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of their Own
stundents call UMD home.
Are UMD scholarships designed to
give hundreds of teenagers a chance at the college experience? Or
are they vehicles for recruiting and retaining the best and the
brightest to the Duluth campus?
All of the above.
UMD has an extraordinary number of scholarships for top students.
First, UMD provides guaranteed scholarships to all students in the
top 25% of the high school graduating class. That translates into
about 46% of UMD first year students. Second, students in the top
10% of the high school graduating class can apply for one of the 100
competitive Merit Scholarships. And third, UMD sponsors the innovative
Best of Class Scholarship for top high school students.
Best of Class, brainchild of UMDs senior administration, is
part of an ongoing effort to remain competitive for the most academically
talented students in Minnesota. All state residents who graduate first
or second in their high school class are eligible. The scholarship
pays one half of resident tuition for the entire four years. Currently,
there are 173 students receiving the Best of Class Scholarship.
One of the earliest recipients was Joshua Rose, a senior from
Albert Lea, Minnesota. His status is typical of many
Best of Class scholars: he is working on a double major and early
Joshuas sharp career focus and sense of direction are also typical.
I have known I wanted to be in theater ever since I was in fifth
grade. And by the time I was a junior in high school, I had made the
decision to chase my dream.
Initially, he considered a career in lighting design after working
with the Minnesota Festival Theater, which brought professional theater
to Albert Lea. The summer after graduation he assisted on a production
that changed his life.
The play was Billy Bishop Goes To War. I would come and watch
the show or parts of it every night, even when I was working across
the street in the scene shop. It was phenomenal. The stage manager
was the best one Id ever worked with. I learned so much from
her and that is when I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest
of my life.
Joshua applied to UMD on the recommendation of theater friends who
had come through the Duluth program. He will leave with a Bachelor
of Fine Arts in theater with a concentration in stage management and
theater technology, a major crafted through the composite emphasis.
The composite allows BFA candidates to design a major tailored to
specific career aspirations. This approach requires a lot of diligence,
Joshua says, to map out the major and the general education requirements.
College has been demanding, he says, because theater majors lead lives
of professionals as well as students. They take a full load of classes
while theyre staging productions. Because there are so
few of us on the technical side, he says, we work all
five shows. You have to get the schoolwork done and at the same time
you have a responsibility to the show. It becomes consuming. Im
looking forward to dedicating myself just to theater.
His careful sense of planning extends beyond graduation. Its
great to be able to say I accomplished my goal of getting a degree,
but its time for me get out and do some internships, do some
freelance work and start building my resume in the professional world.
After graduating this summer, he hopes to obtain an internship with
the Guthrie, then get his union card by working with Mixed Blood Theater
on one of their educational tours next January.
the corner from the theater, Russian-born Best of Class scholar Anya
Gybina devotes her time and well-planned attention to her studies
in chemistry and biochemistry.
To simply classify Anya as a senior is to ignore the continuum of
education that began while she was a student at East High School in
Duluth. She first attended UMD as a post-secondary student,
fulfilling many of her general education requirements. As a freshman,
she was already assisting with graduate level research in a biochemistry
Anya and her colleagues are working on a project involving nitric
oxide. And she loves it. Its a very small molecule,
she explains with enthusiasm. Only two atoms. Its a free
radical and a cytotoxin that aids the anti-bacterial properties of
the immune system. Its also a neurotransmitter that helps with
cardiovascular dilation. When you take heart drugs, like nitroglycerin,
thats where you get nitric oxide. Were fairly certain
weve discovered a nitric oxide storage molecule within the mitochondria
of rat liver cells. When the work on this project is completed,
she will have a paper published in the scientific journal, Analytical
Biochemistry. Her name also appears on a paper published in the Journal
of Biological Chemistry.
She laughs when she recalls earlier career plans. In high school,
I planned on majoring in biochemistry because I thought it would help
me with medical school. But she found she enjoyed the straight
science of biochemistry, especially the practical learning environment
of the lab.
Even though Anya took UMD classes while in high school, she enjoyed
the campus experience much more as a bona fide college student. She
freely admits that college presents a great academic and social environment.
For one thing, it gives her the chance to share her passion for science
with other people her age. Scientists are more analytical and
logical in their thinking than most people. I feel connected intellectually
with students interested in the same things I am. Her schedule
leaves little time for outside interests. You need to be honest
with yourself and decide where your niche is.
Anya wonders whether her niche started to take shape as she read fairy
tales by Hans Christian Andersen. His stories were populated
with rats and dying children, she remembers. When I was
a little kid, I was pretty sure I was going to catch the plague, so
I started thinking about cures and antidotes very early in life.
She plans to remain at UMD after graduation, even though there is
no comprehensive Ph.D. program in biochemistry. She will apply to
the Twin Cities campus for graduate school, while taking as many classes
as possible in Duluth. I really want to stay here. I got incredibly
lucky with the lab Im working in. My advisor is the most amazing
biochemist Ive ever met. She knows what shes talking about
and she gets the research done.
