Achievements & Awards Dental Hygiene Students

Three Dental Hygiene graduate students receive state King-Chavez-Parks grants4 min read

September 15, 2023

Three Dental Hygiene graduate students receive state King-Chavez-Parks grants4 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., Sept. 15, 2023 – Three students in the School of Dentistry’s graduate dental hygiene program have each received a significant state grant that encourages the development of faculty teaching careers in postsecondary education.

Ellese Blackmon Smith, Edith Dana and Rowie Fuertes each received the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship Program grant. The three are in their second year of the school’s two-year program leading to a Master’s of Dental Hygiene degree.

From left: Ellese Blackmon Smith, Edith Dana and Rowie Fuertes

Dental Hygiene faculty member Dr. Danielle Rulli, director of the master’s program, said students in previous years have received the King-Chavez-Parks grant, but it is unusual for the school to have three outstanding students receive the award in the same year. It is also unusual that each received the maximum $20,000 grant, she said, since the amount, which is based on student financial need, is often less than the maximum.

Recipients of the grant, known as the KCP, agree to obtain a master’s degree, then pursue either a doctoral degree or begin a teaching or approved administrative career at a two- or four-year postsecondary institution within specified time periods and for a minimum commitment of up to two years, depending on the amount of the award. (In addition to the award for master’s degree students, there is a KCP program for doctoral students with different requirements.)

“As faculty, we’re grateful that our students are receiving awards recognizing their academic dedication and future potential, especially since graduate students are dependent on student loans and-or paying out of pocket to further their education,” Rulli said. “To have three current students all receive the full King-Chavez-Parks grant is unusual, and reinforces the quality and potential of the students in our graduate hygiene program.”

One of the students, Rowie Fuertes, received another significant grant recently, the Eduardo and Aurora Sevilla Graduate Student Award from U-M’s Rackham Graduate School. Fuertes said that $5,000 award and the KCP award allow her to focus on her education. “I am very honored and privileged to be a recipient of these awards,” she said. “They will help me advance my education and reach my professional goal. Since I work limited hours while I am in school, these awards will help me pay my tuition and lessen the burden of my student loan. They inspire me to strive harder to improve my personal and professional growth.”

The Future Faculty Fellowship Program was created by the Michigan State Legislature in 1986 as part of the larger King-Chavez-Parks Initiative, named for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., César Chávez and Rosa Parks. The initiative was designed to stem the downward spiral of college graduation rates for students underrepresented in postsecondary education and to increase the pool of academically or economically disadvantaged candidates pursuing faculty teaching careers in postsecondary education. Preference may not be given to applicants based on race, color, ethnicity, gender or national origin.

The KCP program is administered within the state of Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, as part of Workforce Development. The Michigan Legislature determines funding for the Future Faculty Fellowship Program through the annual Higher Education Appropriations legislative process. Funds are disbursed directly to the state’s 15 public universities who administer it. At U-M, the Rackham Graduate School coordinates the program.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral healthcare education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.