West Virginia University’s 2014 class of Bucklew Scholars had so many universities to pick from.
These 20 top-performing West Virginia high school seniors had the chance to spend their next four years at Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown or Notre Dame, among others. They’re much happier as Mountaineers, however, as many of them say WVU feels like home.
Ahmed Haque noticed a distinct difference between WVU and other universities he visited. He said WVU works toward a greater good.
“WVU is all about family and more about the collective group instead of an individualistic approach. At WVU, the goal of the faculty and students is for the betterment of all instead of the betterment of one,” said the future engineer, who was impressed by the nanotechnology developments going at the University.
“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else,” said Tanner Filben, a future chemical engineer from John Marshall High School. “Both of my parents attended the University, I have lots of friends who attend WVU, and I just love the campus … the people here are so friendly.”
The esteemed Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship is valued at $30,000 and provides students with more than $7,500 per year toward educational costs during four years at WVU and is able to be used in addition to the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
Some, like Daniel Berrebi, grew up in Morgantown and knew from very early on they’d be Mountaineers.
“I want to stay in West Virginia and give back,” said Berrebi, who will be a biology student in the fall. “My heart is here. I’ve grown up watching sports here. My dad is professor here. I feel like I’m part of this community. When I visit these other places, it doesn’t feel like me. I feel like I belong in a way.”
Cassidy Bland, who plans to study biomedical engineering in the fall, said: “Ever since I was little, I have loved the school spirit at WVU. My dad brought me to my first basketball game when I was just 7-years-old, and that is when I fell in love with the school spirit here.”
Others, like Patrick Thomas, were sold by their experiences last summer during Governor’s Honors Academy on campus. For three weeks, high school students stay in Honors Hall and get a taste for what life would be like as a college student in Morgantown.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to go to WVU for a while. But, over the summer, I went to Governor’s Honors Academy and saw the campus and met with so many of the professors. It opened my eyes to what an amazing school WVU really is,” said Thomas, who will major in chemical engineering. “After learning more about the campus, it started to feel like where I belong. I’ve toured other places, but it just didn’t feel right.”
Peter Welker, an aspiring general practitioner or family doctor, had a similar experience with Governor’s Honors Academy.
“The folks there really encouraged me to apply to WVU,” he said. “My sister, who currently attends WVU, gave me a glowing recommendation, as well. Of course, WVU is the best college in the state, and I want to be part of it.”
Cassidy Seamon said the opportunity to take part in WVU’s new biomedical engineering program, which was approved by the Board of Governor’s in 2013, made her decision relatively easy about where to spend her next four years.
“I can grow as this new program grows,” said Seamon of University High School. “It will be fun to research and meet new people, and I’ll be comfortable, because family and friends will be close.”
Kensey Bergdorf, who would like to be pathologist or surgeon, became interested in WVU when she received a pamphlet for the school’s immunology program at a college fair.
“I’ve been crazy about that since I could remember,” she said. “There were no other schools that I applied to that I looked at that had that major … The more I come up here, the more I fell in love with it.”
Elizabeth Blankenship will study literature, linguistics and secondary education with a focus in Chinese. She fell in love with the University’s Chinese studies program, which began in 2008 and has produced multiple Critical Language Scholars. WVU is also the only school in the state that Blankenship looked into that offered Chinese.
“I met with the Chinese teacher in the Honors program on a tour, and they were just so welcoming,” she said. “I felt like it was a good place to call home for four years.”
Nathan Spencer, like many of this year’s Bucklew Scholars, felt like WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, which is ranked in the top 50 of engineering schools in enrollment and graduation, was the best to further their education. A total of 12 Bucklew Scholars this year want to major in an engineering field.
“I wanted to stay in West Virginia, and WVU’s engineering program is top notch. That’s what sets WVU apart from the other schools where I applied,” said Spencer, who will major in computer engineering and computer science. “The labs are incredible.”
Weekly emails from faculty in the Statler College that helped Corey Crumm make his choice.
“They were filled with tips for coming to college. I haven’t received individual attention like that from other schools,” said Crumm, who would like to earn his master’s degree and then work in the green energy technology field. “It felt like home in that regard, and a place that I could see myself living in for the next four years.”
The engineering faculty were also open to Caroline Wylie’s idea of sports engineering, as well, which made her feel comfortable that the University could give her the opportunities she expected from a higher education institution.
“Everybody was very excited for me, and that was great, because nobody had really heard of it yet,” said Wylie, who will graduate a year early from Hampshire High School and major in mechanical engineering and sport management. “I needed somebody that I knew would support me the whole way, and I think WVU can give me that support.”
