Skip to content

Meyerhoff Scholars Essay

Meet the first cohort of Penn State Millennium Scholars, a group of academically talented science and engineering students who, as incoming college freshmen, have committed to the long-range pursuit of a research career and attainment of a doctoral degree. The six-week summer bridge program that begins the Penn State Millennium Scholars program is an intense boot camp experience for academic all-stars. It is designed to introduce the students to the academic and research environment at Penn State, to build cohesion and community among the scholars, and to provide them with the coaching and network that will help these high-achieving students reach new levels of excellence in science and engineering. The summer bridge program prepares them for college and beyond into graduate programs and their future careers.

The Eberly College of Science welcomed the first cohort of Millennium Scholars in June of this year. This group of talented and motivated students has a range of backgrounds and interests. In addition to a shared dedication to academic excellence in the classroom and lab, Millennium Scholars have also committed to working in an inclusive environment that encourages participation by students from all backgrounds; thirteen of the Millennium Scholars are from traditionally under-represented minority groups. Of this first cohort comprised of twenty students, ten aspire to major in science. The students mostly call Pennsylvania home, but hail from as far away as Dallas and Fort Lauderdale. Every one of the students was a top academic performer in his or her high school classes and cultivated a focus on academic excellence.


Building the Program

“This program epitomizes what I want to do in my career and what I hope to achieve. I am so grateful that Millennium Scholars program exists because it has given us countless opportunities to meet and connect with people, a strong support system of friends, and an incredible advising system.”
Taylor Soucy, Chemistry

The Millennium Scholars program began as a collaborative project between the Eberly College of Science and the Penn State College of Engineering, modeled after a similar program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) – the highly regarded Meyerhoff program, which over the last 25 years has graduated over 800 students. Approximately 90% percent of the graduates of the Meyerhoff program continue their education in graduate school; 70% of those students are under-represented minorities. These results are a striking contrast to the national average graduation rate in science of less than 50%, and half that for students of color.

The Meyerhoff program is a national model and success story; Penn State has benefitted from a robust partnership with UMBC to build the Millennium Scholars program over the last year. The aim of the program at Penn State is to translate the core principles and program components to the much larger, more geographically isolated and less diverse University Park campus. Combined with the core strengths of Penn State – world-class research and facilities, along with outstanding faculty – the Millennium Scholars Program provides undergraduates with a truly exceptional opportunity.

As a Millennium Scholar, each student receives a substantial scholarship of at least $15,000 annually. Research shows that funding alone is insufficient to attain the high levels of achievement, graduation, and perseverance to graduate programs, which are aims of the program. The Millennium Scholars program is comprehensive in its approach to address the multivariate factors that can lead to disparities in participation and retention in science and engineering. A core component of the program is an integrated, hierarchical support network of peer mentors, advisors, faculty, and alumni. Students meet and interact with many individuals, starting during the summer bridge and throughout their college years, who provide coaching on all aspects of their college and career. The summer program also cultivates a strong sense of unity, or family belonging, among the students. Shedding the high school competition mentality, the Millennium Scholars learn the value of teamwork and develop a shared expectation for group achievements. “Being in a small group with people that take education so seriously motivates all of us to work harder, help each other, and achieve great things,” said Millennium Scholar Taylor Soucy.

Ms. Sharp obtained her B.S. in Biology and M. S. in Cancer Biology from Tuskegee University. Before coming to Penn State, Sharp worked in summer research internships at Washington University, University of Minnesota, Ohio State, and Scripps Research Institute, and worked on translation research in a radiation oncology lab at the University of Iowa.
Starlette Sharp, Director of the Millennium Scholars Program

The first Millennium Scholars cohort is a cohesive unit, and relies on each other as a community of socially conscious scholars pursuing research careers in biochemistry and molecular biology, biology, chemistry, forensic science, and physics. They aim to participate in community service projects each semester, knowing that with the opportunity that they have been given comes the expectation that they will in turn impact their communities. Beginning with their fall semester, the Millennium Scholars work with the college’s Office of Outreach and Science Engagement to identify projects that link their interests in science with community engagement.