Like Joshua, Anya received several other scholarships and will graduate
Newland is another Best of Class Scholar with a keen eye on the
bottom line. The sophomore from ElkRiver is a student in the School
of Business and Economics and her choice of colleges was an easy one.
She was accepted at the Carlson School of Management, St. Thomas University
and the Rose Hullman Institute of Technology. But, she
says, they didnt offer me enough money. My goal is to
graduate with as little debt as possible. Like other Best of
Class Scholars, Steph is determined to make the most of her time at
UMD by working on a double major and graduating on schedule. She is
currently majoring in organizational management and marketing with
a minor in economics all this after considering engineering.
I was attracted to the math aspect of engineering, but I really
enjoy working with people so I started thinking about business as
a way to use my talents and interest in math. Since I couldnt
decide between organizational management and marketing, I decided
to major in both. Her plan is to go into public relations.
Balancing an outgoing nature with a strong desire to get good grades
was a challenge at first, Steph says. Like other Best of Class scholars,
she cites the work load as one of the biggest surprises
of college life. In high school, these students work hard to graduate
from high school as valedictorians or salutatorians, while maintaining
an active extra-curricular life. As UMD students, they are determined
to preserve a stellar GPA. All of Stephs choices are directed
toward that goal.
Her living quarters are an example. She has a private room in the
Campus Park apartments. This is great. It was impossible to
study in the dorm. I spend all day on campus and when I come home,
I want to be able to shut my door and study. And there is very
little fun money. When she had saved enough from a summer job to start
thinking about buying a car, Steph invested instead in a brand new
Dell computer. She shows it off with pride, the way other 20 year
olds might treat a low-mileage Jeep Cherokee.
Steph attributes her ability with numbers to her dad, a UMD grad who
was her eighth grade algebra teacher in Elk River. He graded
me harder, but he was an excellent teacher. He also owns and
operates a small pottery business, a nice blend of artistic talents
and math skills. Steph takes after her dad in the artistic area; she
likes to paint.
She credits both her mom and her dad with inspiring their children
with a strong sense of direction. My parents encouraged us to
develop the skills were good at. That made a huge difference.
Before I got here, I knew exactly what my strong points were. And
when its time for me to decide what I want to do for the rest
of my life, I can look at a job and see whether it fits my goals.
One of her goals is to attend graduate school paid for by a
corporation that offers postgraduate tuition as a benefit to employees.
Though she is fiercely dedicated to her studies, Steph makes time
for working out several times a week and intramural sports (soccer
and volleyball) and a part-time job as a UMD tour guide. She enjoys
this opportunity to be an ambassador for the school. I can definitely
say if it werent for this scholarship, I never would have come
here, but UMD was a great choice for me. It has really broadened my
outlook and gives me a chance to work with a wide variety of people.
Mike Kokotovich is another Best of Class scholar who is sold on
Duluth. UMD was kind of a last minute
choice, says the Hibbing sophomore, I was looking at West
Point, St. Thomas, North Dakota State University and the University
of North Dakota. His older sister Katy, a UMD grad, suggested
that he apply. Shortly thereafter, his mom received information that
Mike qualified for a scholarship that would cover half of his tuition
for four years. Though he received other scholarships, Best of Class
closed the deal. Katy really liked it here, Mike says.
And I'm glad she encouraged me. I love it here.
Mike is double majoring in accounting and MIS management information
systems. His dad and sister are accountants so he was fairly familiar
with that profession. He wasnt as sure about management information
systems, but he had read enough to know that it was a current trend
in management. MIS is the study of systems that connect a company
with suppliers and clients, as well as different departments within
the organization. After two years, Mike is now very familiar with
the concept and enjoys it tremendously. I like the analytical
nature of it, he says. We study a system to figure out
what is happening and how it can be improved.
Katys advice followed Mike to Duluth. From his sisters
experience, he knew that the workload would be heavy, there would
be other demands for his time and at the same time his freedom would
increase. And he knew what he had to do to keep his grades high. Like
Steph, Mike has learned to create the most effective environment for
studying. Its much too difficult to study in the dorm
at the end of the day. Next year, he and his roommates will
be in an off-campus apartment.
In high school, Mike competed at the varsity level in football, hockey,
golf and track, so he is definitely designing a system that will allow
him time to participate in intramural sports at UMD. He is also enthusiastic
about the classes that fulfilled the general education requirements.
A jazz class (also Katys recommendation) introduced him to a
new way of listening to music and an ethics class introduced him to
a new way of thinking.
Mike enjoys all of it. He looked around the student lounge in the
Kirby Student Center, gestured toward a window that faces Lake Superior
and said, Its great here! Id love to come back here
and live in Duluth eventually.
Before then, his goal is to work for one of the top five accounting
firms that take the best students from colleges across the country.
And next year he will gladly add one more extra-curricular activity
to his schedule mentoring his younger sister Kelly, who will
attend UMD with a Best of Class Scholarship.
