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19 Seniors Honored as Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars

Program Also Honors Favorite Teacher, Faculty Mentors

By Laura Barnhardt Cech

McKeldin Mall

Photo by John T. Consoli

The Phillip Merrill Presidential Scholars program honors not just the 19 exemplary students selected this year, but the mentors who inspired them.

The 2020-21 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars have worked to cure cancer, get out the vote and advocate for diversity and inclusion. And one holds a world record in Rubik’s Cube competitions.

But the University of Maryland program doesn’t just recognize outstanding graduating seniors and their accomplishments, internships and GPAs. It also honors faculty and K-12 teachers who helped mentor these students.

Each of this year’s 19 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars, selected by their academic colleges or schools, credits grade-school teachers and UMD faculty who helped guide, inspire, coach, tutor and challenge them in both big and small ways. The reception, which would typically be held next week, could not take place this year because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements. 

“It’s incredibly powerful to hear how these top students describe the impact that UMD faculty have had on them, but also the important role of teachers from elementary, middle and high school,” said President Darryll J. Pines. “It is rare that when we celebrate student achievements, we also include those individuals who helped foster their success. We are grateful for the Merrill family's vision and support of teacher excellence and student success.”

The late Philip Merrill, longtime Washington-area publisher and namesake of the university’s journalism college, and his wife, Eleanor, created the program in 2004 to build a community of scholars, faculty members and K-12 teachers who recognize and celebrate the importance of teaching and mentoring the next generation. The program provides $1,000 scholarships, which are awarded in the K-12 teacher’s name to another student from that school district who will attend UMD the following fall.

William A. Cohen, associate provost and dean for undergraduate studies, said that every year there are examples of the ripple effects of superior teaching. “The kind, encouraging words, the extra hours of tutoring and the timely advice are often remembered for years,” he said. “These students’ achievements are a testament to the power of teachers and mentors in an academic journey.”

The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars for 2020-21 are:

James Baldwin (Fire Protection Engineering)
Teacher Mentor: Lee Hirsch, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Peter Sunderland, Fire Protection Engineering

Marisa Fried (Linguistics, Spanish)
Teacher Mentor: Prudence Crewdson, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Tonia Bleam, Linguistics

Nicole Hewitt Oehlmann (Atmospheric and Oceanic Science)
Teacher Mentor: Deborah Hewitt, West River Home School, Galesville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Tim Canty, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Alexis Jones (Kinesiology)
Teacher Mentor: Corey White, Appoquinimink High School, Middletown, Del.
Faculty Mentor: Sarah Kuzmiak-Glancy, Kinesiology

Samantha Kraus (Bioengineering)
Teacher Mentor: Matthew Groden, formerly of Pennsbury High School, Fairless Hills, Pa.
Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Stroka, Bioengineering

Danielle Livingstone (Kinesiology)
Teacher Mentor: Cyrus Ishikawa, Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Lenea Stocker, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Desiree Morrison (Accounting, Operations Management and Business Analytics)
Teacher Mentor: Richard Sherin, Formerly of Murray Hill Middle School, Laurel, Md. 
Faculty Mentor: Progyan Basu, Accounting and Information Assurance

Siri Neerchal (Mathematics, History)
Teacher Mentor: Joanne Scheler, Centennial Lane Elementary School, Ellicott City, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Colleen Woods, History

Daniel Oh (Biological Sciences)
Teacher Mentor: Catherine Ulicny, Clarksburg High School, Clarksburg, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Sabrina Kramer, Honors College

Veeraj Pranab Shah (Health Policy and Technology, Biological Sciences)
Teacher Mentor: Theresa Goldberg, Severna Park High School, Severna Park, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Todd Cooke, Biological Sciences

Pavan Ravindra (Biochemistry, Computer Science)
Teacher Mentor: Kelly Wester, River Hill High School, Clarksville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Pratyush Tiwary, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Julia Reicin (Geographic Information Science, Psychology)
Teacher Mentor: Paul Jacobson, Winston Churchill High School, Potomac, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Julie Silva, Department of Geographical Sciences

Angela Roberts (Journalism, Criminology and Criminal Justice)
Teacher Mentor: Nicole Sitler, Peters Township High School, McMurray, Pa.
Faculty Mentor: Sean Mussenden, Journalism

Dhruva Someshwar (Government and Politics)
Teacher Mentor: Sylvia Kim, James Hubert Blake High School, Silver Spring, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Mark Forrester, English

Alana Tillery (Bioengineering)
Teacher Mentor: William Ford, King's Fork High School, Suffolk, Va.
Faculty Mentor: Angela Jones, Bioengineering

Joseph Trubnick (Finance)
Teacher Mentor: Shmuel Kurtz, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Skokie, Ill.
Faculty Mentor: Julie Pavlovsky, Finance

William Wong (English, History)
Teacher Mentor: Robert Thomas, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Gregory Staley, Classics

Angela Yang (Information Systems and Operations Management, Business Analytics)
Teacher Mentor: Sheryl Braun, Corona del Sol High School, Tempe, Ariz.
Faculty Mentor: Pamela Armstrong, Decision, Operations and Information Technologies

Mary Yilma (Economics, Mathematics)
Teacher Mentor: Paul Kevin Moose, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Jessica Goldberg, Economics

Schools & Departments:

Office of Undergraduate Studies

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