iSchool Student Varaxy Yi Receives Prestigious Gates Scholarship

Community Profile

Varaxy Yi has loved libraries since she was a child, and thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, she’s able to pursue her MLIS at San José State University School of Information on a full scholarship. Yi is one of two Gates Millennium Scholars who are iSchool students, and among just three SJSU graduate students to receive the prestigious award this year.

Yi is the first in her Cambodian immigrant family to go to college. She won the Gates scholarship during her senior year in high school in Modesto, California, and went on to earn undergraduate degrees in business and English from the University of the Pacific. She initially planned to major in computer programming before deciding it wasn’t for her, but the background she acquired in those classes is paying off as she takes Online Searching this semester. The scholarship program pays for both undergraduate and graduate studies, although recipients must complete their graduate degree within two years.

Yi started her MLIS program last fall. With just one semester of core classes under her belt, Yi is still figuring out what specialization she plans to pursue. “There are so many interesting aspects to library science,” she said. “I’m trying to take as many classes as I can and figure out what I like best.”

Yi said she’s unusual among her fellow Gates scholars in choosing to study library science. Engineering and mathematics are far more common career paths. In addition to the scholarship money, Gates scholars also participate in an annual leadership program and benefit from academic mentoring opportunities.

Even with the scholarship, Yi works full-time as a bookkeeper and accountant while taking a full class load. The English major still tries to find time to read, citing Virginia Woolfe and Shakepeare’s tragedies among her favorites, and burns off stress pounding the treadmill.

The Gates Millennium Scholars program, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pays undergraduate and graduate school expenses for outstanding minority students who want to pursue opportunities in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science. Some 12,000 individuals nationwide have benefited from the program since it began in 1999.