Venu Nayar, a top student from Eagan, Minnesota, like other
Best of Class scholars, has many talents. She plays the violin and
keeps her instrument in her dorm room for those few moments she can
take just for herself. But I dont get to play it that
often, she says.
Last year, she was also involved in the Literary Guild and was one
of the editors of The Roaring Muse, the literary magazine published
by the English Department.
This past spring, Venu participated in a UMD Asian Celebration and
enchanted the audience with a traditional Indian dance.
Venu has a flair for biology. As a first year student, she prepared
a poster presentation of a research project for the 16th Annual Sigma
Xi Science Exhibition. The week-long exhibition involved 50 students.
Venus project was entitled Effects of Triterpenoid and
Betulin on Pathoegenic candida species. It was so well prepared,
both in content and in its presentation, that it rivaled projects
done by seniors and the exhibition officials gave her a special prize
I spend a lot of time in the Biology labs, she said. I
am proud of the fact that they trust me. It is not surprising
that she has received one of the Ed & Alma Turcotte Scholarships
for biology students.
Travis Amiot, a top student from Warroad, said that the Best of
Class scholarship has increased the caliber of students at UMD. Classes
and study groups are affected. Even dorm life can change. It
is a super way to bring the states top students to UMD. When
I came to this university with so many exceptional students, I felt
like I was joining an elite group. Travis is a sophomore marketing
and communication student with a minor in professional writing.
Like so many Best of Class scholars, his days are packed. He ran varsity
cross country, and he is interested in running indoor and outdoor
track next year. In the winter, he does fit in time for snowboarding!
Travis participates in the Reading with Champions program
through the athletics department. That brought him into a sixth and
seventh grade art class every other week for a semester and he got
to know some of the students. I got to talk to the same kids
every time I came to the school and I felt like I made a difference
in the class, Travis says. College life means you are
with the same age group all day, every day, so the art class got me
back into the real world.
His face is well known on campus. He was elected by the student body
to the Student Association, a representative system of student government
consisting of six officers. Last year, Travis held the position of
Student Association vice president for academic affairs where he helped
UMD cope with policy decisions in its ever-changing institutional
environment. Travis worked on a five-year campus planning and priorities
committee. Students actually have a lot of say about the planning
process, he says. Student government was a good fit for
me because I think I am at my best when I am working with people.
You can tell by his activities that Travis is good with the public.
His campus job gives him lots of opportunities. He is the admissions
department tour guide training coordinator. He also is a founding
member of a new group called SIFE, Students in Free Enterprise. You
would be surprised to find out how many students in the School of
Business and Economics who would like to become an entrepreneur someday,
he says. Some of them have great ideas and they have already
started small business projects.
Stephanie Orstad, a sophomore in the College of Education and Human
Service Professions, fell in love with northern Minnesota and psychology
at the same time. During one of her familys many trips to the
North Shore, Stephanie stopped at a bookstore and found an old psychology
textbook. Though she was still in high school, Stephanie knew she
wanted to be a psychologist and that UMD was the perfect place for
her to begin her studies.
However, Stephanie was also passionate about the Spanish language.
Her mother encouraged her to take advantage of an opportunity to study
in Seville, Spain. The studious sophomore from Sandstone had never
traveled to a city larger than Minneapolis. A year later, she has
experienced the demands of maneuvering her way around London, Stockholm
and Madrid. Ever since I began taking Spanish in high school,
she says simply, it has been my goal to work on my Spanish by
Like the college experience, study abroad provides an education beyond
irregular verbs and in-depth discussions on the life of Cervantes.
When asked what lesson has been the most valuable, Stephanie quietly
but quickly responds, Patience! Communicating with natives
in their own culture is a far cry from conversing with Senora Ebnets
Espanol class at East Central High School.
Im used to the dialect now, Stephanie says, but
my best understanding has been in the classroom. Colloquial Spanish
is like learning a new language and it varies from region to region.
Its often a barrier to meeting people. Even though I understand
what theyre saying, its hard to enter the conversation.
But Im slowly learning.
While in Seville, Stephanie is studying only Spanish and she misses
her psychology classes. The trade-off, she says, is that living and
studying in a foreign country gives her a chance to gain a new perspective
on human behavior. Because its a different culture, the
mentality and the outlook on life are so different from what Im
used to. I hope it will help me deal with people whose lives are very
different from mine.
Stephanie is another Best of Class scholar who plans to graduate early
with a double major. She earned a few credits through the Advanced
Placement program in high school. And, she says, I
had a strong focus before I started. So I knew exactly what courses
I had to take and what order to take them in.
With a concentration in counseling, Stephanie plans to attend grad
school and ultimately have her own practice. She is grateful for her
college experience. Best of Class is wonderful. Im paying
very little for my college education and Ill graduate without
Stephanie admits there is one foreign territory left to conquer before
graduation. I still need to take a math class.
by Molly Stein
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