The Eberly College of Science is committed to preparing the scientific innovators of tomorrow. Through the establishment of the Millennium Scholars program, the college is demonstrating that academic excellence and scientific innovation is best achieved by ensuring diversity in thought and inclusive participation. Implementation of the core principles of the Millennium Scholars program is already resulting in the effusion of best practices throughout the college. For example, in fall 2013, groups of students were ‘cohorted’ in groups of 25 by co-enrolling them in at least two science classes, with the aim that they would form learning communities. In another example, the “Learn to Learn” class that was developed for the summer bridge program was delivered in focused workshops for some of the freshman seminar courses in the college. Instructional practices will evolve, just as expectations and attitudes about women and minorities in science will rise; expectation is that over time there will be a college-wide impact that results more broadly in the improved retention and success of all students in science.

Summer Bridge Program

Seven days a week for six weeks, starting immediately after high school graduation, is a lot to require of a new college student. Pulling together a meaningful program also requires the teamwork of staff and faculty from four different colleges at Penn State. Components of the programming include enrollment in seven credits of coursework in mathematics and in educational psychology. The Millennium Scholars also participated in workshops in chemistry and engineering design to hone their problem solving skills and give them a jump-start on their fall semester coursework. Experts talked with the students about professional development and leadership, team building, and stewardship: they learned everything from elevator pitches to proper handshakes. A highlight of the summer was participation in the well-known World in Conversation program, which uses facilitated dialog to open conversation about emergent issues including race relations, gender equity, and international conflict. The students participated in dialogues with each other, and with individuals around the world via video feed to Afghanistan and Pakistan, to spark mindfulness about diversity and its central importance in scientific advancement and innovation.

“The Millennium Scholars program provides us with opportunities and presentations that inspire me to reach my full potential. ”
Kaleb Bogale, Biology

Although the primary purpose of the summer bridge program was to academically challenge the students, the program also provided multiple opportunities to expand their thinking, explore new areas, and meet new people.

Most freshmen do not begin their academic career at Penn State with a working knowledge of the research facilities and laboratories on campus. Professor Squire Booker led the Millennium Scholars’ “Introduction to Research” discussions during the summer bridge, giving them an inside look at how researchers think and what they do. These sessions were complemented by tours of the Materials Research Institute facilities in the brand new Millennium Science Complex, and research laboratories in chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. The students visited the Breazeale nuclear reactor and the Larson Institute’s Test Track. Additionally, Penn State Science alumnus and businessman Rick Grazzini hosted the Millennium Scholars at his company, GardenGenetics, where they learned about the science, the start up, and the importance of intellectual property. By the end of the six weeks, each of the Millennium Scholars had a head start on where to go – and what to do – to identify faculty research mentors for their undergraduate research projects.

One hot Saturday morning, the Millennium Scholars went to Penn State’s Stone Valley Vertical Adventures, which boasts one of the largest challenge courses on the east coast. The students donned helmets and safety gear, and climbed the nets to the 40-foot tall Odyssey course. Teams of two to six students worked together to navigate this high-ropes structure, and, in the process, they developed their problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. They built trust as they steadied each other while leaning, scrambling, and jumping from log to log, thirty feet in the air. Triumphant, they flew down on the zip lines.

On another trip, after boarding buses at 5:00 a.m., the Millennium Scholars rode in the early morning hours to the National Institutes of Health. Despite the early morning departure, Millennium Scholar Kaleb Bogale calls the trip to NIH “the highlight of my summer.” The students toured the Clinical Center in Bethesda and talked with researchers working in the National Genome Research Institute.  The trip culminated in a visit to the Clinical Movement Lab to learn about experiments that measure human movement data used to research a wide variety of movement disorders and diseases.

During a separate day trip to Baltimore, the students met their counterparts at UMBC, with whom they commiserated about the rigors of their summer bridge program and lack of sleep. It was an important opportunity that let the students feel a part of the larger community to which they now belonged, and to also hear from program alumni. Former UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars, who are now at Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University, gave presentations on the importance of academic endurance, resilience, and the myriad benefits of program participation. Small group breakout sessions, facilitated by UMBC alumni volunteers, encouraged the students to discuss issues and challenges, and to keep the focus on aiming high. The Millennium Scholars left feeling proud and purposeful – they knew that they are the first of many more cohorts of students that will come after them to Penn State.

