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The ‘Creel’ deal

James and Bonnie Creel have established the Bonnie R. '10 and James Creel '69 Fellowship for the benefit of full-time students pursuing their Ph.D. in Communication.

By: Heather Rodriguez ’04

As the saying goes, it’s never too late to learn. Bonnie Creel ‘10 embodied that sentiment when she returned to school at the age of 50 to earn her doctorate in communication. To help others follow in her footsteps at any age, she and her husband James Creel ’69 established a fellowship to support full-time Ph.D. students in communication.

“We created the fellowship because having an excellent graduate program in the College of Liberal Arts is essential for Texas A&M to be competitive in attracting top grad students,” said Bonnie, who taught several classes at Tarrant County College while earning her Ph.D. “This, in turn, is essential to being perceived nationally as a top-tier university.”

“An education at Texas A&M is invaluable and provides an excellent return on investment,” said James. “Following from that education, a commitment of time and money to this respected institution is a logical progression and has been very satisfying.”

Vandhana Ramadurai ’13

The Bonnie R. ’10 and James Creel ’69 Fellowship has allowed many graduate communication students to conduct the world-changing research the college is known for. Health communication expert Vandhana Ramadurai, who received the funding for her dissertation in 2013, was able to travel to Southeast Asia for six months to study the lives of slum-dwellers.

“I researched how they cope with food insecurities, and their strategies for ensuring their families have a constant supply of food,” Ramadurai said. “Food insecurities is not just about having access to food—it also takes into account other variables such as access to water, electricity, and what they’re able to cook at home because of their ventilation system.”

Ramadurai said the experience was eye-opening.

“I met with these people every day, and it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” she said. “To see these people who worked hard night and day and still don’t have access to the very basic needs and yet still find a way to be happy was truly inspiring.”

Another fellowship recipient, Jennifer Freytag, also used the funds for an international experience that changed her life.

Jennifer Freytag ’18

“I went to Germany to present research on advanced care planning at an international conference that included physicians and public health workers,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for someone like me. It’s hard to make connections to conduct research in a clinical setting, and I’m actually working on a couple of projects with people I met there.”

Freytag, who will receive her Ph.D. in May, studies how families prepare to make decisions on end-of-life care, and how they communicate with each other.

“When it comes to medical decision-making, I find that people never effectively communicate their wants and needs,” she said. “So I look at the kinds of things families do talk about, as well as things they’re should be talking about but aren’t. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Thanks to the Creels, whose funding allowed Freytag to attend this conference, Freytag is collaborating on various projects. One of the projects with far-reaching implications studies Medicare—a program with more than 44 million beneficiaries and counting.

“This fellowship helped me advance important research and share it on a world stage,” she said. “It also allowed me to make connections that helped me start a research career, and I’m so grateful for it.”  

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