Giving creates opportunities for students at TROY’s Johnson Center

The generosity of donors like Dr. Manuel H. Johnson and Dr. Harrel McKinney have created opportunities for students at Troy University,

The generosity of donors like Dr. Manuel H. Johnson and Dr. Harrel McKinney have created opportunities for students at Troy University,

The students come from all walks of life and all around the world, but all have one thing in common—they all say financial support from Troy University’s Johnson Center for Political Economy changed their lives.

Donor support provides not only scholarships, but also defers the costs of travel to conferences, creating life-changing learning opportunities for students.

Gordon Miller came to TROY from Bay Minette, Ala., as a music education major and a member of the Sound of the South marching band. But after attending talks at the Johnson Center and getting involved in the Students for Liberty program, Miller quickly changed his major to economics. After completing his undergraduate degree, he transitioned to a master’s program in the Johnson Center.

While studying at the Johnson Center, Miller received support in the form of the McKinney Fellowship and other funds which helped him travel to conferences in Italy and Tampa to present his research. Miller, now a Ph.D. student at Baylor, called those experiences transformational.

“I had never presented at conference before the Italy trip, and all the faculty helped me to prepare and be successful,” Miller said. “I’d say it was life changing for me. I was on a completely different path, but the financial support from the Johnson Center helped me pursue a path I had never considered before, but one that I absolutely loved.”

Konstantin Zhukov, a native of Russia, said he would not be studying at TROY at all if not for the scholarship support provided by donors to the Johnson Center. The graduate of Northwood University in Michigan is set to graduate with master’s from TROY in December. While a student at TROY, Zhukov has authored a policy paper for the Johnson Center on Alabama’s law against price gouging, and has worked on the Center’s occupational licensing initiative.

Manuel H. Johnson
Manuel H. Johnson

“I definitely would not be here without the generous support of donors,” Zhukov said. “When I first heard about the program at TROY, I didn’t know what to expect. But after everything that they have done for me here, I don’t think I could have made a better decision. The professors here are very knowledgeable. They want to develop us as professionals.”

Zhukov said the Johnson Center curriculum inspires students to not just learn economic theory, but apply it in practical ways to make the world a better place.

“It explains the world around us and how it works,” Zhukov said. “From economics, you understand where the problems are you can try to solve them. It gives you a different perspective, and you just learn so much.”

Troy-native Sean Alvarez, an undergraduate student who has co-authored two papers with Johnson Center faculty, was able to present at a London, England conference with financial help from the Center.

“I got to present a paper to a room full of economists, and was one of just two undergraduate students presenting,” Alvarez said. “If it weren’t for the financial support, I would not have been able to afford this opportunity.”

Corianna Baier, a 2017-18 recipient of the McKinney Fellowship, interned at the Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation. She said the Fellowship has helped her focus on her studies without worrying about her finances. But more importantly, she has appreciated the personal relationship she’s been able to form with the Fellowship’s namesake, alumnus Dr. Harrel McKinney, who has been providing $12,000 per year for the graduate-level Fellowship.

“I met Dr. McKinney and I really enjoyed being able to do so,” Baier said. “It’s great to be connected to the donor and to have a conversation and hear the things that interest him and why he wants to give back to TROY.”

For the Center’s namesake donor, Dr. Manuel H. Johnson, hearing student success stories  is encouraging and validates his decision to continue support of the Center with an additional $118,000 earlier in 2018.

“I believe very strongly in the power of higher education to prepare people for productive citizenship and leadership in our country,” Dr. Johnson said. “When I hear stories about the way people have been able to use the funding to get a better understanding of how free markets work to provide grown and prosperity, it gets me excited and I feel that’s exactly why I wanted to invest.”