“We knew there were going to be long days and challenges ahead, but the summer bridge trained us to be diligent and prepared.”
Emily Cribas, Taylor Curtis, Rebecca Plessel, Forensics

The end of the summer academic boot camp culminates with a celebration luncheon that officially inducts the students into the Millennium Scholars program. Plenary speaker and math faculty Nate Brown tells the students, “Every time I pushed you harder, you rose…and you kept rising to every challenge I gave you.” Joined by their parents, faculty, administrators, and staff from across campus, the students’ parents learn from the Millennium Scholars what they accomplished in six short weeks and their aspirations for the coming months and years. There are hugs and tears – they have worked hard, slept little, and transformed into scholars who are focused on, and ready to work toward their goals.

Together, as a group, they stand and say: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life like a champion. Focus. Focus. Focus.”

Thank you for your interest in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. In addition to the information you supplied on the UMBC Common Application, you will need to complete the Meyerhoff application to be considered as a candidate for the program. When completing the application you will not have the option to save and return at a later time. You will need to complete and submit your application in one sitting. The application and all supplemental materials must be received by the priority deadline.

Deadline

December 1, 2017 – Priority Deadline.

Applications will be accepted until the submission portal closes during Winter 2018.

Please refer to the information below in preparation for completing the Meyerhoff Scholars application.

UMBC Campus ID

The Meyerhoff application will require that you have your UMBC Campus ID. Your Campus ID will be sent approximately five to seven business days after you have submitted your Common Application to UMBC. We strongly encourage you to complete your undergraduate admissions package before November 1. This includes submission of your Common Application, high school transcript, and standardized test score results.

Eligibility Criteria

To be considered for the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, prospective students must have at least a “B” average in  high school science or math courses, and many applicants have completed a year or more of calculus. Preference is given to those who have taken advanced placement courses in math and science, have research experience, and have strong references from science or math instructors. In recent years, a strong preference has been given to those students interested in the Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. (over the M.D.).

Students must meet all eligibility requirements:

  • Minimum of 600 on the Math component of the SAT or a composite score of 24 on the ACT
  • Cumulative High School GPA of a 3.0 or above
  • Aspire to obtain a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. in Math, Science, Computer Science, or Engineering
  • Display commitment to community service
  • Must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States

Short Answers

You should prepare short essay answers of 500 words or less. The application will allow you to cut and paste your answers from your word processing software into the form. The questions you will need to answer are:

  1. Discuss your educational goals beyond completion of your undergraduate degree.
  2. Discuss your career goals.
  3. Describe your scholarly or creative activities; the committee welcomes copies of research papers, honors, or awards, published material, etc.
  4. List and describe your extracurricular activities, awards and community service involvement.
  5. List all courses that you will take during your senior year.  In addition, please also list the most advanced math course taken.

Additional Documents

You are also free to submit any relevant documents that you believe strengthen your application. These documents can be submitted as attachments to the application. The documents must be either in an Adobe PDF format or a Microsoft Word document.

Recommendations

You will be required to obtain two Recommendations from teachers or research mentors/advisors who are familiar with your work; at least one recommendation should be from a math or science teacher.

There are three methods of submission outlined below.  Please communicate with recommenders to identify their preferred method and allow enough time for a December 1submission.

  1. Students may upload and attach an electronic version of their recommendations (jpeg, pdf, doc) using the online Meyerhoff application.
  2. Students may provide each recommender with a Meyerhoff Recommendation Form to be completed and sent by mail or fax (details on form).
  3. Recommenders may choose to personally upload the Meyerhoff Recommendation Form and supporting documents via our contact form. Note recommenders are not required to be listed on the student’s Authorization to Disclose Information Form

Honors College

You may also use this application to apply for the UMBC Honors College. Admission decisions for the Honors College are determined by a separate committee. For consideration, applicants should have a minimum high school grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.00 scale in a strong college preparatory curriculum that includes honors, Advancement Placement or International Baccalaureate coursework.

If interested in pursuing this option, please answer the following essay question with a minimum of 600 words and attach to the application as an additional “Attachment” document.

  • The Meyerhoff mission is to increase the representation and leadership of minorities in science and engineering research.  How would you help achieve the mission?

The deadline has passed for Fall 2018 Applicants