This was record-setting year for Mercer students earning major awards

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Infographic highlighting Mercer University student achievements, which includes 55 national fellowships and scholarships awarded to 48 students, marking the most awards in a single year. Awards noted are: 24 Gilman Scholars, with Mercer being recognized as a top producer; 4 Fulbright Awards; 2 Goldwater Scholarships; 1 Peace Corps Selection; 1 Newman Civic Fellow; 1 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

This was a record-setting year for student achievement at Mercer University, with 48 students receiving 55 nationally and internationally competitive merit scholarships and fellowships.

At Mercer, everyone majors in changing the world, so it should come as no surprise that students are encouraged to apply for such merit scholarship programs.

Dozens of students earn awards each year, allowing them the opportunity to develop their skills and experiences by applying what they have learned in the classroom in real-world settings.

Here’s a look at some of the top awards Mercer students received during the 2023-24 academic year.

Goldwater Scholarship

Two Mercer students were named recipients of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s most prestigious scholarship for undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering.

Rising senior Sarah Boyer and rising junior Mia Jastrzembski were among 438 college sophomores and juniors from across the U.S. to be awarded the scholarship for the 2024-25 academic year. They bring the University’s total number of winners to 20 since 2013, making Mercer one of the state’s leading producers of Goldwater Scholars.

Boyer is a biochemistry and molecular biology major. She works in the biochemistry lab of Dr. Garland Crawford, professor and chair of chemistry. Jastrzembski is a biomedical engineering major. She works in the lab of Dr. Sinjae Hyun, professor and chair of biomedical engineering.

The one- and two-year Goldwater scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Scholarship recipients were selected from a pool of 1,353 undergraduates nominated by 446 institutions.

“Students who have earned a nationally competitive award are frequently even more attractive for the next opportunity they apply for, so each application leads to more and more opportunities.”

Dr. David A. Davis, director of University Honors and director of fellowships and scholarships

Fulbright Award

Class of 2024 graduates Josie Arbaugh, Seiler Rivers and Abigail Van Pelt and alumna Marlo Mecredy were selected to receive the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Awards for the 2024-25 academic year.

Arbaugh, a psychology major, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Laos. Rivers, a computer science major, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic. They will be placed in schools to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker presence in the classrooms.

Mecredy, a graduate of Mercer’s master’s program in civil engineering, and Van Pelt, a chemistry major, were awarded Fulbright Study/Research Awards to the Netherlands. Study/Research Awards are opportunities where the candidates design proposals for a specific country or pursue a master’s degree at a host university.

Class of 2024 graduate Thomas Neely, a marketing and creative writing double-major, was named an alternate for an English Teaching Assistantship to South Korea. Mercer’s latest cohort of Fulbright students brings the University’s total number to 36 since 2010.

“There is no way I could have entered a career in international diplomacy and service without the unique engaged learning experiences and service-minded scholarship that Mercer provided.”

Aaron Scherf, BUS ‘17, Donald M. Payne Fellow, Fulbright Scholar (Germany), Humanity in Action Fellow
Currently a Foreign Service Officer with the U. S. Agency for International Development, serving in Ukraine

Peace Corps

Portrait of a smiling Elizabeth Stinson with curly hair against a neutral background.
Elizabeth Stinson

Mercer Class of 2024 graduate Elizabeth Lyle Stinson was selected to serve in the Peace Corps in Botswana, Africa, beginning this summer. She will serve through September 2026.

Stinson double-majored in global development studies and global health studies. In Botswana, she will serve as a community and youth health educator working to reduce HIV/AIDS rates in the community and strengthen health care for youth.

The Peace Corps, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, is a volunteer program administered by the U.S. government to send the best and brightest Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Close-up portrait of a smiling Caden Hamrick outdoors wearing a gray blazer over a plaid shirt. The background is softly blurred greenery.
Caden Hamrick

Alumnus and research assistant Caden Hamrick was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, with a total award value of $159,000.

Hamrick graduated from Mercer with a computer engineering degree in May 2023 and then worked full-time as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Anthony Choi, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of machine intelligence and robotics. Hamrick will start his Ph.D. at the University of Utah in the fall. He said he plans to pursue a career in academia as a professor, with the intent to focus on providing opportunities for undergraduate research, like he received at Mercer.

The Graduate Research Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated the potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers, early in their careers.

“Attending classes and staying on top of my coursework provided foundational knowledge. However, thinking about this information in the context of research helped me see the bigger picture when it comes to understanding its impact on the world around us. I encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities to get an idea of how the homework we dread doing actually makes sense in the real world.”

Ebonye Smith, ENG ‘22, Goldwater Scholar, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Currently a electrical engineering and computer sciences Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley
 

Newman Civic Fellowship

headshot of Reema Chande
Reema Chande. Photo by Leah Yetter

Rising senior Reema Chande was named one of 142 student civic leaders from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico, who will make up the 2024-25 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows.

The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program that recognizes and supports student public problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by their president or chancellor based on their potential for public leadership and their work with communities.

Chande, a psychology and global health studies double-major, said her firsthand challenges with mental health care made her realize how deep the need for accessible, non-stigmatizing support is. She has completed mental health first aid certification, Narcan training and EMS clinical rotations. She also has been working with Macon Mental Health Matters, an community mental health organization.

