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The 2015-2016 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars

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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Jaclyn Fiola

School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Yumeng Wang

College of Arts and Humanities

Thomas Voracek

Joel Vazquez

Stacia Odenwald

Neomi Rao

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Christopher Hollrah

Meghan Imwold

Rachel Pak

Mackenzie Wittle

Robert H. Smith School of Business

Alexander Wilson

Liya Ai

Yash Mehta


College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Sarahann Yeh

Julia Waigner

Marissa Dattler

Ryan Kuo

College of Education

Julia Ring

A. James Clark School of Engineering

Ryan Chow

Sarah Niezelski

Rose Weinstein

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Annika McGinnis

School of Public Health

Alexandra Robbins

Jessica Carrignan

Office of Undergraduate Studies

Erik Martin


Jaclyn FiolaJaclyn Fiola

Teacher Mentor
Peter O’Connor
Boonsboro High School
Boonsboro, MD

Faculty Mentor
Gary Coleman
Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture

I have been fortunate to have had many great mentors, but two stand out: my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Peter O'Connor, and my plant science professor, Dr. Gary Coleman. Mr. O.C., as we called him, was the first teacher who believed in me as an individual. His AP Chemistry class was challenging, and he was always willing to answer all of my questions. My classmates and I would often hang out in his classroom after school to ask questions and generally absorb his wisdom. He encouraged us to think critically and independently, and taught us simple, valuable skills that I now use on a daily basis, such as making solutions, reading volume at the bottom of the meniscus and mastering dimensional analysis. I took Professor Coleman's plant propagation class my sophomore year and was fascinated by the intersection of plant physiology, genetics, chemistry and bioengineering. When I expressed interest in the subject, he welcomed me into his lab to work on some of his projects. I learned more from going to lab meetings and working in the tissue culture lab than I would have in a classroom. Professor Coleman is also always willing to answer questions or give advice about the future, and he helped me find a career path. These two mentors have given me the skills and motivation to be successful in the future, and they also taught me to not take science, or myself, too seriously.

Yumeng WangYumeng Wang

Teacher Mentor
Robert Hines
Richard Montgomery High School
Rockville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Madlen Simon
School of Architecture

While I never had any particular fondness for history, Mr. Robert Hines pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, giving me a challenging workload on par with—and even surpassing—most college course loads. His unwavering confidence in me allowed me to set high expectations for myself. I first encountered Professor Madlen Simon in an architectural design course my freshman year. Even before I entered the architecture studio program, Professor Simon was dedicated to nourishing my interest and abilities in architecture. She connected me with an externship with an architectural firm where I was able to gain a better understanding of the industry. She remains a mentor and has helped me gain a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints.

Thomas VoracekThomas Voracek

Teacher Mentor
Lisa Loughry
Middletown High School
Middletown, MD

Faculty Mentor
Catherine Schuler
Department of Women’s Studies

The memorable mentors in my life are the ones who pushed me to become the best I could be and were always available to answer my questions and guide my thoughts. Ms. Lisa Loughry was my first and my last high school English teacher. Without fail, she was there to help, through her red ink comments on my essays, her probing questions during oral debate and argument in class, and after school just sitting in her classroom. Ms. Loughry set very high standards for all of her students, but also made sure to give her students feedback and encouragement. When I came to the University of Maryland, I was fortunate to meet Professor Catherine Schuler. At the time, I had not yet declared a major, and simply popped into her office to chat about Russia. That chat evolved first into a set of independent readings and research and then into a course we developed and taught together. I'm not sure what I would be doing if Professor Schuler did not make herself available to me, but it would not be what I am doing now. She encouraged me to follow my passions, even if they led to an unconventional path. To both Ms. Lisa Loughry and Professor Catherine Schuler, I want to say thank you for allowing me to make mistakes and ask questions, and for pushing me to do what you knew I could, even if I doubted myself.

Joel VasquezJoel Vasquez

Teacher Mentor
Patrick Morris
Bowie High School
Bowie, MD

Faculty Mentor
Janelle Wong
Asian American Studies

A defining part of my high school experience was when I would visit my Advanced Placement Government and Politics teacher, Mr. Patrick Morris, and ask him for the answers to the many challenges I faced at the time. Instead, he gave me something better: the guidance to create my own path and my own success. Although I did not realize it at the time, I eventually took these lessons to heart when I met my ARHU mentor, Professor Janelle Wong. When I first stepped into her office, I was still trying to figure out my place at the university. I felt that I needed to become more involved, and I wanted to find a more solid place and purpose. Professor Wong did more than give me guidelines on my academic pathway. Her mentorship eventually culminated in my participation in the ARHU Dean's Advisory Board, the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program and the Filipino Cultural Association. All these experiences are a result of the mentoring I received from Prof. Wong and Mr. Morris, individuals who, instead of giving me all the answers, let me sit it out and find my own future for myself.

