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The 2020-2021 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars

College of Arts and Humanities

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Robert H. Smith School of Business

College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences

A. James Clark School of Engineering

Individual Studies Program

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

School of Public Health

Marisa Fried, Linguistics, Spanish
Teacher Mentor: Prudence Crewdson, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, MD
Faculty Mentor: Tonia Bleam, Linguistics

I am so grateful for the wonderful mentorship of Ms. Prudence Crewdson and Professor Tonia Bleam. In high school I absolutely loved English class with Ms. Crewdson, especially the few minutes of mindfulness she led before each class. When I got to college, I was able to apply what I had learned from Ms. Crewdson to better handle the pressure of transitioning to higher education. Now that I am nearing my graduation from University of Maryland, I feel lucky to have had an equally strong mentor guiding me through my time in college. Professor Bleam has been the best mentor any linguistics student could ask for. Despite being incredibly busy, she always makes time for her students, whether they need help with class material or just need to talk. I am so lucky to have had Ms. Crewdson's and Professor Bleam's guidance and mentorship through my career as a student.

Siri Neerchal, Mathematics, History
Teacher Mentor: Joanne Scheler, Centennial Lane Elementary School, Ellicott City, MD
Faculty Mentor: Colleen Woods, History

I was lucky to have Ms. Joanne Scheler as my teacher in the gifted and talented program every year at Centennial Lane Elementary School. Ms. Scheler taught us everything from small quarterly seminars on archaeology and transportation to regular daily math classes. She often went out of her way to give me extra problems or readings that she thought I might like. Ms. Scheler encouraged my desire to learn, and she helped me discover my passion for teaching others. When I first came to the University of Maryland, I was a mathematics major searching for other areas to explore. As a sophomore, I added a second major in history. I approached Professor Colleen Woods for guidance in an independent study on postcolonial theory, and since then, she has been a source of conversation, ideas, and support. My discussions with her have shaped my ideas and have helped me rework existing systems and concepts into a refined critical framework that informs my approach to quantitative research. I am very grateful to have had Ms. Scheler and Professor Woods as influential figures in my life.

William Wong, English, History
Teacher Mentor: Robert Thomas, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Gregory Staley, Classics

In my senior year, I took a philosophy class with Mr. Robert Thomas, and I was struck by the high expectations that he had for his students and the intensive coursework that he assigned. Over that year, I did close readings of philosophical texts and studied the history, logic, and argumentation behind the ideas proposed by Eastern and Western philosophers. The class synthesized my academic interests and provided me with a clearer idea of what I wanted to study at University of Maryland. A particular personal impact from the class came from our unit on animal liberation in which I found the arguments for vegetarianism so persuasive that I have not eaten meat since. Over my two years in the Honors Humanities program, Professor Gregory Staley has been there for me when I needed guidance on my coursework, my Keystone project, and even my life plans. I would often meet with Professor Staley to discuss ideas for my projects, and in our conversations, he would share his wisdom on all sorts of topics, from practical advice for my research to the lessons taught to us by the Classics. I’m so grateful for both of these mentors for their guidance.

Julia Reicin, Geographic Information Science, Psychology
Teacher Mentor: Paul Jacobson, Winston Churchill High School, Potomac, MD
Faculty Mentor: Julie Silva, Department of Geographical Sciences
I am a firm believer in ‘mens sana in corpore sano,’ that being physically competitive strengthens my academic and leadership potential. Mr. Paul Jacobson helped to instill this concept in me throughout my time in high school, as he inspired me both in the classroom and on the track. He challenged me to look at politics and policy from different perspectives. His passion for history, government and running has influenced me not just as a student but as an overall person. Professor Julie Silva’s course on economic geography both challenged and inspired me in the college classroom. She highlighted important social justice issues that occur in global production networks, and has helped to shape the direction of my career path. She taught me to think critically and consider new alternatives for trying to solve societal challenges. Her approachable demeanor and her extensive knowledge have enabled me to fine-tune my research interests and better prepare me for graduate school. I am extremely grateful to these invaluable teachers who have helped shape me into the person I have become. Thank you to my mentors for their continued inspiration, guidance and support.

Dhruva Someshwar, Government & Politics
Teacher Mentor: Sylvia Kim, James Hubert Blake High School, Silver Spring, MD
Faculty Mentor: Mark Forrester, English

Ms. Sylvia Kim, my 12th grade AP Literature teacher, was a wonderful teacher, mentor, and friend throughout my years of high school. Ms. Kim taught me to love learning in all subjects, even those I didn’t like at first, and showed me the value of working smart and hard. In all spheres of my life, academic, professional, and personal, Ms. Kim was a guiding force. I wouldn’t be the student or the person I am today without her. Professor Mark Forrester showed the same compassion and dedication to students in his English courses. He is always willing to go the extra mile to help his students, and makes every effort to be the best professor he can. He not only taught me invaluable skills but he exemplified the passion and thoughtfulness I strive to achieve in my career and life.

