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The impact of Presidential Scholars after one year

By Srila Nayak
Meet 2018 Presidential Scholars and science students

First-year science students Eli Nicholas and Jordyn Hamilton are 2018 Presidential Scholars who are finding numerous opportunities to achieve their academic goals and explore new interests at Oregon State University.

The university’s most competitive, merit-based scholarship for in-state undergraduates, the Presidential Scholarship is awarded to the highest-caliber high school seniors in Oregon with a record of academic excellence (3.85 GPA or above plus impressive SAT or ACT scores) among other accomplishments. The generous scholarship awards a total of $40,000 and covers the cost of four years of tuition. In 2018-19, 35 OSU students including seven College of Science students received a Presidential Scholarship. In total, 755 high school seniors were considered for the award.

In addition to Nicholas and Hamilton, zoology major Nathaniel Neal and biology majors Tory Schroeder, Gautam Singh, Elizabeth Reece and Savannah Taggard have also been awarded OSU 2018 Presidential Scholarships.

Seeing the mathematics in music

Eli Nicholas sitting outside
Mathematics major Eli Nicholas

A mathematics major, Eli is combining his love for numbers with his passion for music by pursuing a minor in music performance. In fact the talented freshman was taking part in a high school musical last year at West Albany High School when the news about his Presidential Scholarship broke. His choir and band teachers collaborated with OSU admissions officials to heighten the drama; Eli was presented with the Presidential Scholarship after curtain call in front of the entire audience.

The scholarship sealed the deal in favor of OSU for Eli. “Financial aid and stability were a huge plus for me. OSU is also a family school of sorts. My grandfather and parents went to OSU. My older brother is also at OSU.”

As it turns out, Presidential Scholarships also run in the family. Eli’s older brother, Jonah, a forestry senior, is a Presidential Scholar.

“The Presidential Scholarship requires me to take a full load of courses each quarter. Being done with the baccalaureate core courses, I have an opportunity for intellectual exploration and take the classes that interest me.”

At OSU, Eli is exploring diverse interests and finally indulging in a cherished childhood dream: vocal performance. “I played the trombone in high school. But vocal performance is definitely my number one passion.” Growing up, Eli couldn’t afford voice lessons. This year, he achieved a milestone by singing for the first time at an OSU opera, Puccini’s La Rondine.

Eli was urged to take vocal lessons when he auditioned for the OSU choir leading him towards a music minor, which is covered by his scholarship.

He enjoys the academic freedom and the numerous avenues for academic exploration that have opened up. In addition to core classes in mathematics, Eli is taking religious studies courses, a subject that interests him deeply. Having taken a number of AP credit courses in high school, Eli will soon be completing his core requirements, and is eagerly looking forward to expanding his intellectual horizons.

“I feel I have a really great opportunity here. The Presidential Scholarship requires me to take a full load of courses each quarter. Being done with the baccalaureate core courses, I have an opportunity for intellectual exploration and take the classes that interest me,” said Eli. “It is a different world from high school where I was taking a lot of AP credit classes. It is a great space where I can study whatever I want.”

The Albany native’s decision to study mathematics was spurred by a fantastic high school mathematics teacher, not to mention the fact that he has always enjoyed the subject and been good at it. Eli has some unbeatable wisdom for those who experience anxiety associated with mathematics.

“Math isn’t something to be scared of. It is so integral to every part of life. It should be appreciated and respected for what it is — the driving force behind sciences and so many technologies,” said Eli, who also shares that he relies on study plans to help him stay on track.

“I make a two-week plan whenever I fall behind.”

Technically this isn’t Eli’s first year on campus. He spent time at OSU as a child when his father was studying for a master’s degree in civil engineering. “I have very fond memories of being around OSU and mingling with the families of other graduate students at OSU. It was a very happy period in our lives and I am delighted to be back.”

Going from strength to strength

A graduate of Sheldon High School in Eugene, Jordyn Hamilton aspires to attend medical school and become a physician. She is an Honors BioHealth Sciences student with a focus on pre-medicine.

“I shared my personal story in my OSU admissions application, and I would like to believe that made a difference.”

Jordyn Hamilton in front of shrubbery
BioHealth Sciences major Jordyn Hamilton

The oldest of five sisters, with the youngest born just this year, Jordyn is thrilled to be a Presidential Scholar at OSU. “My sisters need me. Staying close to home and family was important for me, and the Presidential Scholarship helped me achieve that goal.”

She was immediately drawn to the biohealth sciences major for its unique focus on life sciences and training for health careers. Jordyn has been passionate about being a physician since an early age. Her grandfather was an ER doctor and Jordyn grew up listening to his stories and visiting his clinic as a child.

“I love the campus and being a part of the Honors College. I have found friends with similar goals,” said Jordyn.

The medical school aspirant is off to a flying start. Jordyn is a member of the Wellness Agents team at OSU. Wellness agents drive campus-wide prevention and wellness efforts by organizing large events and educating students about college health issues.

The Presidential Scholarship was especially meaningful for Jordyn whose academic ambitions have withstood overwhelming odds. Largely raised by a single parent, Jordyn has struggled with immensely difficult personal and economic circumstances, which include incarceration, addiction and unemployment in her family. However, the determined young woman never lost sight of her grades and her desire for a better life.

“My life growing up has not been ideal, and my sisters and I have suffered because of that. But I was always very self-motivated to do well academically and my grades were a key focus,” said Jordyn. “I shared my personal story in my OSU admissions application, and I would like to believe that made a difference.”

Her achievements have been exceptional. Jordyn was recognized as one of 19 students who maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. In addition to her voracious appetite for academic excellence, Jordyn has been a lifelong contemporary and jazz dancer, and continues her dance classes in a local studio.

Jordyn’s early struggles and experiences have given her a compassionate, responsible and mature outlook on life. She is currently helping care for her ailing grandfather, who has always been a big source of inspiration, strength and support in her life.

OSU’s academic flexibility has ensured that Jordyn can take several of her baccalaureate courses online through OSU’s outstanding and top-ranked Ecampus program as she tends to her grandparent in Eugene.

She is excited about resuming her on-campus life and classes soon, and is busy making plans for the future. Fluent in Spanish, Jordyn looks forward to participating in a study abroad program to a Spanish-speaking country and working in a clinical setting abroad during her undergraduate career.