Stacia OdenwalStacia Odenwald

Teacher Mentor
Claudia Frank
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
Bethesda, MD

Faculty Mentor
David Wyatt
Department of English

My Advanced Placement literature teacher, Ms. Claudia Frank, introduced me to the realm of literary criticism. Not only did she cover material required for the AP exam, but she also applied it to real-life situations in order to deepen students' understanding. By analyzing modern-day rap songs for class projects, I realized the practical use of rhetoric, figurative language and poetic devices, and I subsequently became interested in how creative texts operate as spaces for societal critique and cultural change. Because of Ms. Frank's interesting and engaging teaching, I realized my passion to study English literature and poetry. At UMD, Professor David Wyatt strengthened this passion. Through his open-discussion classes where weekly participation is required for success, I developed the critical skills and confidence necessary to develop, verbalize, and defend my opinions. His mentorship and teaching led me to decide to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature. I will be forever grateful for these two teachers for inspiring me through their example and their instruction.

Neomi Rao

Teacher Mentor
William Manion
Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Greenbelt, MD

Faculty Mentor
Margaret Antonisse
Department of Linguistics

One of the biggest contributions to my success in high school was the classroom experience with my AP English Language teacher, Mr. William Manion. Mr. Manion always encouraged thoughtful discussion about a wide spectrum of topics, and those discussions fostered my own passion for critical thinking. Due to his dedication, I was able to develop analytical and argumentative skills not only in my writing, but also in my thinking. He encouraged me academically and was a great support as I applied for college. When I first came to the University of Maryland, I was overwhelmed with the number of people on campus. All of that changed my second year when I decided to major in linguistics and met my adviser, Professor Margaret Antonisse. She was genuinely invested in my success. I had many of the opportunities that shaped my educational experience because of Professor Antonisse. From language science research, to serving on the ARHU Dean's Advisory Board, to recommendations for my semester abroad in Amsterdam, Professor Antonisse encouraged my personal and academic growth.

Alexander WilsonAlexander Wilson

Teacher Mentor
Andrew Moore
Formerly, Calvert Hall College High School, Baltimore, MD

Faculty Mentor
Sarah Kroncke
Department of Finance

My life would be radically different without the influence of my high school and college mentors. Dr. Andrew Moore single-handedly convinced me to attend Calvert Hall, a life-changing decision, given my involvement in music, my passion for learning and the many lifelong friends I made there. His wealth of knowledge, both on the topics of his academic studies and life, has been invaluable to me. His passion for teaching and for his students are traits I hope to have one day. Like Dr. Moore, Professor Sarah Kroncke has had a great impact on my life. My interest in finance developed at the University of Maryland, and it was her influence during my time on the Senbet Fund that propelled me to an internship on Wall Street. The outcome of my undergraduate career would be far less than it is without her lessons on teamwork, critical thinking and technical skillsets, all within the context of finance. My mentors have left incredible impacts on my life, and I am grateful to have learned from them.

Liya AiyaLiya Ai

Teacher Mentor
Tony Sohn
Poolesville High School
Poolesville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Hassan Ibrahim*
Department of Decision, Operations & Information Technologies

Mr. Tony Sohn was my AP Economics teacher. While I was exhausted by eighth period when his class was held, I always looked forward to the class because Mr. Sohn had an energetic spirit and made class fun and engaging. I distinctly remember a time I stayed after class to ask for help. Mr. Sohn walked me patiently through example after example, until I understood the concept and could teach it back to him. His dedication to his students extended far beyond the classroom, and I'll always remember the long talks he had with us about trying our best and not worrying about the future. At the Smith School, I've had the honor of working with Professor Hassan Ibrahim, not only as a professor, but also as a mentor and faculty advisor for my student organization. He has truly been an inspiration in both his commitment to his students in the classroom and to the Business and Information Technology Society (BITS). As president of BITS, I can't count the number of late nights Professor Ibrahim has given up to meet with my executive board and to guide us through tough decisions. My organization would be nothing without his time and support, and for that I am eternally grateful. He's taught me so much about passion and dedication and how to lead with integrity and by example. Both Professor Ibrahim and Mr. Sohn are exemplary teachers and mentors who have inspired and pushed me to uncover my own potential. I would not be the person I am today without their encouragement along the way.