Mary Yilma, Economics, Mathematics
Teacher Mentor: Paul Kevin Moose, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, MD
Faculty Mentor: Jessica Goldberg, Economics

I am glad to be able to thank my tenth grade Global Studies teacher, Mr. Moose, whose commitment to fostering conscious global citizenship extended far beyond the classroom. He never put any limits on educational opportunities; he took his students to seminars on Middle Eastern studies at Georgetown, signed us up to compete in trivia competitions hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, and also served as an advisor for our Model United Nations team. Mr. Moose validated my interest in international studies, and I am still interested in pursuing a career in international development to this day. I am also delighted to say thank you to Professor Jessica Goldberg. Dr. Goldberg directs PADE, a program that provides academic support to students with the aim of increasing diversity and achievement among economics majors. She gave me tireless feedback on my academic choices, introduced me to some great graduate student mentors, and helped me learn about different careers in economics and what their day-to-day entails. Dr. Goldberg is always in my corner and willing to suggest options I didn’t even know existed; her office is always open, and she goes above and beyond for her students. I cannot thank her enough for her guidance

Desiree Morrison, Accounting, Operations Management and Business Analytics
Teacher Mentor: Richard Sherin, formerly of Murray Hill Middle School, Laurel, MD
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Progyan Basu, Accounting and Information Assurance

I am so grateful to have amazing mentors that inspire me to live up to my full potential. The first mentor I had was Mr. Richard Sherin, my seventh grade Biology teacher. During his class at Murray Hill Middle School I learned basic life lessons of business and leadership. His commitment to my personal development jump started my self-confidence and makes him one of the best mentors I've ever had. When I began at University of Maryland, I thought I hated accounting. Professor Progyan Basu completely changed how I feel about the discipline and gave me the confidence to become the college student and future CPA I am today. Thanks to these incredible mentors and teachers, I now have a passion for mentoring others and helping to ensure a brighter future for students after me.

Joseph Trubnick, Finance; Minor: Real Estate Development
Teacher Mentor: Shmuel Kurtz, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Skokie, IL
Faculty Mentor: Julie Pavlovsky, Finance

Rabbi Shmuel Kurtz taught me Jewish Talmud during my sophomore year of high school and Hebrew during my junior and senior years. Rabbi Kurtz was my favorite teacher in high school, because he was extremely genuine, deeply cared about our class, and was determined to intellectually stimulate us, while maintaining a positive and fun atmosphere. He hosted “Philosophical Fridays,” when our class could ask questions and dig deeper into life’s purpose. These discussions were especially helpful for me, as an inquisitive and curious teenager. To conclude our Talmudic studies, we had a gathering at a classmate’s house where we ate dinner together, watched the movie that connected to our class’s philosophical theme, and prayed at the beach during the next morning’s sunrise. Professor Julie Pavlovsky taught me Financial Markets and Wall Street Finance during my Sophomore year and directed the Wall Street Fellows program, which I participated in. As I hope to pursue a career on Wall Street, Professor Pavlovsky has been a very helpful mentor and has taught me the important lesson of giving and fostering a community of like-minded peers.

Angela Yang, Information Systems and Operations Management, Business Analytics
Teacher Mentor: Sheryl Braun, Corona del Sol High School, Tempe, AZ
Faculty Mentor: Pamela Armstrong, Decision, Operations and Information Technologies

During high school, I joined Key Club, an international service organization, under the guidance of Ms. Sheryl Braun. She encouraged club members to use our strengths and pushed us to be ambitious in our service projects. Eventually I was lucky enough to serve as the club leader, with Ms. Braun’s mentorship. These experiences helped me learn the importance of service and shaped me into the leader I am today. At University of Maryland, Professor Pamela Armstrong is one of the leaders of the QUEST Honors Program. She encourages her students to think through problems with a critical eye and to always produce high quality work. While working on a recent project designing ways to strengthen the OMBA program, Professor Amrstrong inspired me with her open mind and her drive to improve everything around her.

