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The 2017-2018 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars

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College of Arts and Humanities

Montana Monardes

Anna-Bella Sicilia

Katelyn Turner

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Daniel Dorfman

Caroline Johnson

Kinsey Rose Manchester

Robert H. Smith School of Business

Sarina Haryanto

Chineme Obiefune

Chetachi Ukejianya

College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Christopher Bambic

William O'Connor

Tiffany Wang


A. James Clark School of Engineering

Rosemary Davidson

Zachary Plotkin

Miriam Silton

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Rebecca King

School of Public Health

Kirby Rhodes

Erin Sullivan

Office of Undergraduate Studies

Rachel Smith


Montana MonardesMontana Monardes
Teacher Mentor: Troy Bradbury, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, MD
Faculty Mentor: Scot Reese, Theatre

I knew I wanted to be an actor since I was five years old, and I was anxious to get out of high school and start my future. My mentor, Mr. Troy Bradbury, really kept me grounded and invested his time at Eleanor Roosevelt High School to teach me valuable lessons about myself and life. Mr. Bradbury knew how to connect with students to help them learn in a way that would benefit each of them. He treated us with respect, helped guide us through decisions about our futures, and was always willing to talk if we needed advice. After I completed the two-year capstone program, Mr. Bradbury was not only a cherished mentor, but also a friend. At University of Maryland I met Professor Scot Reese when I joined his performance group, Kreativity Diversity Troupe. I also completed both of his musical theatre classes and performed in the musical he directed in Fall 2016. Professor Reese has mentored me in so many ways, from voice lessons to scene coaching. Although the lessons haven't always been easy, he has given me countless tools that I will need next year when I graduate and pursue an acting career. Professor Reese and Mr. Bradbury have helped to shape me into the person I am today and I am incredibly grateful for the lessons, skills and drive they have given me.

Anna-Bella Sicilia
Teacher Mentor: Nan Collins, Centennial High School, Ellicott City, MD
Faculty Mentor: Polyvia Parara, Classics

It is no coincidence that my most impactful mentors were also among my most challenging teachers. I was so fortunate to learn early in my high school career that studio art does not have to be easy or fluffy; in Ms. Nan Collins' classes we were taught to take pride in both our work and in the creative process itself. She was the driving force behind my interest in art and art history, always ready to supply her students with a creative challenge or a reminder to carry their sketchbooks wherever they went. When I started taking Modern Greek classes at University of Maryland, I encountered a professor with a similar level of passion and an expectation that every student work using their full potential. Professor Polyvia Parara has been with me at every step of my journey studying the Greek language, taking me from complete inexperience to conversational confidence. She is always happy to spend her office hours working through difficult grammatical concepts, and to support all of my ambitions in and out of the classroom. Both Ms. Collins and Professor Parara helped me achieve my goals because they taught me the wonderful rewards that are made possible through hard work.

Katelyn TurnerKatelyn Turner
Teacher Mentor: Richard Hood, Milton M. Somers Middle School, La Plata, MD
Faculty Mentor: Kyley Ewing, Philosophy

I first met my music teacher, Mr. Richard Hood, in 5th grade. It had been almost a month into the school year, and the sounds coming out of my clarinet were finally starting to sound less like senseless noise and more like shaky whole notes. Mr. Hood was never a stickler, but he was always very clear about his high expectations of us. I remember him poking my cheeks until I finally stopped looking like a blowfish while playing. Mr. Hood believed in my musical ability before I did, and his confidence and guidance helped me grow confident in myself. Mr. Hood has been a transformative figure in many students' lives, and the title of teacher-mentor embodies him perfectly. In similar ways, Professor Kyley Ewing has shaped my time here at Maryland. Her conviction to help students thrive is felt by everyone in her class. Professor Ewing has always encouraged me to embrace my seemingly crazy ideas, and her unwavering guidance has allowed me to understand the discipline of philosophy in an entirely new light. I will always cherish the hours spent in her office discussing whatever philosophical queries that came to mind, and know that there are many more to come.