*Professor Ibrahim was named Faculty Mentor by a 2005–06 Philip Merrill Scholar.

Yash MehtaYash Mehta

Teacher Mentor
David Schwab
Tuscarora High School
Frederick, MD

Faculty Mentor
Bobby Zhou
Department of Marketing

Many people want a mentor, but few truly ever find one. I have been fortunate enough to have many, but two who have had a particular impact on me are Mr. David Schwab, my high school AP Language and Composition teacher, and Professor Bobby Zhou, my college marketing research professor. Mr. Schwab taught not with his head in the books, but rather with his eyes on his students. He engaged his students with humor, stories and activities, all while giving them the critical writing skills they needed to succeed in their careers. As I sat in his class, it was evident to me that he loved his job. Professor Zhou teaches a course I absolutely did not want to take: Marketing Research. Teaching a bunch of creative marketing majors how to crunch numbers and look at conjoint analyses is no easy task. However, he takes up the challenge with his optimistic personality and smiling face. But Professor Zhou's lightheartedness and compassion should not be mistaken for a lack of high expectations. I've learned not only a great deal about marketing research but also how a good team leader interacts with his followers. What he has taught me in the classroom and outside will help me as I progress through my career.

Christopher HollrahChristopher Hollrah

Teacher Mentor
Monica Malanoski
Winston Churchill High School
Potomac, MD

Faculty Mentor
Katherine Abraham
Department of Economics

I first developed an interest in economics while taking the AP course with Ms. Monica Malanoski. Her class taught the intuition behind many economic concepts, which is a large reason for my interest in the subject. Further, I had the pleasure of being her teaching assistant for the class the following year. Working alongside Ms. Malanoski during my final year of high school helped increase my passion for teaching. In my junior year in college, I had reached a roadblock in economics. While the topics were interesting, I was struggling to find an area that I found exciting. Luckily, Professor Katharine Abraham's class on economic policies changed that. Her personal stories, vast knowledge of the field and commitment to having everyone in class produce good work was inspiring. Thanks to her class and guidance, I was able to find several areas that I would enjoy researching. I look forward to Professor Abraham's mentorship as I continue to work with her this school year. I am very thankful for the all of the great mentors I have had and hope to be able to do the same in the future.

Meghan ImwoldMeghan Imwold

Teacher Mentor
Jennifer Dabirsiaghi
Perry Hall High School
Baltimore, MD

Faculty Mentor
John Pease*
Department of Sociology

While I have forgotten many of the obscure facts that I learned sophomore year of high school in my AP World History class, I haven't forgotten the support I received from my teacher, Mrs. Jen Dabirsiaghi. She worked to build a sense of community within her classes and relate to her students. Because of this, I spent many afternoons with her to talk about college applications and acceptances, other classes, extracurriculars and whatever else was happening in my life. I am very thankful that I have continued my relationship with Mrs. Dabirsiaghi after high school because she has been able to provide such valuable advice and encouragement. At the University of Maryland, I was fortunate to have another mentor, Professor John Pease, who prioritized connecting with his students on an individual level and building relationships outside of the classroom. I have taken two of his sociology classes and worked with him for the past 18 months. Throughout this time, he never stopped providing me with books and articles related to my interests and pushing me to think critically. His support has motivated me to pursue challenging opportunities that connect my schoolwork to the real world. After graduation, I plan to enter the field of education, and I hope that I can use the lessons that I have learned from Mrs. Dabirsiaghi and Professor Pease in order to better myself as an educator.

*Professor Pease was named Faculty Mentor by 2005¬–06, 2009–10 and 2010–11Philip Merrill Scholars.

Rachel PakRachel Pak

Teacher Mentor
Matthew Salzman
Thomas S. Wootton High School
Rockville, MD

Faculty Mentor
John Laub
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

I still clearly remember my sophomore Honors Spanish class with Mr. Matthew Salzman. On the first day, he spoke entirely in Spanish—quite a shock! Mr. Salzman set the bar high for students, challenging us to find new words to expand our vocabulary and put extra effort into our assignments. He was thorough and punctual and gave his best effort when teaching and working with students. Mr. Salzman's influence played a part in my decision to participate in a Spanish exchange program in Argentina last semester. At the University of Maryland, I am especially grateful for the mentorship of Professor John Laub. His course on criminology was intriguing, and I gained an appreciation for research and its ability to shed light on human phenomena. Professor Laub also took the time to hear about my interests and aspirations after graduating, and provided the practical advice and encouragement I needed to believe in myself.

