Nine students shine in national scholarship competitions

May 9, 2013  

NISO scholarship reception

Student honorees at a recent reception by the National and International Scholarships Office were (top row, from left) Alicia English, Harper Otawka, Sharon Smith and Milad Alucozai; (bottom row) Haefa Mansour, Emily Erickson and Allison Turner. Not pictured at Molly McKneight and Ryan Ferrell. (Purdue University photo/Steven Yang)
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At a reception April 26, the National and International Scholarships Office honored nine students who placed in several prestigious nationwide scholarship competitions during 2012-13.

The event, at Purdue Memorial Union, recognized students who receive Fulbright grants, Goldwater scholarships, Truman scholarships, Udall scholarships, and scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Dennis Savaiano, interim dean of the Honors College and professor of nutrition science, presented a plaque to each award winner.

Honored at the event were Molly McKneight, Allison Turner, Harper Otawka, Sharon Smith, Alicia English, Ryan Farrell, Milad Alucozai, Emily Erickson and Haefa Mansour.

Among their successes are two first-time accomplishments for Purdue students.

McKneight is the first Purdue student to be named a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is granted each year to 50-75 college juniors who have demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service. Each scholarship is worth $30,000 and must go toward graduate education.

McKneight, who is interested in global food insecurity, plans to pursue a PhD in plant breeding. She hopes to influence public policy regarding food and nutrition security while researching ways to improve global crop and food systems.

Turner is the first Purdue student to be named a Udall scholar, and she was one of only five sophomores nationwide out of 50 recipients.

The Udall scholarship awards up to $5,000 to sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated commitment to careers related to the environment. The scholarship also is awarded to Native American students who have demonstrated commitment to careers related to tribal public policy or health care.

Turner is majoring in political science and in natural resources and environmental science. She hopes to apply scientific knowledge of climate change to policymaking and decision making. Her goal is to help diverse stakeholders overcome their differences and work together to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

Recipients of grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program were Otawka, who will conduct research in Mexico; Smith, who will complete a teaching assistantship in Colombia; and English, who will conduct research in Kosovo.

The Fulbright program provides highly competitive grants for U.S. students to undertake individual study or research projects or to serve as English teaching assistants abroad. Candidates must submit a statement of grant purpose defining their proposed activities during one academic year in a country outside the U.S. The program awards about 1,700 grants annually.

Farrell received a Goldwater scholarship through the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Alucozai and Erickson won honorable mentions.

Goldwater scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year for one or two years. Students studying in the science, engineering and mathematics fields are eligible. This year, 272 students nationwide received scholarships.

Erickson also received a scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Mansour was a nominee.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional academic performance in science or engineering.  More than 100 U.S. astronauts are members of the foundation, which raises money through astronaut appearances, fundraising events, and corporate and individual donations. The foundation awards 28 scholarships of $10,000 annually.

Purdue narrows the pool of applicants to two nominees, who it submits to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for consideration. Purdue seeks applications from its students, after which it must select two from that pool to nominate to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Veronica Schirm, director of the National and International Scholarships Office, says the University plans to hold a reception annually for students who have received prestigious scholarships.

"We would like to grow the visibility of national and international scholarships among the Purdue community, with the goal of continuous growth in applicants and recipients," Schirm says. "Purdue attracts highly talented students, and we know that there are qualified applicants for many such awards. Each recipient each year is further demonstration of the quality of students at Purdue."

For more information regarding these students, their accomplishments and their future plans, go to

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325,

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