She said her work in these areas, especially witnessing volunteers, physicians, policymakers and educators collaborate, has given her an appreciation for the civic engagement at the core of this fellowship.

“Engaged learning experiences provide the foundational skills and knowledge to prepare Mercerians to compete for prestigious awards. The benefits and values of service learning align well with many prestigious awards and scholarships, and when our students include service learning and community engagement in their award applications, they become stronger candidates.”

Lauren A. Shinholster, associate director of engaged learning

Amgen Scholars

Rising senior Sarah Boyer and rising junior Mia Jastrzembski were chosen to participate in the Amgen Scholars Program. The highly selective undergraduate summer research program allows undergraduates from across the globe to conduct cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions.

Boyer, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, will spend 10 weeks conducting research at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. Jastrzembski, a biomedical engineering major, will spend 10 weeks conducting research at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Amgen Scholars Program participants benefit by conducting a research project under top faculty, participating in seminars and networking events, and taking part in a symposium in their respective region. Throughout the program, participants meet peers, present their research findings, learn about biotechnology and hear from leading scientists.

GEM Fellowship

Class of 2024 graduates Leila Kelly and Kennedy Mays were accepted into the GEM Fellowship Program.

GEM recruits high-quality, underrepresented students looking to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in applied science and engineering and matches their specific skills to the needs of GEM employer partners.

Kelly, an environmental engineering major, will intern at the National Renewable Energy Lab this summer where she will research sustainable low-carbon construction and building materials. She’ll then attend Villanova University in the fall to pursue a Master of Science in sustainable engineering.

Mays, a computer engineering major, plans to attend Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Science in Software Management program this fall.

Public Policy and International Affairs Program Junior Summer Institute

headshot of alana murray
Alana Murray

Rising senior Alana Murray was accepted to the prestigious Public Policy and International Affairs Program Junior Summer Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The program is a national fellowship that prepares students for a master’s degree in public policy, international affairs or other related fields. Program fellows take courses in statistics, economics, domestic policy analysis and international policy analysis and receive intensive training in quantitative skills, communication skills and leadership skills. They also are exposed to research activities from leading research centers.

Murray, a criminal justice and cybersecurity double-major, plans to work as a social data analyst and apply her computer science skills to make efficient policy within criminal justice.

Gilman Scholarship

10 male and female college students standing smiling holding signs with country names printed on them
Some of the 2023-24 Gilman Scholars are (front, from left) Lantian You, Bre Swain-Garland, Callie Lowery and Erin Williams; (middle, from left) Jayla Battle and Emma Kicklighter; and (back, from left) Coy Eberhardt, Jorge Montoya, Cameron Hutchins and Abriana Nyante. Photo by Leah Yetter

Mercer had 24 students chosen during the 2023-24 academic year to receive a total of $76,500 in funding to study abroad through the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program. Twenty students were chosen during the fall selection cycle, and four students were chosen in the spring.

Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 — or up to $8,000 if they are also a recipient of the Gilman Critical Need Language Award — to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs.

Mercer is one of the top producers of Gilman Scholars in the country. The University has been recognized as both a Gilman Top Producing Institution and a Gilman Greatest Growth Institution for its role in broadening the student population that studies abroad overall, as well as in areas of priority achievement.

Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program

headshot of thomas neely
Thomas Anthony Neely

Class of 2024 graduate Thomas Anthony Neely was selected for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program and will serve as an assistant English language teacher in Japan for at least a year.

The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program is a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work throughout Japan while representing the United States as cultural ambassadors. Assistant English language teachers work in public and private schools throughout Japan and assist with classes taught by Japanese teachers of English/language.

At Mercer, Neely double-majored in marketing and creative writing.

Westin Scholar Award

A female graduate in cap and gown, wearing an orange stole, stands smiling next to a man in a ceremonial academic robe and hat. They are outdoors on a sunny day with green trees and grass in the background.
Professor Jordan “Jody” Blanke, left, and Antara Singh at the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business Honors Ceremony.

Mercer graduate Antara Singh has been named the School of Business’ 2024 International Association of Privacy Professionals Westin Scholar.

With the growing need for well-qualified privacy and data protection professionals, the annual Westin Scholar Awards were created by the International Association of Privacy Professionals to support students who are identified as future leaders in the field of privacy and data protection.

Singh, from Hyderabad, India, was selected by Jordan “Jody” Blanke, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, to receive the award in recognition of her outstanding performance in Blanke’s course “Legal and Ethical Issues Affecting Big Data.” Singh graduated in December 2023 with a Master of Science in Business Analytics.

Phi Beta Kappa

group of smiling faculty and students wearing Phi Beta Kappa sashes and holding plaque
Phi Beta Kappa inductees for 2023-24. Photo by Leah Yetter

Thirty-nine students were inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Society by Mercer’s Zeta of Georgia chapter for the 2023-24 academic year.

The invitation process is considered one of the most selective in the nation. Prospective Phi Beta Kappa inductees are usually seniors among the top 10% of their graduating class who have completed a broad range of liberal arts and sciences coursework, including foreign language study and mathematics. Exceptional students meeting the requirements may also be considered as juniors.

Only 10% of colleges and universities shelter chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, and only 10% of the students at those institutions are inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, making membership is a rare and significant achievement. Mercer installed its chapter and inducted its inaugural class in 2016.

Jennifer Falk, director of digital communications, contributed to this story.

 

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