Mackenzie WhittleMackenzie Wittle

Teacher Mentor
Barbara Campion
Carrolltowne Elementary
Sykesville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Patricia Shields
Department of Biology

Many teachers and professors have had an impact on me becoming the person I am. Two mentor teachers have been instrumental in my education, helping me to become more successful. Mrs. Barbara Campion, my second-grade teacher, helped me develop a love for reading. She was energetic, humorous, kept me engaged in school and showed me the true value of an education. She followed my progress as a student, an athlete and a Scout all during my high school years. I am very grateful for Mrs. Campion for the person and student she helped to turn me into. Professor Patricia Shields was my biology teacher during freshman year at Maryland. She helped me through a very tough time in my personal life when I was away from my family. Her course was somewhat of a struggle, but Professor Shields pushed me to become more devoted to my academics, to be a more confident student and to realize the importance of hard work. She challenged me to learn more about the biological aspect of psychology, which has become one my favorite topics at UMD. I am thankful for everything Professor Shields has done for me and for the time she took to make me feel like an important person, not just one of many at Maryland.

Sarahann YehSarahann Yeh

Teacher Mentor
Donna Considine
Magruder High School
Rockville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Reid Compton*
Department of Biology

Mrs. Donna Considine's passion for teaching touches every student who enters her classroom. She is the most dedicated and inspirational teacher I have met. From opening her classroom during lunch to coordinating a fellowship program with Johns Hopkins University for her students, Mrs. Considine pushes her students to new heights. She also takes the time to connect with students individually, and I am so grateful for her care and dedication. It was in her class that I was originally inspired to pursue biology. At Maryland, it was Professor Reid Compton who immediately became a mentor to me. He has challenged me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Despite juggling many responsibilities within the college and College Park Scholars, he always has time to meet with students and help connect us with opportunities. From coordinating the annual Scholars Life Sciences camping trip, to inviting speakers to our colloquiums, to meeting with freshmen one-on-one, Professor Compton shows astounding care and dedication. I cannot think of a more deserving or passionate faculty member, and I am so grateful for all of his work.

*Professor Compton was named Faculty Mentor by a 2008–09 Philip Merrill Scholar.

Julia WaignerJulia Waigner

Teacher Mentor
Justin Sybenga
Capital City Public Charter School
Washington, DC

Faculty Mentor
David Buehrle
Department of Physics

I've never forgotten the critical thinking skills Mr. Justin Sybenga helped me develop in my high school English class. Few teachers encouraged creativity and alternative thought like he did. More than just a great teacher, Mr. Sybenga was supportive of out-of-class endeavors and took an interest in his students' lives. At a formative time in my life, Mr. Sybenga answered life and career questions and helped set me on my path. In college, Professor David Buehrle taught Physics II, a subject I feared, and turned it into one of my all-time favorite classes. He does an excellent job framing physical concepts in a biological light. He is approachable and always available for my questions, regardless of how relevant they were to coursework. Not only did he teach me physics, he taught me a new and integrative way to think about the sciences. I am lucky to know and have been taught by these two individuals.

Marissa DattlerMarissa Dattler

Teacher Mentor
Arlene Natalo
Hackettstown High School
Hackettstown, NJ

Faculty Mentor
Tim Canty
Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Science

Madame Arlene Natalo is passionate. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She is strong. She is independent. She is a belly dancer. I bet you were surprised by the last one. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind or deviate from the norm. She taught me French throughout my four years in high school. In hindsight, I was learning much more from her. Madame Natalo is a confident woman who fights for what is right. She was a role model for me throughout high school, though I didn't realize it at the time. If not for her, I would not be the same person I am today. I, and many others, cannot imagine the undergraduate program in atmospheric and oceanic science without Professor Tim Canty. He really cares and is always recruiting new students to our tiny group. He is the type of adviser who sends emails with new internship or scholarship opportunities. He encourages me, and others, to move forward academically, despite any challenges we may face.