Daniel DorfmanDaniel Dorfman
Teacher Mentor: Audrey Phillips, Winston Churchill High School, Potomac, MD
Faculty Mentor: John Neri, Economics

Throughout my academic career, I have been fortunate enough to have several teachers who have been mentors to me. In particular, my Calculus teacher Ms. Audrey Phillips is my most influential teacher from high school. While my senior year Calculus class was the one of the most challenging of courses I had taken up to that point in high school, Ms. Phillips' encouragement, support, and enthusiasm made it one of the most rewarding classes. Ms. Phillips' passion for seeing her students succeed made her class one of my favorites and encouraged me to study quantitative methods in college. Like Ms. Phillips, Professor John Neri's passion for his students and financial economics became a truly inspirational experience for me at the University of Maryland. In his Money & Banking class, Professor Neri always finds methods to relate difficult concepts to practical experiences. Professor Neri's class has inspired me to study economics and finance in college, with a goal to further my studies in graduate school. Both of these mentors have pushed me to work hard and I would like to thank them for their support.

Caroline JohnsonCaroline Johnson
Teacher Mentor: Brent Ault, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Sarah Croco*, Government & Politics

I've been very lucky to have had incredible teachers and mentors throughout my education. First, Mr. Brent Ault was my teacher in high school for two courses: AP Government and AP Comparative Government and Politics. Although I didn't realize it at the time, he was shaping my passion for government studies. Mr. Ault used humor to engage his students in civics, and helped me become someone who truly cared about what was going on in the world. His classes also challenged my writing and analytical skills, helping me to be a stronger student as I worked my way towards college. At University of Maryland, Professor Sarah Croco taught me about the quantitative analyses of international relations, and gave me guidance as I worked with her as a research assistant. Her teaching style and personality made the class fun; I felt comfortable asking questions not just about coursework, but about careers in her field. I feel like I can approach her for advice and with questions, and having a mentor like her makes a big university like Maryland feel smaller. Both Mr. Ault and Professor Croco have been more than teachers; they have been mentors, helping to point me towards a career I am passionate about and helping me to develop as a person.

*Sarah Croco was named a faculty mentor by a 2010-2011 scholar.

Kinsey ManchesterKinsey Rose Manchester
Teacher Mentor: Kelly Worsman, Pinkerton Academy, Derry, NH
Faculty Mentor: Laure Brooks*, Criminology and Criminal Justice

I know that I would not be who I am today if not for the help of two teachers. When I reflect on my grade school education, I often think of Ms. Kelly Worsman, my coach and mentor. Ms. Worsman motivated me on and off the field to be the best version of myself and to push myself beyond my personal boundaries. She helped me to realize that I wanted to study criminology, and she had faith in me even when I did not. Coming to college, I was unsure whether I would be able to connect with a professor in the same way, but I was lucky to connect with Professor Laure Brooks. After taking two classes with her and then serving as her teaching assistant, it was clear to me that I had found an equally incredible mentor in college. Professor Brooks has been so supportive and kind to me during my studies here at University of Maryland. It has been a true blessing to have learned and grown from such intelligent, generous, and caring people. I sincerely admire both Professor Brooks and Ms. Worsman, and I am so thankful to both of them for helping to shape me into who I am today.

*Laure Brooks was named a faculty mentor by a 2012-2013 scholar.

Sarina HaryantoSarina Haryanto
Teacher Mentor: Lynn Stuart, Wayside Elementary School, Bethesda, MD
Faculty Mentor: David Kirsch, Management and Organization

I would to like express my gratitude to two special people who inspire me to follow my curiosity and lead with purpose. My fifth grade teacher, Ms. Lynn Stuart, and my Social Innovation Fellows professor, Professor David Kirsch, have contributed to my personal and professional growth in a decade of my education. As a fifth-grader, I would frequently visit the media center to check out books. Ms. Stuart encouraged me to read for pleasure and practice creative writing. One of my favorite memories is when she read novels aloud at the end of class. She helped write my first research paper on grizzly bears, and while I've come a long way since then, I learned how to gather information and share my findings with others from her. At Maryland, Professor Kirsch motivates me to perform above and beyond set expectations. My Social Innovation Fellows experience has been especially transformative, allowing me to explore social entrepreneurship and learn new ideas that challenge my perspectives. Professor Kirsch also encouraged our team to present our paper about social enterprise ecosystems at a research conference in Italy. I am amazed at how he engages students to discover knowledge to make change possible. I thank Ms. Stuart and Professor Kirsch for helping broaden my world view and embrace lifelong learning.

