Program Provides $1,500 UMD Scholarships in K-12 Teachers’ Names
By Laura Cech
Photos courtesy of students
Outstanding graduating seniors at the University of Maryland have analyzed drought patterns, researched diabetes and tutored elementary school students in math. One plans to be an eye surgeon; another, a human rights attorney.
But as varied as their aspirations and accomplishments are, each of the students chosen as 2023-24 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars shares a deep conviction that they could not have achieved so much without teachers and professors who guided, inspired, tutored and challenged them during their academic journeys.
At a ceremony on Friday, the 20 students will acknowledge and celebrate mentors from both their K-12 years and from their time at UMD. The program, named for the late university benefactor and Washington-area publisher, highlights the importance of mentorship with $1,500 scholarships, each of which is given in the K-12 teacher’s name to another student from their school district who will attend UMD the next academic year.
“The late Philip Merrill established this program to foster a community of scholars, faculty members and K-12 teachers who understand the pivotal role of mentoring and educating the upcoming generation,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “We are profoundly thankful for all the individuals, including the many teachers, who have significantly influenced our students' academic progress.”
The program also spotlights the work of the graduating seniors, who are selected by the academic colleges and schools. In addition to internships and research projects, the honorees were involved in a range of campus activities, from matching students with service projects to marching in the marching band.
“The accomplishments of these scholars stand as a testament to the enduring influence of teacher excellence in shaping outstanding student achievements,” said William A. Cohen, associate provost and dean for undergraduate studies. “It is a special joy to celebrate student achievements alongside those individuals who helped foster their success. The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program is creating an essential legacy by emphasizing the mentorship that makes academic and personal triumphs possible.”
Several UMD professors will be or have been recognized multiple times, including journalism professor Jerry Zremski, who was acknowledged by two students this year. Associate Professor Tim Canty in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science has been honored by seven Merrill Presidential Scholars to date, including this year by Maria Nikolaitchik, who is completing a double degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and mathematics.
“I have wonderful mentors,” said Nikolaitchik, one of the creators of the campus weather station network. Canty and her high school statistics teacher helped her become, she said, “who I fundamentally am as a person: someone who loves numbers and clouds.”
The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars for 2023-24 are:
Lei Danielle Escobal (American Studies, Sociology)
Lindsay Moynihan (History)
Ira Valeza (Chinese, Government and Politics)
Aliah Brown (Government and Politics, Criminology and Criminal Justice)
Soleil Kennerly (Psychology)
Fatima Yazdi (Government and Politics, Journalism)
Siri Rao (Finance)
Alexis Reyes (International Business, Supply Chain Management)
Gregory Rosario (Finance, Information Systems)
Jennifer Li (Neuroscience, Information Science)
Maria Nikolaitchik (Statistics, Atmospheric Sciences)
Karthik Sellakumaran Latha (Mathematics)
Alyssa Leventhal (Special Education)
Najmah Abdur-Rahman (Mechanical Engineering)
Thilini Amarasinghe (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Visesh Uppoor (Aerospace Engineering)
MaryAnne Onianwah (Information Science)
Maria Ahmed (Community Health)
Kelly Biglin (Public Health Science)
A. James Clark School of Engineering College of Arts and Humanities College of Behavioral and Social Sciences College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences College of Education College of Information Studies Philip Merrill College of Journalism Robert H. Smith School of Business School of Public Health
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