When Rutgers closed campus housing due to the coronavirus, Luna Laliberte faced some tough choices.
The School of Arts and Sciences student, an aspiring author and instructional design specialist, couldn’t afford an apartment. And she knew that returning to her family’s packed one-bedroom apartment in New York City would disrupt her studies, which includes graduate-level work for a combined bachelor’s/master’s program in communication.
So Laliberte sought help. She obtained permission to return temporarily to campus housing. Then she met with SAS Scholarship Director Kate Cahill and successfully applied for a grant from the Dean’s Emergency Assistance Fund to help secure off-campus housing and food.
For Laliberte, learning to work through such crises has been part of her college experience.
I have been a scholarship student all my time at Rutgers
“I have been a scholarship student all my time at Rutgers,” she said. “It is the only way I am able to go to college.”
She arrived at Rutgers with a strong sense of academic mission. Laliberte had attended an online high school in Camden—an experience that showed her the promises and pitfalls of remote instruction and highlighted the need for a more engaging approach.
“We have to develop a standard for effective online education,” she says. “There are ways to do that, it’s just that we haven’t seen the need until now.”
She also has a passion for writing fiction.
“I have always been interested in young adult, supernatural, and fantasy fiction,” says Laliberte. “I have drafts all over my computer—worlds that I build and shape over time.”
At Rutgers, she found the ideal mix that made room for working toward a potential career in instructional design and developing her writing talent. She majored in communication, with minors in creative writing and education.
She served as president of the Rutgers Creative Writing Club and worked as lead tutor for the Plangere Writing Center and a lab assistant at the Office of Information Technology.
But the financial challenges of going to college came as a shock.
“I had to learn on the job so to speak,” she says. “In my family and in my culture, we just didn’t talk about finances.
“I had this very sharp learning curve in understanding how I can get help.”
There were tough times. Laliberte has on occasion used the student food pantry. And she needed financial support at one point to pay for textbooks. During one stretch, her mom was injured working a warehousing job for a major online retailer, creating even more financial stress.
But Laliberte is poised to receive her bachelor’s degree in May 2021. And one year later, she will earn her masters.
“People tell me that it must be stressful, but this has been my life,” she said. “Kate Cahill would tell me, ‘You are going to be okay.’ And that helped a lot.”
Scholarships save dreams.