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McCrary awarded the Nicole Faith Berman Scholarship at MSU

The Nicole Faith Berman Scholarship memorializes Berman's commitment to serving children and families. (Submitted photo/courtesy of Mitchell E. Berman)

STARKVILLE, Miss. —Stephanie McCrary of Pelahatchie, a Mississippi State University student pursuing an online bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in psychology, is the 2017 recipient of the Nicole Faith Berman Scholarship.

Established in 2012 by Mitchell E. Berman, head of MSU's Department of Psychology, the scholarship honors the memory of his daughter, a young attorney who had a love for family law. Mitchell said his daughter was committed to serving children and families, especially those experiencing difficult times, and this devotion was the foundation of the scholarship.

McCrary's solid academic record and notable essay describing how the scholarship would benefit her goal of serving children made her the obvious choice, Mitchell said. In her essay, McCrary described her desire to become a teacher, along with an objective to "understand and encourage students, especially those experiencing obstacles, and help them reach their full potential."

McCrary is familiar with children facing challenges. Early in life, her son Leland was diagnosed with several health disorders, which prompted an assignment to a special education classroom.

"I knew my son was capable of learning in a mainstream classroom, so I became his biggest advocate. I was his voice," McCrary said.

Her efforts were successful, and Leland is thriving today.

She intends to combine her education, love of children and personal experiences to become a champion for children in the classroom.

"I vow to be a positive influence in the lives of all students and be a voice for all, regardless of ability or disability," she said.

Because of her parental responsibilities, attending school on campus has not been a viable option. The ability to secure her education online at MSU has enabled McCrary to realize her goal of becoming a teacher. She will graduate in December and has already begun the application process to take the next step in higher education with MSU's online Master of Arts – Secondary Alternate Route program.

Stephanie McCrary with her son Leland

Stephanie McCrary (seated) is pictured with her son Leland, along with Evan Hawkins and Kali Dunlap, both MSU Center for Distance Education coordinators for academic outreach, and Susan Seal, executive director for MSU's Center for Distance Education. (Photo by Karen Crow)

"Nicole would support Stephanie's plans to be an advocate in the classroom for children," said Berman, "and she would love that Stephanie is doing it in an untraditional manner."

MSU's Center for Distance Education offers 37 accredited online programs from several colleges at the university. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, as well as professional certificates, are available to students across the country and around the world. For more, visit

If you would like to make a gift to the CDE scholarship fund, visit and designate your gift to the Distance Makes a Difference Scholarship Fund.

MSU is Mississippi's leading university, available online at

Story by Joni Seitz