Ryan KuoRyan Kuo

Teacher Mentor
Bethany Petr
Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School
Rockville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Gilmer Blankenship*
Department of Electrical and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

I have had the privilege of knowing Ms. Bethany Petr for all four years of high school. I vividly remember not understanding some programming concept and visiting her in the morning before school had started. Ms. Petr would motivate and help me whenever she could. Her course gave me the knowledge necessary for an internship, which was an important experience during my high school years. I am extremely grateful to Ms. Petr for keeping me on the right path. I had the opportunity to be a student in one of Professor Gilmer Blankenship's courses during my sophomore year and worked with him on a research project. He is willing to spend time to clarify any sort of concept that I find confusing. Whenever my teammates and I were stuck on our research project, Professor Blankenship provided insight or a new direction to try because he wanted to see us succeed. He inspires me to be the best that I can be and to try to accomplish as much as I can.

*Professor Blankenship was named a Faculty Mentor by 2007–08 and 2011–12 Philip Merrill Scholars.

Julia RingJulia Ring

Teacher Mentor
Maureen McDonaugh
Glenbrook High School
Northbrook, IL

Faculty Mentor
Noah Drezner
(formerly College of Education, University of Maryland)
Columbia University

The teachers who have had the most impact on me have been those who taught me how to be a leader. Mrs. Maureen McDonough was my teacher for sophomore chemistry. I had always struggled with the sciences, and I was very nervous beginning the school year. Mrs. McDonough was famous for taking on the persona of a fictional character, and offering no assistance while the class worked together on an experiment. Mrs. McDonough gave me the confidence to step up and lead, even when I was nervous. She helped me understand that it is okay to ask for help, and that going out of my comfort zone is a good idea. I was in Professor Noah Drezner's philanthropy course the second semester of my sophomore year. In the course, he walked us through the process of making tough decisions and taught us how to work as a team. Beyond the classroom, Professor Drezner and I also overlapped in the College of Education Senate, the leadership studies minor and involvement in Maryland Hillel. With so many similar interests, he served as an inspiration to me to develop into a strong leader, driven by social change and education.

Ryan ChowRyan Chow

Teacher Mentor
David Thomas
Middletown High School
Middletown, MD

Faculty Mentor
Kenneth Kiger
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Mr. David Thomas is an influential teacher who genuinely cares about his students. His extraordinary ability to effectively engage high school students with seemingly mundane chemistry concepts is surpassed only by his desire for students to succeed in the real world. He instills lifelong lessons such as individual responsibility and perseverance during every interaction with his students. Since I left high school, I have held the same level of respect for my own peers and professors as Mr. Thomas has for his students. At the University of Maryland, Professor Kenneth Kiger has influenced my education and personal character in a profound way. As a professor, he has taught me valuable technical skills that are crucial to my engineering career. As a mentor, he has inspired me to approach life with the same genuine curiosity that he transpires through his personal comportment. Professor Kiger imparts a creative mindset toward problem solving, an invaluable asset regardless of a student's field of work. His academic guidance and extracurricular mentorship have been crucial to my success as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland.

Sarah NiezelskiSarah Niezelski

Teacher Mentor
Vann Prime
Mt. Hebron High School
Ellicott City, MD

Faculty Mentor
Paige Smith
Women in Engineering Program

Mr. Vann Prime inspires excellence through his wholehearted commitment to the development of his students. I am able to think analytically and clearly articulate my theories and conclusions as a result of Mr. Prime's coaching in Mock Trial and the Economics Challenge. His devotion to my education gave me a strong foundation for my academics and extracurricular involvement in college. He gave me a new perspective on how to make decisions and solve problems. Mr. Prime showed me that no matter what I do, I will need an understanding of efficiency and innovation. Professor Paige Smith has made a lasting impact on my life by going above and beyond in her dedication to leading and empowering young women like me. She has unquestionably shaped my college experience and future through her diligent guidance and encouragement. Professor Smith has continually taken the time to know me as a student and a person. She understands my strengths and teaches me how to use them in new ways. Most importantly, she makes it clear that she believes in me. Her confidence and strong character have inspired me to work attentively, believe in myself and ask hard questions.

Rose WeinsteinRose Weinstein

Teacher Mentor
Faige Kramer
Bais Yaakov High School
Baltimore, MD

Faculty Mentor
James Hubbard
Department of Aerospace Engineering

Mrs. Faige Kramer, my 11th-grade math teacher, stands out as an exceptional mentor not only for teaching me trigonometry, but for also providing me with the necessary skills to continue learning. She taught me not only how to solve the math problems at hand, but also how to think on my own so that I would be able to solve any future problem. As a child, I looked up at the stars and dreamed about spreading my wings and exploring the "final frontier" In college, Professor James Hubbard gave me my wings when I joined Morpheus Lab, named for the god of dreams and for enabling students to pursue and fulfill their own. As my research adviser, he helped me choose a topic that was exciting and challenging. In the classroom, he gave me the resources I would need to approach the project and meet the goals. Professor Hubbard taught me to go above and beyond as a student, and he provides an exemplary model himself as a mentor. I look forward to the frontier of the future with many more dreams to fulfill.

