UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Seven advance as semifinalists for Dept. of Defense SMART Scholarships

UND students also advance in other national scholarship competitions 

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Seven University of North Dakota students have been selected as semifinalists in the U.S. Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program.

And that might just be a record, according to UND’s Academic Support and Fellowship Opportunities Coordinator Yee Han Chu.

“The number of students applying for the DoD SMART this year is exceptionally high,” Chu said. “I usually don’t work with so many students for a singular scholarship, and they all advanced to the semifinals. This is so exciting!”

The full scholarship provides students who are seeking STEM degrees with the tools to begin a rewarding career with the DoD. Recipients will focus on complex research to further DoD’s mission and create a lasting impact.

In addition, Chenoa Swenson, a first-year pre-nursing major, has been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship will enable Swenson to take part in a UND faculty-led course in Vienna this spring.

And several other students advanced in competitions for other national scholarships, including Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships, Critical Language Scholarships and Critical Language Scholarships-SPARK awards. The Fulbright grants place award winners in classrooms abroad to help the local English teachers. Critical Language Scholarships send students overseas for intensive language training and cultural immersion, and the Critical Language Scholarship-SPARK winners will spend an academic year learning either Arabic, Chinese or Russian through online classes and activities facilitated by native speakers at a host institution abroad.

Yee Han Chu
Yee Han Chu

The DoD SMART Scholarship finalists, who are expected to be named in April, will earn summer internships at DoD facilities throughout the United States.

Chu said it’s particularly noteworthy that four of UND’s semifinalists are freshmen.

“That communicates that DoD SMART recognizes that high research potential can appear in the early years of undergraduate study,” Chu said. “I admire all these students for their dedication to the mission of the DoD and their amazing ability to communicate that dedication through a lengthy application process.

“Just the process of applying strengthens their professional vision and purpose.”

Chu explained that the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship pays for the completion of either undergraduate or graduate studies with a maximum length of funding up to five years — to help the student finish either a bachelor’s degree, master’s or doctorate.

Further, there is a 1:1 service commitment, so for each year they use the scholarship, they give the DoD back one year of civilian service after they graduate. That job is guaranteed. There is no cap on the tuition amount, and the money goes directly to the school. The students also receive an annual stipend: $25,000 for undergraduates, $33,000 for master’s students and $38,000 for doctoral students. Winners also receive an annual book and health insurance allowance.

The semifinalists for the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship include:

  • Thomas Iken, a junior from Bismarck, studying Math and Physics.
  • Dallas McNeal, a freshman from Eagleville, Mo., studying Mechanical Engineering.
  • Mario Medeles, a freshman from Manvel, Texas, studying Computer Science.
  • Maya Orvis, a freshman from Crosslake, Minn., studying Medical Lab Science.
  • Lance Roadifer, a sophomore from Cheyenne, Wyo., studying Mechanical Engineering.
  • Elisabeth Starosta, a freshman from Fargo, studying Biomedical Engineering.
  • Kordell Tan, a doctoral student from Tamuning, Guam, studying Biomedical Engineering.

The semifinalists for the 2023 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship awards are:

  • Payton Cole, an alum with UND undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, who hopes to teach English in the Czech Republic.
  • Jacob Moll, a UND graduate with a Geography major who hopes to teach English in North Macedonia.

The semifinalists for the Critical Language Scholarship and CLS-SPARK programs are:

  • Bebas Dhungana, CLS, a sophomore and an Economics and Political Science major who hopes to go abroad to study Hindi.
  • Ethan McGregor, CLS-SPARK, a senior and Political Science major who hopes to study Russian.