Nicole Hewitt Oehlmann, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
Teacher Mentor: Deborah Hewitt, West River Home School, Galesville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Tim Canty, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

I was home-schooled through high school, so during that time my mother was my primary teacher. Before she started home-schooling, she researched the best methods and curriculum for my education, and thanks to her efforts, I had opportunities that I might not have had in a traditional school including elective courses tailored towards my interests, field trips, and dual enrollment classes at a community college. Additionally, she developed a curriculum that worked best for my learning style, which gave me a strong foundation of knowledge to build off once I entered college. My mentor at University of Maryland is Professor Tim Canty. As my professor and academic advisor in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences program, he has done a great deal to help me further my education. He has pushed me to enroll in challenging coursework, including graduate-level courses, and he has connected me with scientists at the Ocean Prediction Center. With his guidance, I have found a research project that I am passionate about and am looking forward to working on during my senior year.

Daniel Oh, Biological Sciences
Teacher Mentor: Catherine Ulicny, Clarksburg High School, Clarksburg, MD
Faculty Mentor: Sabrina Kramer, Honors College

I have had the fortune to work with amazing educators throughout my academic career, and Ms. Catherine Ulicny and Professor Sabrina Kramer stand out as amazing mentors. In my high school AP Biology class, Ms. Ulincy helped me discover my passion for the biological sciences. I served as her student assistant, where she helped me teach other students and initiated my spark for education. Ms. Ulicny’s dedication to her students, always going above and beyond to ensure the success of her students, is a trait I admire and hope to replicate. As the associate director for the Integrated Life Sciences Honors program and my professor for cell biology, Professor Kramer was one of the first people I met at University of Maryland, and she is always available to talk with students looking for academic and professional guidance. Her mentorship has helped me with finding internships and navigating my plans for graduate school. Professor Kramer has also been a strong mentor in my experience as an undergraduate teaching assistant, helping me improve my teaching abilities and reinforce my interest in education. Ms. Ulicny and Professor Kramer have been instrumental in my growth, and I am thankful for their investment in my academic journey.

Pavan Ravindra, Biochemistry, Computer Science
Teacher Mentor: Kelly Wester, River Hill High School, Clarksville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Pratyush Tiwary, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Ms. Kelly Wester was my teacher for Chemistry and Environmental Science in high school. She was an amazing teacher who always got every student involved in class discussions. Attending her class was always the highlight of my day, and I’m grateful for the guidance and support she gave me, even after I graduated to help me transition to college. Whenever I visit my high school, Ms. Wester is always the first person I go to see. At the University of Maryland, Professor Pratyush Tiwary has been a huge role model for me. I started doing research in his lab at a time when I wasn't sure about what career path I wanted to choose, but after talking to him and working with him for just a few weeks, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in research. Professor Tiwary has a way of looking at the world of research and a passion for learning that has inspired me and all of the students in his lab to learn as much as we can.

James Baldwin, Fire Protection Engineering
Teacher Mentor: Lee Hirsch, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, MD
Faculty Mentor: Peter Sunderland, Fire Protection Engineering

I had the good fortune to begin developing my technical background under Dr. Lee Hirsch, my high school Physics and Applied Science teacher. With his help, I learned not only fundamental physics and engineering principles, but also their practical applications, such as earthquake-resistant structural design and basic robot programming. Dr. Hirsch's mentorship nurtured an interest in engineering and fostered a passion for learning. I have been fortunate enough to continue developing this passion for learning with Professor Peter Sunderland, specifically on several of his research projects focusing on varying aspects of the Fire Science field. Professor Sunderland has provided me with thoughtful direction and significant autonomy, which has allowed me to further develop my technical skill set to a great degree as well as practice an inquisitive perspective when approaching challenging situations. I am extremely grateful to both Dr. Hirsch and Professor Sunderland for their generous support and mentorship throughout this fundamental stage in my professional development

Samantha Kraus, Bioengineering
Teacher Mentor: Matthew Groden, formerly of Pennsbury High School, Fairless Hills, PA
Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Stroka, Bioengineering

I can say wholeheartedly that my calculus teacher, Mr. Matthew Groden, helped me genuinely love learning. Encouraging his students with tireless and sincere support, Mr. Groden let me see that math is not a tedium of formulas to be memorized, but a rewarding puzzle to be solved. I carried this philosophy with me to college, where Professor Kimberly Stroka introduced me to undergraduate research as a way to fulfill my curiosity. Professor Stroka’s emphasis on scientific curiosity and self-motivated exploration in my biomechanics and stem cell classes has been instrumental in my work in the Fischell Departmental honors program. With this inspiration and motivation, I became more adept at applying human factors, and not just physics and biology, into experimental solutions. I hope to continue to “make the world more compassionate and intelligent,” as Mr. Groden would say.

