Visually impaired cancer survivor pursues psychology degree to help sick children

Camarillo, Calif., Sept. 12, 2011 – CSU Channel Islands (CI) junior Stephanie Bower is one of 18 students in the CSU system to win a 2011-2012 Dale M. Schoettler Scholarship for Visually Impaired Students. The $6,000 award provides assistance for full-time students at CSU campuses who are declared legally blind.

Bower, a 19-year-old from Ventura, has a very personal reason for pursuing her psychology degree at CI. She became legally blind at the age of 11, after surgery to remove cancerous brain and spinal tumors. Despite undergoing years of chemotherapy, Bower finished high school on time with a 4.0 GPA and earned a 3.9 GPA from Ventura College. Through it all, Bower said her spirits were lifted and her fears assuaged by a child psychologist who worked at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

"I remember being scared out of my mind and she either distracted me or explained things to me in terms I could understand at 11 years old," Bower said. "I knew at that moment that was something I wanted to do because I know what a difference it made for me and my treatment." Bower is working toward a bachelor's degree in psychology, with the intention of earning a master's and Ph.D. in counseling psychology. "My dream job is to be a psychologist working in a children's hospital or children's unit," she said. "Anywhere someone could use a little cheering up – that's where I want to go."

Bower said the scholarship would cover her tuition for the year. She's eligible to reapply next year. "It really helped me get on the road to achieving what I want to achieve," she said. "I can focus on my schoolwork without worrying about how I'm going to pay for everything."

Dale M. Schoettler, a successful California businessman who was blind himself started the scholarship. When he died in 2001, Schoettler left $4.8 million to the CSU Foundation to fund scholarships for visually impaired students at all 23 CSU campuses. To qualify for the scholarship, students must be legally blind, enrolled full time and maintain at least a 2.8 GPA.

Anne Gillespie Brown, Director of the CSU Foundation, was impressed with Bower's application. "Legally blind students frequently find it very difficult to be enrolled full time," she said. "As evidenced by the serious medical problems that Stephanie has faced and fought, and her desire to pay forward the kindnesses from people who have helped her along her journey, Stephanie will continue as she says, to jump, hop, and skip over all the brick walls that are in the way to a doctorate degree.  She is an extraordinary person who is nothing short of inspirational."

For more information on the Dale M. Schoettler Scholarship and other CSU scholarship programs, visit

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CSU Channel Islands 
(CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI’s strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more by visiting CI's Social Media.