WVU is well known for offering undergraduate research opportunities from the start of a student’s career at the University. That’s what former Foundation Scholars told Amrita Valluri during the college search process.
“They encouraged me to apply,” said Valluri, a Cabell Midland High School senior. “The top-rated exercise physiology program is what appealed to me … I am really looking forward to the research opportunities the exercise physiology program offers.”
Similar research opportunities in engineering impressed Anna Cokeley, as well, especially since she plans to research new sustainable energy sources.
“As a growing world, we’re going to confront energy issues. We’re going to need other forms of energy, and at WVU it gives me the opportunity to be that person to help,” she said.
Some Bucklew Scholars said WVU’s tuition and scholarship opportunities give the University an edge over others. In fact, the University was ranked as the sixth most-affordable in-state institution in the country, according to the College Board last year.
“The opportunities at WVU are incredible especially for the value. I especially like the personal care you get from faculty. I just don’t know how WVU does it and remains so affordable,” said Hannah Minihan, who will study biology beginning in the fall. “The faculty do such a great job in making students comfortable and important.”
Aspiring oncologist Savannah Lusk said: “I applied to WVU, because it’s the best value for your money. What could be better than staying in your home state and getting a great education?”
Karen Laska can’t wait to study abroad while at WVU. She said the affordable opportunities to do so are much greater than at other schools she visited.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity that I’m really looking forward to. My mom is from Ireland and her alma mater is University of Ulster, and WVU has a program with them,” said Laska, who would like to work in the government and in international relations.
For all of the 2014 Bucklew Scholars, though, WVU felt like the right fit.
“It’s always been where I knew I wanted to go. I had one brother that went here, my mom went here, but growing up I was always a Mountaineer sports fan. It’s just the right fit. I was always up here with my brother, and it just seemed like the right place for me to go,” said Joel Bracken, a future pharmacy student from Oak Hill High School. “West Virginia has a pull to it. When you’re from here, a lot of people will go around the world but they’ll come back and it’s where they like it best.”
Nanda Siva, an aspiring radiologist and research scientist from Parkersburg, said: “My family is close by, and I know friends, and it just makes me feel more at home. It’s not home, but I’ll have an easier time calling it home.”
For some, like Nicole Hegele, moving onto college will give her the challenge she’s been waiting for from a University.
“I’m leaving everything I’ve known, and that’s something that’s huge … I’m excited for someone to look at me and wonder if I can figure it out instead of them expecting me to. I want that challenge – the next level,” said Hegele, who wants to be a politican. “WVU will offer me that.”
Neil S. Bucklew, the scholarship’s creator, served as WVU’s 20th president from 1986 to 1995. The scholarships are part of the University’s comprehensive awards program and are supported, in part, by the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU.
These students are now eligible for WVU’s top academic award, the Foundation Scholarship, which is awarded to five of the Bucklew Scholars. The Foundation Scholars will be announced in May.
“The WVU Foundation, through the generosity of many donors, is pleased to have a role in providing funding for this award,” said Cindi Roth, Foundation president and CEO. “Donors tell us they give to WVU because they want to see the lives of students transformed and their experiences at the University enriched. It is our hope, through this award, that doors will be opened and opportunities to excel both inside and outside the classroom will abound.”
The 20 scholars, their high schools and hometowns, are:
• Kensey Bergdorf, Ripley High School, Evans
• Daniel Berrebi, Morgantown High School, Morgantown
• Cassidy Bland, Brooke High School, Wellsburg
• Elizabeth Blankenship, Point Pleasant High School, Point Pleasant
• Joel Bracken, Oak Hill High School, Fayetteville
• Anna Cokeley, Ritchie County High School, Harrisville
• Corey Crumm, Elkins High School, Elkins
• Tanner Filben, John Marshall High School, Glen Dale
• Ahmed Haque, Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport
• Nicole Hegele, Shady Spring High School, Shady Spring
• Karen Laska, Wheeling Park High School, Triadelphia
• Savannah Lusk, Wyoming East High School, Covel
• Hannah Minihan, Huntington High School, Huntington
• Cassidy Seamon, University High School, Morgantown
• Nanda Siva, Parkersburg High School, Vienna
• Nathan Spencer, University High School, Morgantown
• Patrick Thomas, Hurricane High School, Hurricane
• Amrita Valluri, Cabel Midland High School, Huntington
• Peter Welcker, Parkersburg South High School, Parkersburg
• Caroline Wylie, Hampshire High School, Romney