Alumni and University Distinguished Scholars Flourish with the Challenges

November 13, 2020 - By Asia Siev

Nineteen first year students were awarded scholarships to cover full tuition, room and board and a stipend for up to eight semesters of undergraduate study to begin at Michigan State University this academic year.

All students receiving an Alumni Distinguished Scholarship or University Distinguished Scholarship are members of the Honors College. See the full list of Alumni and University Distinguished Scholars below.

While the adjustment to a virtual semester has been difficult for many, this incredible group of students has taken it in stride. Even with classes online, Megan Giltmier has found that, “One of the things I noticed was how much more motivated I was to do my coursework because of the things I’m learning.”

Normally, a student’s first semester in college is filled with meeting new people and developing lasting friendships. Online learning makes this process more difficult. “One of the hardest challenges has been reaching out and meeting people,” said Xavier Lewis. From Zoom meetings to Discord servers to group chats, students have found ways to develop friendships despite the physical distance.  “It’s been really nice to be able to talk to other people and know that they’re in the same situation as you with online school,” said Megha Pratapwar.

Others find connection by joining student organizations. From the Halo Club to the Society of Women Engineers to the Sunrise Movement and many others, students have found their communities. As Lewis astutely observed, “community is what you make of it. I’ve been able to meet people through Zoom meetings and Discord servers.” Caroline Zackerman found her community through the Michigan State Model United Nations club. Zackerman is currently working on a virtual conference for Spring 2021.

Beyond classes and student organizations, the students have found ways to further connect with the MSU community. For Olivia Melville, the undergraduate research opportunities provided by Michigan State University was one of the main reasons she decided to attend. Even without access to the labs and equipment normally provided by the university, Melville has been able to join a research lab under Professor Zarnetske in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Natural Science. 

Many of the students are looking forward to the day they can safely be on campus. However, Josh Pullen has his sights set a bit farther. Pullen plans to become a math teacher, and is looking forward to the immersive education classes offered by MSU, “the full year of student teaching is a huge deal for me.”

While the future may be uncertain, the students’ ability to persevere in times of uncertainty and change is inspiring. They are determined to make the best of their first semester no matter the challenges in front of them.

Alumni Distinguished Scholars were selected from more than 1,200 of the top high school seniors who applied to MSU, participated in interviews and took an intensive general knowledge exam this past winter. 

The Alumni Distinguished Scholars are:

  • Samuel Barans of Cincinnati, Ohio. Barans graduated from Sycamore High School. He is majoring in psychology in the College of Social Science.
  • Leo Barrios of Shelby Township, Michigan. Barrios is graduated from Dwight D Eisenhower High School. He is majoring in Lyman Briggs College.
  • Evan Bell of Cleveland, Ohio. Bell graduated from Lakewood High School. He is majoring in mathematics in the College of Natural Science.
  • Charlotte Best of Rockford, Michigan. Best graduated from Rockford Senior High School. She is majoring in the Lyman Briggs College.
  • Allison Chevis of Metairie, Louisiana. Chevis graduated from Ursuline Academy. She is majoring in physics in the College of Natural Science.
  • Megan Giltmier of West Lafayette, Indiana. Giltmier graduated from West Lafayette High School. She is majoring in the College of Engineering.
  • Nathaniel Howder of Arlington, Virgina. Howder graduated from Washington Lee High School. He is majoring in Entomology in the College of Natural Science.
  • Xavier Lewis of Simsbury, Connecticut. Lewis graduated from Simsbury High School. He is majoring in materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering.
  • Olivia Melville of Westland, Michigan. Melville graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School. She is majoring in Zoology in Lyman Briggs College.
  • Aria Muchhal of Darien, Connecticut. Muchhal graduated from Darien High School. She is majoring in Lyman Briggs College.
  • Joshua Pullen of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pullen graduated from East Grand Rapids High School. He is majoring in mathematics in the College of Natural Science
  • Megha Pratapwar of East Amherst, New York. Pratapwar graduated from Williamsville East High School. She is majoring in Lyman Briggs College.
  • Anna Rehm of Fort Collins, Colorado. Rehm graduated from Fossil Ridge High School. She is majoring in James Madison College.
  • Isaac Smith of West Bloomfield, Michigan. Smith graduated from West Bloomfield High School. He is majoring in physics in the College of Natural Science
  • Sydney Wojczynski of Willowbrook, Illinois. Wojczynski graduated from Hinsdale Central High School. She is majoring in James Madison College.
  • Caroline Zackerman of Cincinnati, Ohio. Zackerman graduated from Wyoming High School. She is majoring in Global and International Studies in Social Science.

University Distinguished Scholars were selected from an MSU applicant pool by the interim executive director of admissions and the dean of the Honors College based on high school programs, achievements, standardized test scores and interviews with the finalists.

The University Distinguished Scholars are:

  • Joseph Allen of Plano, Texas. Allen graduated from Plano West Senior High School. He is majoring in Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Social Science.
  • Joshua Fosu-Agyemang, Kumasi, Ghana. Fosu-Agyemang graduated from Prempeh College. He is majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering.
  • Ilayda Korkmaz, Ankara, Turkey. Korkmaz graduated from Nesibie Aydin High School. She is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Contact: Bess German, germanr@msu.edu