Alana Tillery, Bioengineering
Teacher Mentor: William Ford, King's Fork High School, Suffolk, VA
Faculty Mentor: Angela Jones, Bioengineering

Ever encouraging, cheerful, and full of wisdom, Mr. William Ford’s teaching and mentorship helped me conquer Geometry and Algebra. His earnest support in my ninth and tenth grade years of high school were extraordinarily valuable in helping me strive to reach my potential. Here at the University of Maryland, Professor Angela Jones has taught me leadership in every sense of the word. When I was in her Biology for Engineers course as a first year student, I felt inspired by her compelling teaching style and her helpful asides about pursuing engineering. With her guidance, I have developed a drive toward defined academic and professional goals in the bioengineering field. I am very grateful for the opportunity to thank both of these mentors.

Veeraj Pranab Shah, Health Policy & Technology, Biological Sciences
Teacher Mentor: Theresa Goldberg, Severna Park High School, Severna Park, MD
Faculty Mentor: Todd Cooke, Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics

Ms. Theresa Goldberg and Professor Todd Cooke have had an immeasurable impact on my development as a student, a researcher, and a leader. From the time I was in tenth grade, Ms. Goldberg always pushed me to be inquisitive and to always follow my passion. In high school, she helped me improve as a speaker and as a writer, and continues to be a great mentor to me today. I remember coming to college and meeting Professor Cooke in my first week. He has helped me navigate University of Maryland and translate my interests into action. He helps guide my indecisiveness and has taught me to always be true to myself. At each step of my growth, Professor Cooke has been there for me, and I cannot thank him enough. In fact, often when I make a decision about my academics or co-curriculars today, I ask myself, "What would Professor Cooke think?"

Angela Roberts, Journalism, Criminal Justice and Criminology
Teacher Mentor: Nicole Sitler, Peters Township High School, McMurray, PA
Faculty Mentor: Sean Mussenden, Journalism

I am grateful for the opportunity to thank Ms. Nicole Sitler and Professor Sean Mussenden, two people who have moved me by their kindness and dedication to their students. Ms. Sitler was my high school journalism teacher, and for three years she really let me go wild, cheering me along as I spent class periods bugging students for interviews and writing about whatever was making my blood boil that month. She was one of the first people to help me believe that I could make a living off of telling stories. From the first time I met Professor Mussenden, I’ve been floored by how eagerly he drops everything to help all students. On a tour of the University, my mom and I stopped by his office unannounced, and he spoke to us for over an hour. He’s been my most enthusiastic advocate, truly going above and beyond anytime I ask him for assistance. For how much Ms. Sitler and Professor Mussenden have supported me, I know I wasn’t the first student they’ve mentored, and I definitely won’t be the last.

Alexis Jones, Kinesiology
Teacher Mentor: Corey White, Appoquinimink High School, Middletown, DE
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sarah Kuzmiak-Glancy, Kinesiology

Ms. Corey White was one of my teachers in tenth grade, and every day she challenged me to think in larger and more abstract ways. She pushed me beyond my known limits, allowing me to reach greater academic success and realize my true potential. Her willingness to help her students and her dedication to education provided me with the motivation and passion to learn. The knowledge I obtained from her class became a foundation that I continue to build upon today. I met Professor Sarah Glancy during my junior year here at University of Maryland. Her kinesiology course helped me further develop both my critical thinking skills and my clinical skills. Since I have known her, I have grown not only as a student but as a researcher. Professor Glancy’s enthusiasm and passion for research and its applications to everyday life has inspired my own interest in research and greater learning. The mentorship of these two outstanding teachers has prompted my success up to this point and prepared me for the future, and I am continually grateful.

Danielle Livingstone, Kinesiology
Teacher Mentor: Cyrus Ishikawa, Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD
Faculty Mentor: Lenea Stocker, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Both of my mentors came into my life at times when I needed to make decisions about my educational path. I met Dr. Cyrus Ishikawa during my sophomore year of high school. This was an important time for me to consider what I wanted to do in life, and Dr. Ishikawa mentored me to choose classes that aligned with my interests and prepared me for college. At University of Maryland, Professor Lenea Stocker helped me determine if I wanted to continue on the pre-med track. Both of my mentors helped to instill in me patience, persistence, and dedication to my work, myself, and my future. They showed me that as long as I am willing to do the work, they will be right there with me to help me get to where I need to be. Whenever I had an issue, whether it was about schoolwork or what was going on at the time, they offered me guidance which has been very beneficial as I approach my final year of my undergraduate degree with medical school as the next step in my career path.