Back in Spring 2013, I found out I had been accepted to Stony Brook University as a University Scholar. I was not quite sure what that meant, but coming here and participating in Scholars events; SCH 101, the introductory class for freshman; and Scholars advising gave me an idea. At first, it struck me as an honors program (which it is), bigger than the Honors College, but with a more social aspect. Speaking with faculty and staff related to the University Scholars program has helped me clean and clear up that impression a little bit.
“It’s a method for the university to allow high-achieving students to get to know one another from a very early point in their college career and build relationships not just with each other, but with faculty and staff here at Stony Brook,” said Jeremy Marchese, senior staff assistant & adviser for University Scholars, when asked to describe the program.
And he could not be more correct. I made a group of friends through my Scholars 101 course, and we have been able to help each other both this semester and last in terms of studying and staying on track with work. And on the faculty side, Marchese has been a huge help to me in planning my schedules and answering my academic questions. Last semester, my Scholars 101 course was taught by Brian Colle, and it was truly one of my more relaxing and enjoyable classes. I distinctly remember my Scholars 101 being the first class in which I saw my classmates as my peers and not just other faces in a room.
Sometimes I would wonder what it meant to be a Scholar, besides the obvious things like priority registration and having to go to Scholars events. What is this program really doing for me? “It really gives [the students] a smaller community within the larger Stony Brook University,” David Maynard, lecturer and adviser, said when asked what he thought the Scholars programs did for its students. “Not only that, but we seek to connect the students to opportunities for research and internships.”
Personally, I have not sought any research jobs or internships just yet, but the program has had some success. It is evident when you look at all the Beyond the Classroom events and Medical School Panels that the program hosts. The Scholars program appears to have a genuine desire to connect the students with other individuals that can help students determine their own paths. As a personal example, when I spoke to Jeffrey Barnett, assistant dean of students, he pointed me in the direction of some faculty and Stony Brook alumni that could help me explore a newfound interest that I had mentioned to him. This, if nothing else, exemplifies the level of dedication to be found in the faculty associated with the University Scholars program.
“Lots of people having been throwing a lot of different ideas, but what we are really concerned with is strengthening the tie to the University Scholars program throughout all four of the undergraduate years of study,” said Barnett, when asked about what the future of the Scholars program could hold. “We could do this many different ways. We could add a curriculum, we could add a capstone experience for the seniors or we could add a SCH 102. But all of these are only ideas in the talking stage right now.”
I agree with his concern. As I face my sophomore year, I wondered what the University Scholars program would offer/require that would keep me tethered to it. I questioned whether I would be able to keep that identity of being a University Scholar alive after my freshman year.
A question could be made of whether or not the University Scholars program is accomplishing what it set out to do. I believe the answer to this question is yes. I have found personally found the experience of being a University Scholar an enjoyable one. I have received help from the Scholars faculty on numerous occasions, and I truly feel as a student that I am in good hands and that they, combined with the Scholars community, will help make my undergraduate years enjoyable. Now there is the issue of staying connected to the program as it becomes less intense as my undergraduate years progress. However, I would urge upperclassmen to rekindle that University Scholars connection if they have let it die. It could offer you new opportunities or answer a question that is keeping you up at night. I plan to take advantage of it as much as I can. I think you should too.