Chineme ObiefuneChineme Obiefune
Teacher Mentor: Irene Bademosi, Mount Hebron High School, Ellicott City, MD
Faculty Mentor: Pamela Armstrong, Decision, Operations, and Information Technologies

Life can be challenging, but I'm blessed to have mentors that I can look up to and consult for advice when it comes to making big decisions. Ms. Irene Bademosi was one of my strongest supporters in high school. When people underestimated my potential, she made sure I never undervalued myself. She taught me to hustle for what is mine and to be grateful for all the blessings that I receive. Here at Maryland, Professor Pamela Armstrong helped to give my career some direction. I came to college not knowing where I fit in the world of business, but after joining the QUEST program and working with Professor Armstrong, my path became much clearer. She exposed me to Design Thinking and the importance of empathy in business, and modeled these behaviors in all aspects of her life. Both Ms. Bademosi and Professor Armstrong have made valuable contributions to my life. I'm still figuring a lot of things out, but with their guidance I am confident that I will be able to navigate the multitude of decisions awaiting me in the years to come.

Chetachi UkejianyaChetachi Ukejianya
Teacher Mentor:Heidi Hutchison, Friends School of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Faculty Mentor:Jeanette Snider, Robert H. Smith School of Business

The two mentors I have chosen are my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Heidi Hutchison and my business school mentor, Professor Jeanette Snider. Both of these women have had a significant impact on my life. When I was nine years old, I told Ms. Hutchison that I was going to become the first African American female President of the United States. As I got older, I began to think that this silly childhood dream could never come true. When I left that school to attend a nearby public school, Ms. Hutchison gave me a parting gift: a book about a young girl who dreamed of being the first female president. Her thoughtful gift was a reminder of my dream of reaching for the stars, and that reminder has stayed with me my whole life. I met Professor Snider when she taught a course on Social Entrepreneurship during a winter study abroad trip to South Africa. The course challenged me to find creative ways to develop business models that also serve my community and give back to groups in need. Professor Snider has encouraged me to embrace myself as an African American woman, overcome obstacles, and use my unique gifts to improve the world around me. I am thankful for the guidance that Ms. Hutchison and Professor Snider have given me throughout my life.

Christopher BambicChristopher Bambic
Teacher Mentor: Robert Ward, Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH
Faculty Mentor: Christopher Reynolds*, Astronomy

Mr. Robert Ward, my AP Physics teacher and Science Olympiad coach, first taught me how to think like an astrophysicist. I first met Mr. Ward while I was still in grade school. When he stayed for an hour after the Saint Ignatius open house to teach me the basics of calculus, I knew he would soon become more than a teacher to me. From my freshman year on, I spent my afternoons in his classroom working on Science Olympiad projects, learning to think with a practical mind, and picking up physics lessons along the way. By senior year, AP Physics felt more like collaborative discussion between us than a purely instructional class. Professor Christopher Reynolds has been mentoring me in theoretical astrophysics research since the beginning of my sophomore year. He has always made time for me and even made me feel welcome among his graduate students. Through his mentorship, I've been given the tools to approach the most fascinating problems in astrophysics that first inspired me to study the subject. Professor Reynolds has always been encouraging toward my ideas and creativity and goes out of his way to assist in my success. I feel confident stepping into the world of astrophysics, and that confidence comes from the dedication of both mentors, Mr. Ward and Professor Reynolds.

*Christopher Reynolds was named a faculty mentor by a 2014-2015 scholar.

William O'ConnerWilliam O'Connor
Teacher Mentor: Lindsay Mossa, Severna Park High School, Severna Park, MD
Faculty Mentor: Reid Compton*, Biology

I have been lucky to have been taught by many exceptional teachers throughout my academic career. In high school, my AP Biology teacher, Ms. Lindsay Mossa, reaffirmed my interest in the life sciences through her engaging teaching style. Thanks to Ms. Mossa's enthusiasm and energy in the classroom, my classmates and I were well-prepared for the AP Biology exam. As the director of the College Park Scholars Life Sciences program, Professor Reid Compton has helped me continue to foster my interest in biology. Professor Compton understands the challenges and excitement that college students feel, and he strives to promote the ideal learning environment for me and my classmates. Professor Compton's guidance and support makes him stand out among my other professors at Maryland, and I know I can always turn to him for advice now and in the future. I am very grateful to all the teachers that have helped me foster my interest and fulfill my academic goals, especially Ms. Mossa and Professor Compton.

