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Key words for National Scholarship honorees: ‘UND Proud’

Second Annual National Scholarship Ceremony honors ‘intellectual Olympians’ whose playing field is the life of the mind

Eight top UND students and former students were honored in UND’s Second Annual National Scholarship Celebration on Dec. 2. UND image.

For UND senior Ashly Hanna, two-time Udall Scholarship winner, the word she chose was “discipline.” “I disciplined myself to help others, without knowing that down the road, I’d be rewarded with this Udall Scholarship, as well as with getting to know all the people I’ve been able to meet,” Hanna said at the awards ceremony.

Vincent Ledvina, a UND junior, summed up his climb toward a Department of Defense scholarship and internship with the word, “support”:

“Throughout my academic journey, even back to middle and high school, I always had support from my parents, teachers and friends to pursue what I was most passionate about,” he said.

“I think having a good support network is really vital for someone’s success.”

And in seeking the word that best explained his becoming a scholarship finalist at Yenching Academy in China, UND graduate Marshall Nunberg chose “patience.” “This is the fifth year that I’ve applied for international and national scholarships, and it was only last year that I was offered an interview at one of them,” he said. “Turns out that what’s required more than anything, is patience.”

At UND’s Second Annual National Scholarship Ceremony on Wednesday, these three and others among UND’s highest-achieving students were saluted for embodying the traits above, and much more.

The ceremony, which honored eight students, was held via Zoom and drew about 100 family members, faculty mentors and friends of the honorees.

Medalists all

National and international scholarship competitions are the intellectual equivalent of the Olympics, said Yee Han Chu, UND’s academic support and fellowship opportunities coordinator and the organizer of the ceremony, in her introductory remarks.

And that’s the level these students are competing at. “These are very competitive scholarships and fellowships, and many of these students began preparing for these intellectual opportunities long before the students even came into my office,” Chu said.

“So we just want to make sure that good work is brought to light,” she said. Because thanks to the students’ spirit, support networks and outstanding work ethic, “they have all ’medaled.’”

UND President Andy Armacost agreed. “Excellence is a journey, and academic excellence is a journey as well,” said Armacost, who spoke at the Zoom ceremony.

“So keep on that journey, and turn it into a commitment to lifelong learning. I think that will continue to transform you into the leaders that our society really needs.”

Debbie Storrs, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, congratulated the students as well and also thanked Chu. “She’s the magic that makes this all possible,” Storrs said. Thanks to Chu’s efforts, UND students not only are much more aware of prestigious scholarship and fellowship opportunities, but also can get advice on assembling competitive applications.

“Importantly, she’s even connecting with our K-12 community to get to students when they’re in high school, because as all of you know, this kind of accomplishment doesn’t happen overnight,” Storrs said.

In briefing the students ahead of the ceremony, Chu had advised them to each choose one word that best described their experience in applying for scholarships. And after each student told his or her story, Chu came back on to thank and congratulate them again, the occasional break in her voice testifying to her long working relationships with the students.

“Sorry, I checked out for a moment,” Chu said at one point.

“I needed to get some tissues, but I’m back on track now.”

Each person saluted in this year’s National Scholarship Ceremony will be further recognized in the Hall of Honorees, a new feature in Columbia Hall. Shown here are the 2018-2019 honorees; plaques for this year’s honorees will be added in the spring. UND photo.

Perseverance, dedication and hope

Nathan Moe, a UND junior and a semifinalist for a Science, Mathematics, And Research For Transformation (SMART) Scholarship from the Department of Defense, chose two words for his talk: “perseverance” and “dedication.” “As in life, when applying for these opportunities, it takes a lot of perseverance to keep going,” he said.

“It takes a lot of dedication to stay on that track and see it through. … The SMART Scholarship in particular required me to go through stuff I’ve done in college, but also all the way back to the beginning of high school.” So, high school students, a word to the wise: keep track of your accomplishments and your coaches along the way, because one of these days, you may need to recall all of them, Moe said.

Like the other honorees, Merrick McMahon, a UND junior, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa member and 2020 Cobell Scholarship winner, gave great credit to his faculty and staff mentors at UND. That’s why McMahon chose “hope” as his key word.

McMahon’s mentor is Keith Malaterre, a UND retention and advising specialist. And “before I met Keith my freshman year, I was rather scared,” McMahon said.

“My classes intimidated me, and I felt as if I had no direction. I was terrified. … Keith helped me get on track in the direction of what I want to do in life; and most of all, Keith gave me hope.

“Hope is how I achieved these honors, and hope is how I’m going to achieve my future goals,” McMahon concluded.

To deliver the ceremony’s closing remarks, Chu sought out Michelle Nguyen, an honoree at last year’s ceremony and one of UND’s most prolific winners of national scholarship awards. But Nguyen had an interesting word of her own to offer to this year’s students: “failure.”

“Because you can put in all of your hard work, you can work for something for so long, and still get rejected,” Nguyen said.

“I think we’re at nine national and international scholarships that I’ve applied for,” which means nine essays, nine sets of recommendations, nine lengthy application forms and so on.

“And I’ve been rejected from the majority of them.” But the key to success in this and similar endeavors is to keep trying, keep applying, and keep getting back on your feet, Nguyen said.

“It’s not a failure to rejected. It’s a redirection, if you keep going, you’ll find something better, something greater and something that’s a better fit for you.”

The following students were honored at UND’s National Scholarship Ceremony on Dec. 2:

Cecelia Castleberry
Internships: National Science Foundation/Central Michigan University’s Great Lakes Research Experience for Undergraduates 2020 and NSF/UND Research Experience for Undergraduates 2020
Hometown: Morelia Michoacán, México
Major: Molecular and Integrative Biology
Mentor: Dr. Brian Darby

Ranju Dhungana
Scholarships: Critical Language Scholarship 2020 and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans 2020
Hometown: Grand Forks, N.D.
Majors: Psychology and Honors
Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Shabb, Ione Seidlinger, Dr. Yee Han Chu

Ashly Hanna
Scholarship: Udall Undergraduate Scholarship 2020
Hometown: Longmont, Colo.
Majors: Criminal Justice and American Indian Studies
Mentors: Dr. Birgit Hans, Dr. RaeAnn Anderson, Dr. Wendelin Hume

Vincent Ledvina
Scholarship and Internship: Department of Defense SMART Scholarship Semi-Finalist 2020 and Internship at New Mexico Consortium/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center 2020
Hometown: Woodbury, Minn.
Major: Physics
Mentors: Dr. Elizabeth Macdonald, Dr. Maria Kazachenko, Dr. Serena Criscuoli, Dr. Wayne Barkhouse

Merrick McMahon
Scholarships: Cobell Scholarship 2020 and Udall Undergraduate Scholarship Honorable Mention 2020
Hometown: Minot, N.D.
Major: Biology
Mentors: Dr. Keith Maletarre, Dr. Yee Han Chu

Nathan Moe
Scholarship: DoD SMART Scholarship Semi-Finalist 2020
Hometown: Loretto, Minn.
Majors: Molecular and Integrative Biology and Forensic Science
Mentor: Dr. Igor Ovchinnikov

Marshall Nunberg
Scholarship: Yenching Academy Finalist 2020
Hometown: Beach, N.D.
Majors: Political Science and Chinese Studies
Mentors: Dr. Brian Urlacher, Dr. Lucian Stone, Dr. Yee Han Chu

Joel Runnels
Scholarship: Fulbright Specialist 2020
Hometown: Bloomington, Minn.
Major: Educational Foundations and Research PhD
Mentor: Dr. Joshua Hunter