Best and brightest bagging bigger rewards

Topics: Honors College, Scholarships

May 5, 2009

The old wisdom about reaping what you sow is gaining fresh evidence this spring at Ball State, where surging numbers of undergraduates and recent alumni who've benefited from the university's strategic drive to attract more high-achieving students are capturing increasingly large and prestigious postgraduate awards.

Showing the way is Ashley Keith, a 2009 graduate with a degree in computer science and criminal justice and criminology. An Honors College Scholar at Ball State, Keith is the recipient of both a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship — the university's first since 1996 — and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service.

The NSF fellowship provides a $30,000 annual stipend and a yearly cost-of-education allowance of $10,500 for up to three years of graduate study. The Federal Cyber Service award, made jointly by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the NSF covers tuition, room and board, and books for two years of study, includes a $12,000 annual stipend and a paid internship. In return, scholarship winners commit to two years of service with a government agency after graduation.

In fall 2009, Keith will enter the information security technology and management program at Carnegie Mellon University's Information Networking Institute.

At first, the unusual circumstance of Keith having won two postgraduate awards sponsored by the NSF raised questions as to whether the young computer whiz from Fairfield, Ohio, would be able to accept both grants simultaneously, reported Barbara Stedman, director of national and international scholarships and Honors Fellow. In the end, though, she said it was agreed that because the NSF Research Fellowship could be deferred, Keith will use the Cyber Service Scholarship to complete her master's degree and hold the NSF Research Fellowship until her doctoral program.

Tough competition

Also planning on pursuing a doctoral degree is math and physics major Neal Coleman '10, named the recipient of a 2009 Goldwater Scholarship, the nation's top undergraduate award for students aiming toward careers in mathematics, science or engineering with a focus on research.

In addition to his double major, Coleman — an Honors College student and Whitinger Scholar — carries a minor in mathematical economics. He intends to earn his Ph.D. in mathematical physics en route to a university level teaching and research position.

Making Coleman's Goldwater selection especially notable was the increased competition for scholarships awarded this year, said Stedman. In part because of the downturn in the economy, the Goldwater committee trimmed the awards given by almost 10 percent from the number distributed in 2008.

Also this year, December '08 graduate Brittany Moser was named the winner of a 2009 James Madison Fellowship. Established by Congress in 1986, the Madison program is one of the most prestigious in the nation, encouraging students majoring in history and social studies education to pursue teaching careers. Although approximately 50 senior fellowships are awarded to current teachers each year, Stedman said only eight or nine junior fellowships are given to graduating seniors or recent graduates, such as Moser, who haven't yet begun to teach. The grant provides $24,000 toward the cost of a master's degree.

Pretty clear trend

Stedman considers the success of Keith, Coleman and Moser as "proof of what we've been doing recently in terms of recruiting these kinds of high-achieving students."

"The strategic plan that calls for attracting more of these students, helping them with scholarships, directing them to the Honors College … it's only a few of years old," said Stedman. "But already I think we're starting to see a pretty clear trend where Ball State students are competing with the best of their peers around the country for many of these prestigious awards."

Helping bring the illustrious name "Fulbright" to Ball State again this year is Katie Bostdorff, a senior telecommunications major, who will experience her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia during the 2009-10 academic year. Meanwhile, Lindsay Bacurin, a 2006 graduate with a degree in landscape architecture and urban planning, will be going to India for a year — courtesy of her Fulbright U.S. Student Grant — to investigate the built environment's influence on culture and use of social space as seen in two cities, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.

International immersion also is a key feature of the Rotary International Scholarships won by senior Spanish education major Leslie Collins as well as her classmate, Spanish and English major Thiana Rarick, Stedman said. Collins is bound for Mexico for six months of intensive language study, while Rarick will invest the next year in graduate level study in English-Spanish translation in Argentina.

Both students also will serve as goodwill ambassadors during their time abroad, carrying out service projects they have designed and giving presentations about the United States to local Rotary clubs and other groups in their respective host countries.

Meanwhile, rising senior Lauren Hack had been awarded a Boren Scholarship by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) that will fund a year of study in Peru.

Hack, another Honors College student, is a natural resources and environmental management major carrying a minor in Spanish. During her stay in Peru, she plans to enhance her language skills (not only in Spanish, but also some of the regional Quechuan dialects) while taking coursework regarding natural resources management in that South American and Pacific Rim nation. After graduating from Ball State, she hopes to find a position with the U.S. State Department or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), focusing her career on water and soil quality issues in underdeveloped countries.

And still to learn whether she will receive the National Public Radio/Kroc Fellowship for which she is a finalist is 2008 graduate Sarah Marty, added Stedman. The former WBST radio staffer, an English major, will find out this summer whether she'll soon get to spend a full year learning and training at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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