*Reid Compton was named a faculty mentor by a 2008-2009 scholar.

Tiffany WangTiffany Wang
Teacher Mentor: Ronald Frezzo, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Catherine Carr, Biology

Mr. Ronald Frezzo was my teacher for five different music classes at Richard Montgomery High School. His love for music is evident in his dedication to build the music program at RMHS and the countless alumni who are impacted by his teaching years after graduation. Mr. Frezzo has encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone: from piano accompanist to vocalist, from performance to musical analysis and ethnomusicology. In my first meeting with Professor Catherine Carr in my freshman year to discuss the possibility of working as a research assistant, she said to me, “Everyone needs a lab home.” Indeed, her mentorship over these years has made the Carr lab my home. She has gone out of her way to give me opportunities to learn new skills and underlying theories and participate in the presentation of our research. Professor Carr's passion for science is contagious. She is deeply involved and accomplished in her research, yet she always makes time for her undergraduate students, lending an understanding ear for happenings in my life and offering her learned and compassionate wisdom. I am so grateful for these mentors who have shaped the course of my life through their dedication to teaching.

Rosemary DavidsonRosemary Davidson
Teacher Mentor: Donna Elshafei, Atholton High School, Columbia, MD
Faculty Mentor: Mary Bowden*, Aerospace Engineering

I am fortunate to have a lifelong mentor in Dr. Donna Elshafei who was my Pre-Calculus and AP Statistics teacher in high school. Dr. Elshafei combined different teaching techniques in the classroom to ensure that all her students learned the material, and as a result, many students who might have started the school year convinced they were not good at math left her class excited for future math classes. Dr. Elshafei's success as a woman in STEM has helped me realize that I can succeed in engineering, too. At the University of Maryland, one of the first professors I met was Professor Mary Bowden. Since then, I have had the pleasure of taking two classes with Dr. Bowden, and I speak for myself and many other students when I say that they were some of my favorite courses at the University. In addition, she is one of the biggest supporters of the Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics program, even helping me to plan and advertise for our events. Professor Bowden is an incredible inspiration for all the aerospace engineering students, and I am very thankful that she continues to encourage me to strive for excellence in my field.

*Mary Bowden was named a faculty mentor by a 2012-2013 scholar.

Zachary PlotkinZachary Plotkin
Teacher Mentor: Matthew Noon, Pointers Run Elementary, Clarksville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Mary Bowden*, Aerospace Engineering

Mr. Matthew Noon taught me in third and fifth grades, and has become a significant influence in my life, both inside and outside the classroom. Our families have stayed close, and he has become the older brother I never had. He was the person I could go to with problems that I didn't feel comfortable discussing with my parents, and looking back he always gave advice and guidance which I know my parents would have approved. His impact on my life allowed me to become the son, big brother, and student that I am today. At Maryland, I took my first college engineering class, Mechanics I, with Professor Mary Bowden. I then completed my freshman aerospace project under her supervision, took her Aerospace Structures course, and have served as a teaching fellow for her for two semesters. Professor Bowden's teaching style makes engineering fun. When you're in her course, the classroom becomes an interactive environment where students understand what engineering is and how to use it. Outside the classroom, Professor Bowden has given me guidance about my career path after graduation, showing the passion she has for her students and their success. Professor Bowden helped me transition from a kid who was good at math and science to a young adult who is passionate about the field of aerospace engineering.

*Mary Bowden was named a faculty mentor by a 2012-2013 scholar.

MiriamMiriam Silton
Teacher Mentor: Karen Sigwart, C. Milton Wright High School, Bel Air, MD
Faculty Mentor: Isabel Lloyd, Materials Science and Engineering

In high school, Ms. Karen Sigwart, my calculus teacher, provided mentorship that helped push me to new heights. In her Calculus I & II class, Ms. Sigwart created activities and promoted discussions that helped the class visualize difficult concepts, while her prior experience as an engineer helped me understand how you can apply mathematics toward an engineering career. Ms. Sigwart pushed me during my senior year to better prepare for an engineering track in college, and provided encouragement and advice regarding both the subject and my future goals. Here at Maryland, Professor Isabel Lloyd has been the faculty member that has helped keep me on track to graduate. As a mentor, she is always willing to share advice or connect me with someone else who can help, and I feel comfortable discussing both academic and non-academic subjects with her. Professor Lloyd pushes me to apply for awards and attempt difficult classes, and through working with her as a teaching fellow I have developed leadership and mentorship skills of my own.

