Mercerians among nation’s best at earning prestigious awards

Michelle Graham in lab

Throughout the state of Georgia and the nation, Mercer is well known for producing impressive student outcomes. Even by the University’s own lofty standards, the 2019-2020 academic year has been exceptional in terms of Mercerians earning highly competitive national fellowships, scholarships and other recognitions.

Nearly 100 students and recent graduates — and counting — were selected for some of the country’s most prestigious opportunities as the current selection cycles for many of these awards near a close.

Student Success Infographic

• The highlight among a year of highlights was the University’s three recipients of the Goldwater ScholarshipMichelle Graham, McPherson Newell and Maison Clouatre. Mercer is the only institution in the country with three engineering students selected in 2020 for the nation’s most prestigious scholarship for undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering. Mercer has a total of six recipients in the past two years and 12 in the past eight, making it one of the state’s leading producers of Goldwater Scholars.

Donald Williams Jr. was selected for the Pickering Fellowship, which prepares outstanding students for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State.

Sachin Khurana was named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most well-known award available to American college students for international study.

McPherson Newell was named a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate award in the U.S. for students pursuing careers as public service leaders.

Michelle Graham was named an honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship, which recognizes leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment.

• Three seniors — Ariel Daniels, Will Darragh and Meg Hicks — received prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Awards to teach English abroad, with one additional award pending, as well as two more students — Sarah Harris and Jessica Lewis — selected as alternates.

• The University had a record 12 students offered Peace Corps assignments in a single year with three — Fabian Kopp, Nishi Patel and Nidhi Shashidhara — who have accepted and several others pending.

• Redshirt senior football player Jack Raines was named a CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-American and a recipient of the Southern Conference’s Bob McCloskey Insurance Scholarship for postgraduate study.

• Three recent graduates — Liz Dreggors, Britney Hudson and Kyla Semmendinger — received highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, which support the training of high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers.

• A total of 16 students were selected for Gilman Scholarships to study or intern abroad, representing the most for the University in a single selection cycle.

• Some 24 students were chosen to participate in National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates.

• This year’s induction class in The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious honor society, included 36 students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Dr. David A. Davis, who has served as director of fellowships and scholarships for the past six years, said this is the best year so far for competitive merit awards at the University, although he believes there is still room for growth.

“This year’s record outcomes represent the payoff of a strategic investment the University has made in supporting students to apply for — and win — these prestigious fellowships and scholarships,” said Dr. Davis, who also serves as associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It has become a part of the culture at Mercer to compete with the very best institutions in the country year after year for these awards.”

Dr. Davis and Dr. Cameron Kunzelman, coordinator of fellowships and scholarships, assist students in applying for programs that support undergraduate and graduate study, research or work experiences, in the U.S. and abroad. Their office, located in the Honors House on Ash Street, offers workshops, assists with applications, personal statements and recommendations, and connects with students as early as freshman year to design plans for development.

For more information, or to make an appointment, visit the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships webpage.