Back to top


Campaign gifts for students like Ashleah Elias that ignite intellectual curiosity in academic and professional areas transform lives and open doors.

Ashleah Elias believes in the power of the artistic process to heal. As a 2018 recipient of an Emerging Scholars Grant, Elias is pursuing dual degrees in Studio Arts and Human Development with the goal of opening a community ceramics studio to serve families affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). 

Elias had been on track for a nursing degree, but her career goals changed after her husband, Justin, returned from combat as a service-disabled veteran. Some challenging times followed, inspiring Elias to reassess her goals.  

At the beginning of the What It Takes campaign, David Kem and Judith Raines made a significant contribution that established the Emerging Scholars Grant. Funding from the grant allowed Elias to travel to Arizona where she learned from practicing art therapists in an immersive environment.

“I had no idea what was going to be involved in doing therapeutic care in a community studio,” Elias said. “So, being able to go to Arizona and talk to therapists really helped me with my planning and studio space.”

By asking those struggling with PTSD and TBI to tap into their creative minds, Elias witnessed firsthand the transformative effect of artistic expression in helping individuals heal. As a first-generation student pursuing a second career path, Elias believes the support from the Emerging Scholars Grant is instrumental to her success.

“I would say that my time at MSU has completely changed everything that I planned for my future,” Elias said. “Now I’m thinking about helping people change their way of life.”