Annika McGinnisAnnika McGinnis

Teacher Mentor
Ben Townsend
Wilde Lake High School
Columbia, MD

Faculty Mentor
Stacy Kosko
Department of Government & Politics

My academic mentors in high school and college have guided me in pursuit of my journalistic and international development goals. During my junior year of high school, Mr. Ben Townsend fostered my initial interest in journalism, giving me the academic tools to begin to explore the field. The next year, as editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, Mr. Townsend encouraged me to explore news stories, newspaper layout and multimedia/online elements. Professor Stacy Kosk has guided me as I pursued a minor in international development and conflict management and as my individual studies adviser. She helped me craft my self-created major in international development, including her recommendation that I integrate the study of development ethics into my curriculum. Through her invaluable insights and experience, she has also helped me narrow my career and academic interests, especially in combining my passions in international

Alexandra RobbinsAlexandra Robbins

Teacher Mentor
Leonardo De Valoes
Poolesville High School
Poolesville, MD

Faculty Mentor
Kenneth Beck
Department of Behavioral and Community Health

I have always enjoyed having teachers who are excited about course material and are able to share that excitement with their students. Mr. Leonardo De Valoes was my Spanish teacher during my junior and senior years of high school. I remember coming into class and seeing him with a big smile on his face. He made learning Spanish fun by having us do assignments such as analyzing song lyrics. In addition to bringing creativity to high school Spanish, Mr. De Valoes was always there to talk to and support his students. During the spring of my sophomore year at the University of Maryland, I was able to take a health elective class, "Communicating Health and Safety," with Professor Kenneth Beck. He engaged us in the class material by asking questions and showing interesting videos and advertisements. He was also there to help me with class material and a group project that made me interested in health communication and injury prevention. Professor Beck showed that same kindness, enthusiasm, support, and willingness in answering any questions.

Jessica CarringtonJessica Carrignan

Teacher Mentor
Frank Yip
Lincoln High School
Lincoln, RI

Faculty Mentor
Jo Zimmerman
Department of Kinesiology

Mr. Frank Yip was my freshman history teacher, then the faculty mentor for my capstone project my junior year of high school. His love and passion for teaching not only made learning enjoyable but inspired me to push the boundaries of my own learning capabilities. However, the true impact that he has had on my life went beyond the skills he provided us within the classroom. Waiting for basketball practice to begin, I spent hours each week after school in his room, where we would talk about anything from current events around the world and have in-depth debates on a variety of subjects. His ability to approach any situation with an open mind constantly challenged me to think critically and view life from different perspectives. I cannot thank him enough for the countless life lessons I learned from him, as I was able to grow and mature into a better person because of them. Professor Jo Zimmerman was one of my first kinesiology professors at the University of Maryland. Her introduction to the major and the enthusiastic teaching style that she embodies helped me solidify that I made the right choice in not only my major but school as well. While the expectations she set seemed daunting at first, she provided us with the tools and skills we needed to successfully transition to college and established a solid foundation that has helped me succeed throughout my years here. The time she takes out of her busy schedule to help support her students in any way she can has truly had a positive impact on my experiences as a kinesiology major.

Erik MartinErik Martin

Teacher Mentor
Robert Metcalf
Calverton School
Huntingtown, MD

Faculty Mentor
Hasan Elahi
Department of Art

A mentor is a person who helps a student find intellectual feet and begin to walk. My first mentor was Mr. Robert Metcalf, my middle school theater and English teacher, who prompted me to give my first public speech. He was the first educator I had who saw purpose and potential in my perhaps-naive belief that colossal change for the better is not impossible. The skills of persuasive writing and the ability to find and command a presence in theater are skills he shared that I continue to hone. My second mentor is Professor Hasan Elahi, who, much like Mr. Metcalf, allows me to frequently pop into his office and seek his help for plans and projects that, frankly, are not much less naive than they were in middle school. He never demands a certain path for me, and never trounces my less than brilliant ideas outright—he guides. I could only learn more from both of them.

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