Cazenavette earns $8,500 Phi Kappa Phi fellowship

George Cazenavette of Mandeville, a National Merit Scholar who made a 36 on his ACT and graduated from Louisiana Tech in May as a triple major in cyber engineering, mathematics, and computer science, has received an $8,500 fellowship from Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

“He was our first nominee, and the first winner from our chapter that I know of,” said Tech Provost Dr. Terry McConathy, who submitted Cazenavette’s application into the national competition. Fifty $8,5000 fellowships were awarded.

“We haven’t had an awardee in the 20-plus years I’ve worked with it; lots of applicants, but no winners,” said Corre Stegall, Vice President Emerita at Louisiana Tech. “To have a national awardee is huge for us.”

As hard-working and smart as Cazenavette is, his misunderstanding of something concerning his graduate scholarships actually ended up working in his favor in a great way. He explains since “the story,” he said, “is a little complicated.”

“So in October, I applied to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program,” he said. “The award for this is a $34,000-per-year stipend plus a $12,000 cost of education allowance paid to the school. In April, I was selected as one of the winners.

“This fall I’ll be attending Carnegie-Mellon University completing an MS in Robotics. Since the tuition and fees for the program are about $46,000, I thought the NSF fellowship would perfectly cover it and I would only have to worry about rent and living expenses. So I applied for a Phi Kappa Phi fellowship to help cover these other expenses.

 “However,” he said, “just this week I found out that I misunderstood something big about the NSF fellowship. It turns out that in exchange for the $12,000 cost of education allowance, the school will waive all my tuition and fees, and I am allowed to keep the $34,000 stipend in entirety.

“So now, I’ll probably use the Phi Kappa Phi fellowship mostly for travel (plane tickets home) and maybe for a new (used) car when mine eventually dies,” Cazenavette said. “Other than that, it’ll probably just be my emergency fund.”

All’s well that ends well.

He has earned the scholarships for sure. The selection process for a Phi Kappa Phi fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.

Cazenavette touched all the bases.

This summer he’s been taking graduate classes at Tech. “None of the classes will technically count towards the MS at CMU,” he said, “but the knowledge will definitely help.”

Last year, Cazenavette earned the highly competitive Tau Beta Pi Scholarship as a senior. Tau Beta Pi is the national engineering honor society, the second-oldest honor society in the country, and the first honor society for engineering disciplines.