Boyd Scholars logo

The vibrant logo for the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program

Graphic courtesy of: Boyd Scholars Program

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New enrichment program aims to empower OHIO women

Margaret Boyd Scholars Program to begin fall 2013

Margaret Boyd followed her two older brothers in enrolling at Ohio University. That’s not unusual today, when the University sees not only siblings, but successive generations of the same family, among its ranks. But with her enrollment on April 1, 1868, Maggie Boyd became the first woman to enter the University. When she collected her bachelor of arts degree on June 26, 1873, she became the first woman to earn an OHIO degree.

Boyd’s pioneering spirit and perseverance in a male-dominated environment is being honored with the founding of OHIO’s first women’s scholars program. The Margaret Boyd Scholars Program will select 20 first-year OHIO women of all majors for academic enrichment and leadership development throughout their undergraduate careers.

The Boyd Scholars are the brainchild of Patricia McSteen, associate dean of students; Tanya Barnett, academic advisor and director of external relations and academic enrichment in University College; and Susanne B. Dietzel, director of the Women’s Center.

“The idea came from casual conversations between the three of us,” McSteen said. “We got very excited about the prospect of collaborating across our three areas to create a special program for OHIO women that would foster community and leadership, and create role models on our campus for OHIO’s women students.”

The Boyd program is based on the Alice M. Baldwin Scholars program at Duke University, among other living and learning programs on campuses nationwide. McSteen, Barnett and Dietzel visited the Duke campus in January 2012 to meet with students and faculty. Inspired by the women they met, they returned to Athens determined to create a program that similarly empowers women at OHIO.

“We want to make it unique to Ohio University,” McSteen said.

In September 2012, the program was awarded $16,759 from the 1804 Fund to get started. With the funding, the co-founders commissioned a vibrant logo and created promotional materials that they have circulated around campus and at events for prospective students.

They also have assembled an advisory board of staff and faculty that represents a distinctive mix of departments and disciplines. In addition to the co-founders, the board consists of Gerardine Botte, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Jennifer Bowie, executive director of development communications, University Advancement; Melissa Haviland, associate professor of printmaking; Miriam Shadis, associate professor of history; and Stacy Strauss, former OHIO women’s soccer coach.

Creating a scholars program from scratch is no easy task. The co-founders and board are now refining the curriculum, establishing mentoring requirements, and defining criteria for the women who will become Boyd Scholars.  

“We want a group that is just as diverse as our campus—not just ethnically, but also culturally, socioeconomically and across disciplines,” Dietzel said.

The first cohort of scholars will begin the program in spring semester 2014. The co-founders decided early on that they wanted to choose candidates after they arrived on campus, not during the University admissions process.

“Rather than heavily weighing high school accomplishments, we are instead seeking candidates that demonstrate intellectual curiosity and engagement after arriving on campus, and ultimately desire to connect with, and be a part of, something greater than themselves,” Barnett said.

The fall application strategy also gives faculty, staff and students the opportunity to discover prospective candidates and steer them toward the program. Ideally, those candidates won’t all be the usual standouts, but rather diamonds in the rough: women with a certain spark that, with the right encouragement, could blaze brightly on campus and beyond.

“Margaret Boyd was an inspiration to all Ohio University women,” McSteen said. “We hope that this program will honor Margaret’s legacy.”