Rebbecca KingRebecca King
Teacher Mentor: Maria Hiaasen, Dulaney High School, Lutherville-Timonium, MD
Faculty Mentor: Cindy Wright, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

I would not be where I am today if not for the incredible support from the people around me. In high school, Maria Hiaasen, helped me discover my love and passion for journalism. She believed that I had the writing and communication skills to succeed in her journalism class, and she encouraged me to enroll. With Ms. Hiaasen's guidance, I went on to become the editor in chief of the school newspaper, spending countless hours with the team in the lab, eating lots of takeout, and falling more and more in love with the field of journalism. That love only continued to grow during college. During the first week of Professor Cindy Wright's producing class, I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. No one has taught me more about the kind of producer and the kind of person I want to be going forward than Professor Wright. I can't thank my mentors enough for being such strong women and inspirational role models in the field of journalism.

Kirby RhodesKirby Rhodes
Teacher Mentor: Andrew Collins, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, MD
Faculty Mentor: Devon Payne-Sturges, Applied Environmental Health

Throughout my schooling, I have benefited from many great teachers, notably, Mr. Andrew Collins, my high school International Baccalaureate (IB) Theory of Knowledge teacher, and Professor Devon Payne-Sturges, my Environmental Health professor. Both have taught me to strive to reach my full academic potential. In high school, Mr. Collins helped me realize the value of learning and supported me while I was writing my extended essay. Under his guidance, I learned to think more critically and became a better writer and student. Thanks to Mr. Collins’s example, I strive to be a leader academically, creatively, and professionally. During my sophomore year of college, I took my first environmental health class with Professor Payne-Sturges. Her course helped me understand the impacts of environmental health and policy on Public Health, especially for different racial and economic groups. Her captivating classroom environment encouraged me to fully engage in discussions about environmental justice, and her emphasis on multifaceted learning has helped me become a more critical thinker. I would like to thank Mr. Collins and Professor Payne-Sturges for encouraging me to continue learning and being the best student I can be.

Erin Sullivan
Teacher Mentor: Michael Bruner, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School, Baltimore, MD
Faculty Mentor: John Hart, Family Science

I am incredibly excited to recognize the amazing dedication and mentorship of both Mr. Michael Bruner and Professor John Hart. Mr. Bruner's English classes, which I had the pleasure of taking in ninth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, were some of the most challenging and thought-provoking classes of my high school years. Through discussing literature and writing, I grew to love analytical and creative thinking. Mr. Bruner's high expectations inspired me to work harder and strive for excellence in a way I had never done before. Over my four years of high school, Mr. Bruner and I developed a unique and special mentoring relationship. At the University of Maryland, I have had the opportunity to learn from a number of inspiring and brilliant professors. However, it was not until I took Professor Hart's class that I felt the same expectation of excellence that I did with Mr. Bruner. Professor Hart challenged us to produce exceptional work and to overcome our own biases in order to address the most controversial social issues of today. Both of these teachers and mentors encouraged me to work hard and dream big, and without their confidence and support I would not be the student I am today.

Rachel SmithRachel Smith
Teacher Mentor:
Lisa Sopher, Hereford High School, Parkton, MD
Faculty Mentor: Christina Getrich, Anthropology

As my writing teacher in high school, Ms. Lisa Sopher encouraged me to explore, to be more creative, to follow my dreams and to take the lead on my life. From freshman year through senior year, she mentored me to think outside of the box and think about the world beyond Hereford High School. Under her guidance, I served as the editor of our creative writing magazine during my senior year. When I wanted to graduate early and move away to Boston, she supported me and encouraged me to create my own journey. Another individual who has insisted that I take on seemingly impossible challenges and dreams is Professor Christina Getrich. From my very first day after transferring to Maryland, I was engaged in Professor Getrich's anthropology class. She is always supportive of her students and encourages us to critique and add more nuance to what we think we already know. Through her class, I've become a better writer, a better activist, a better student, and a better person in the world. I'm grateful to have strong mentors like Ms. Sopher and Professor Getrich.

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