunities for informal alumni gatherings, both in-person and virtually. If you would like to help us host a get-together in your community, please let us know.

The Council would also like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for Anne and her team for making this night possible, and for all of you for coming during the busiest time of the year to celebrate our community. 

At one point in Flinn Scholars’ history, a popular tagline for the scholarship was “in the company of extraordinary people.” I am incredibly honored to count everyone in that room that night amongst my peers, colleagues, friends, and champions. Becoming a Flinn Scholar was one of the most important events in my life. And now, as your current Alumni Council chair, I am humbled every day by the fact that I get to support this amazing community as it grows even greater. 

Coming soon: The Class of 2024 Flinn Scholars

More than 1,000 high-school seniors applied in the fall for a chance at earning the 2024 Flinn Scholarship.

A review process that included many of you identified 80 Semifinalists. After a round of virtual interviews, 36 Finalists were chosen to interview in March with the Selection Committee at the Flinn Foundation.

The Flinn Scholarship Finalists represent 30 traditional public, charter, and private high schools from seven Arizona counties—Coconino, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai. From this group will emerge the 39th class of Flinn Scholars.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Flinn Scholars Class of 2024.