FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Honors College has selected 72 outstanding high school students who will make up the 2012 class of Honors College Fellows.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the historic $300 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation that was announced in April 2002, a portion of which funded the Honors College and its generous scholarship program.
“Including this latest group, we have provided $50,000 fellowships for 879 students. It’s incredibly rewarding to see them explore their interests, both on campus and abroad,” said Maribeth Lynes, assistant dean and director of recruitment at the University of Arkansas Honors College. Lynes recalls that administrators had to scramble to fill the roster of Honors College fellowships back in 2002.
“Nobody knew about the fellowships that first year,” she said. “We contacted national merit finalists and other top test takers in the state. Our goal was to keep the best and brightest students in Arkansas.”
Today, the word is out on the generous funding that the University of Arkansas Honors College offers to its fellows, and applications are coming in from across the U.S. and abroad. More than 500 top high school students applied for the fellowships, and the 72 new fellows who will arrive on campus next fall are a stellar group. They will benefit from fellowship funds of $50,000 over four years that largely cover the cost of tuition, room and board, books and a computer. The fellowship funds can also be combined with other scholarships and grants, such as the $500,000 to $1 million in study abroad and research grants that the Honors College awards to students each year.
Top grades and test scores are a given: students must score at least 32 on the ACT exam and have a 3.8 grade point average just to apply. The rigor of applicants’ high school course work, their letters of recommendation and community involvement also count.
Though the fellowship program is still relatively young, evidence of its success is solid. Alumni fellows are pursuing advanced degrees at top graduate and professional programs around the country and landing jobs in competitive fields. Summer Scott, a member of the second class of Honors College fellows who earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, particularly appreciated the opportunities to study abroad.
“I participated in a business program in Greece, and also traveled to Egypt, Italy and China,” she said. Scott now heads a plant for Dow Chemical that is the world’s largest producer of epichlorohydrin, a key ingredient in epoxy resins that are used in adhesives, paints and other materials. She emphasized that study abroad prepared her well for work with global teams.
“You have to respect that other cultures are very different from ours; you do your homework, and go in with an open mind. I can’t put into words how important those experiences were for me, both in terms of my career and personally,” she said.
Alumni fellows also appreciate the freedom to pursue their goals without being burdened by student loans. Dwayne Bensing was weighing scholarship offers from American University, the University of Virginia and Hendrix College when he received the invitation to join the first class of Honors College fellows.
“When the Honors College fellowship came in, it seemed too good to be true. It made the decision pretty easy,” he recalled when reached on the telephone. “The U of A offered me the opportunity to explore all of my interests without the overwhelming burden of managing student loan debt.” Bensing studied abroad in Mexico and England, completed two degrees in political science and communication and picked up numerous awards, including a Truman Scholarship. He said that working closely with faculty mentors such as Steve Sheppard, Bill Schreckhise and Stephen Smith prepared him well for law school at University of Pennsylvania, where he recently completed his Juris Doctor. He begins work at a law firm in Washington, D.C. this fall.