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42 WKU students earn national scholarships; Regents approve budget

WKU students continued to raise the bar in 2013-14 as a record 42 students earned recognition in national scholarship competitions.

In a report Friday (June 27) to the University’s Board of Regents, Audra Jennings, Director of the Office of Scholar Development, said the awards had a combined value of more than $1 million and will allow recipients to travel to 19 countries, conduct research, and complete graduate degrees in the U.S. and abroad. (More: WKU’s 2013-2014 Nationally Competitive Scholarships)

It was a year of significant firsts for WKU as Sarah Schrader became the University’s first finalist for each of the three most competitive and prestigious academic awards in the world, the Rhodes, Marshall, and Gates Cambridge scholarships. The Rhodes Scholarship funds postgraduate study at the University of Oxford; the Marshall Scholarship funds postgraduate study at any university in the United Kingdom, and the Gates Cambridge Scholarship funds postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge.

While at the Gatton Academy and WKU, Schrader has been selected as a U.S. Presidential Scholar, Goldwater Scholar, Pearson Prize winner, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Finalist, and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, among others. She will begin her physician-scientist studies in the Tri-institutional MD-PhD Program at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Rockefeller University, and Sloan-Kettering Institute this fall.

Charles “Chad” Coomer became the University’s first NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholarship awardee and the University’s second United Kingdom Fulbright Student grantee. Coomer, a Goldwater Scholar and Ogden Foundation Scholar, will study for a master’s degree in infection and immunity at University College London before continuing his doctoral studies at the University of Oxford.

WKU students’ successes expanded the university’s international reach as record numbers earned scholarships for international study including Fulbright Student Grants, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, and U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships.

Five WKU students and recent graduates, the most in WKU’s history, were awarded Fulbright Grants to study, conduct research, and teach English abroad. An additional two were designated alternates. The winners will begin their grants in the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey and Vietnam this fall.

Hilltoppers earned 15 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to fund study abroad. The combined value of $43,500 allows these students to pursue academic and internship experiences in Belize, Costa Rica, Chile, Tanzania, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, China and South Korea.

They also earned six Critical Language Scholarships. The program, sponsored by the Department of State, fully funds 10 weeks of intensive critical language study abroad. Four recipients were selected for Chinese, one for Arabic, and one for Korean language study. In addition, two Gatton Academy students were selected for a similar program for high school students, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, to study Chinese and Hindi abroad this summer.

WKU continued its success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused scholarships. Barry Goldwater Scholarships are the most prestigious awards for undergraduates in science, engineering and mathematics. Schools may nominate only four students to compete nationally. With three scholars and one honorable mention, WKU’s performance was matched or exceeded by just 17 other schools in the nation. In addition, three WKU students and recent graduates earned National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships to fund graduate study in the sciences, each of which is valued at more than $130,000. Another two recent graduates earned honorable mentions in the competition.

“The unprecedented success of our students earning these national and international awards is both impressive and encouraging,” WKU President Gary Ransdell said. “Such success is a tribute to the rising academic strength at WKU, which is made possible by a superb faculty and Kentucky’s most gifted college students.”

Dr. Ransdell congratulated the award winners, “who will now extend WKU’s international reach as they study and conduct research across the globe. I also want to thank our faculty for serving as mentors and role models for these incredible students, and to the staff in the Office of Scholar Development for helping them identify the best awards and compete successfully for them.”

Office of Scholar Development (OSD) staff work with students and their faculty mentors to recruit and help students develop competitive applications.

“We are seeing growing numbers of highly talented, accomplished, and ambitious students in our office, and those qualities combined with hard work helps to explain these record award numbers,” Dr. Jennings said. “This has been a terrific year, and we are extremely proud of each of the more than 100 students who completed applications for the nation’s most competitive scholarships.”

Regents approve 2014-15 budget

WKU Regents approved a $392,297,000 budget for 2014-15.

With the budget, Regents also approved the tuition schedule, which includes a 4.8 percent increase for resident undergraduate students to $4,570 per semester.

The budget also includes a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment with a minimum of $500 per employee.

“Despite the trend of continued state budget reductions, we are indeed achieving progress toward our highest strategic priorities,” Dr. Ransdell said. “Our international student population is increasing. We are achieving our goals for the WKU Honors College. More WKU students than ever are studying abroad. More are competing for and winning top national and international scholarship awards. The Gatton Academy continues to be recognized as the top high school in America. We are more focused than ever on increasing the number of KCTCS transfers and our doctorate programs in nursing, physical therapy and educational leadership are in full swing.”

Regents also elected the following officers for 2014-15: J. David Porter of Lexington as chair; Frederick A. Higdon of Lebanon as vice chair; and Dr. Melissa B. Dennison of Glasgow as secretary.


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