Hard work, rewarded

National Scholarship Ceremony recognizes nine high-achieving students from UND

Clockwise from top left, the students pictured are: Merrick McMahon, Patricia Hopp, Kacie Baumler, Erin Morin, Shealynn Wells, Sydney Menne, Nathan Foster, Cheyden Paulson and Michelle Nguyen.

One student won an award to work with NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Another earned an award to learn a language vital to national security. Still others won grants to study in places such as Scotland, Germany and Taiwan.

These and other scholarship-winning students and the students’ faculty mentors were honored for their achievements at UND’s National Scholarship Ceremony on Friday.

About 40 people attended the ceremony, at which nine students were celebrated for the prestigious national scholarships they’d won this year.

Winning any scholarship is hard work, but winning a national scholarship – in competition with, at times, thousands of other students – is especially so, said Yee Han Chu, the ceremony’s organizer and UND’s academic support and fellowship opportunities coordinator.

“Yet these students put their hearts and souls into their applications, and I admire them so much for it,” Chu said.

UND Provost Eric Link speaks at the University’s 2021 National Scholarship Ceremony, which was held on campus in Columbia Hall. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

‘Like an extra college course’

That commitment starts with the students’ first researching the available scholarships, and doing so early enough to meet the deadlines. Usually, that means starting the search up to a year or more before the date of any hoped-for award.

Then comes getting the application materials. Then comes writing the essays – often a time-consuming process, because the students must show the insight they’ve gained from extensive self-reflection, but without coming off as boastful or arrogant.

“Then they rewrite and rewrite those essays, and then they must reach out for recommendations,” Chu said.

“Truly, it can be as time-consuming as taking an extra college course. And they do that without knowing at all whether they’re going to win; I mean, it’s like just being completely vulnerable, and embracing something that they believe in without any promise of return.

“I’m so in awe of that capacity,” Chu said.

UND Provost Eric Link agreed. “All of the recipients here today have done outstanding work and earned significant national recognition through these scholarships,” said Link, the featured speaker at the ceremony.

As impressively, “while the geographic locations and academic pursuits differ with each of these scholars, they all share a common bond of wanting to further their knowledge in order to give back to their communities and make this world a better place,” Link continued.

Yee Han Chu, academic support and fellowship opportunities coordinator at UND, speaks at the University’s 2021 National Scholarship Ceremony. Behind Chu is the University’s Scholarship Wall, which honors past winners of national scholarships. Staff photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

A scholarship team

One key to success in pursuing national scholarships is asking for advice. At UND, faculty members and Chu herself stand ready to help, especially when it comes to finding good scholarship opportunities and identifying the best approach.

“As the ceremony conveyed, winning a scholarship is not just an individual experience for a student,” Chu said. “We try to make sure they have support, and that they know this support is unwavering. I hope they get that sense.”

With that in mind, the faculty mentors for each student also were honored on Friday, receiving a plaque and the chance to stand with the provost and their student for photos.

Cheyden Paulson, a UND junior and the winner of a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department, thanked Chu and his other mentors for their help, as did the other students.

Paulson, a native of Richardton, N.D., pop. 851, recently was profiled as a leader in action at UND. “I came to UND not knowing what I wanted to do, other than I liked traveling and learning languages,” he said.

“So, I was taking a class in Comparative Politics with Dr. Paul Sum, and he mentioned some of the scholarships. Then I got in touch with Yee Han.

“We started talking about the scholarships and opportunities, and it all just stemmed from that. I ended up applying, and here we are!

“I definitely didn’t know about the opportunities that are out there until I got here and was surrounded by people who were letting me know what was available,” Paulson continued. And for that,

UND and the scholarship team have earned his undying thanks, he said.

Pictured here with their UND National Scholarship certificates are (from left) Sydney Menne, Patricia Hopp, Erin Morin, Merrick McMahon, Cheyden Paulson, Nathan Foster and Shealynn Wells. Staff photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

For UND, a win-win

Likewise, UND is grateful to – and proud of – Paulson, the other students, the faculty mentors and Chu, said Provost Link.

“These scholarships are great for the students, and are a sign of the great work being done by our students at UND,” Link said after the ceremony.

“These scholarships are also meaningful for the University, because they exemplify what the University’s mission is all about.

“Central to our mission is to provide students with outstanding educational opportunities – opportunities that, in many cases, take the students beyond the classroom. Thanks in part to these scholarships and in large measure to the students’ hard work, many of these students are now traveling across the nation and around the globe, participating in a wide variety of exceptional educational experiences.

“The work of these students and their faculty mentors is a shining example of the quality of the educational experience here at the University of North Dakota.”

Celebrants and mentors

The students and their hometowns, awards and faculty mentors are:

Kacie Baumler; West Fargo, N.D.; Rotary Global Grant Scholarship; Emily Brinck and Alicia Belay

Nathan Foster; Hoffman Estates, Ill.; Boren Scholarship; Emily Dougherty and Yee Han Chu

Patricia Hopp; Maple Grove, Minn.; NOAA/Hollings Scholarship; Mike Poellot and Fred Remer

Merrick McMahon; Minot, N.D.; Udall Scholarship, Cobell Scholarship and Indian Health Services Scholarship; Keith Malaterre and Yee Han Chu

Sydney Menne; DAAD-RISE Germany Scholarship; Shoreview, Minn.; Tim Young

Erin Morin; Cobell Scholarship and Wells Fargo American Indian Scholarship; Bottineau, N.D.; Yee Han Chu

Michelle Nguyen; Eden Prairie, Minn.; American Economic Association Summer Program at Howard University; Amy Henley and Derek Sporbert

Cheyden Paulson; Richardton, N.D.; Critical Language Scholarship; Paul Sum, Carissa Green and Yee Han Chu

Shealynn Wells; Johnstown, Wyo.; Cobell Scholarship, United Health Foundations Tribal Scholars Scholarship; Elle Hoselton and Barb Anderson