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2015 Class of MBS-1

Members of this year’s class of Margaret Boyd Scholars pose for a photo during the group’s retreat held Jan. 9-11 at a lodge in the Hocking Hills.

Photographer: Patti McSteen

2015 Class of MBS-2

Margaret Boyd Scholars (from left) Olivia Cobb, Cassie Rich, Lily Bradley, Niara Stitt and Mara Díaz are all smiles on a winter walk during the retreat.

Photographer: Miriam Shadis

2015 Class of MBS-3

Members of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program’s staff and advisory board, from left, Susanne Dietzel, Miriam Shadis and Peggy Pruitt participated in the retreat.

Photographer: Patti McSteen

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Second year of Margaret Boyd Scholars Program welcomes 20 first-year students


The start of spring semester at Ohio University marks the beginning of a nearly four-year journey filled with academic enrichment and leadership development opportunities for 20 first-year students selected for this year’s class of Margaret Boyd Scholars.

Named in honor of OHIO’s first female graduate, the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program was launched during the 2013-14 academic year and serves as the University’s first and only women’s scholars program. Open to all first-year female students on the Athens Campus, the program aims to inspire and encourage undergraduate women to become engaged, confident and connected leaders at Ohio University and beyond.

Nearly 70 first-year students from academic units throughout the University applied for the program during fall semester, according to Patti McSteen, associate dean of students and director of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program. The program’s founding members and its five-member advisory board whittled down the applicants through a process that included small group and individual interviews and selected 20 young women to join the 20 Margaret Boyd Scholars who were selected in the program’s inaugural year.

McSteen explained that in selecting individuals for the program the group considers not only what each student can bring to the program but also what the program can give to the student. She described this year’s class of Margaret Boyd Scholars as a “very creative” and “spunky” group of women.

Among this year’s scholars is Mara Siegel, a theater major from Atlanta, Ga., who is also pursuing a certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Siegel said she was interested in becoming a Margaret Boyd Scholar the minute she heard about the program at last summer’s Bobcat Student Orientation.

“The idea of being a leader has always been important to me, and as a woman, I often find that it is unfortunately difficult to find leadership opportunities. The Margaret Boyd Scholars Program seemed like the opportunity I’d been searching for all along,” Siegel said. “Through this program, I hope not only to find solace in a group of like-minded women but also to develop a strong sense of leadership and strengthen my self-esteem. I’ve heard tales of all the amazing things the cohort before mine has done, and I hope I get to do some of the same.”

Niara Stitt, a political science/pre-law major who was accepted into the program, said she applied for the program because she “really wanted to connect with other empowered women on campus who wanted to go above and beyond the average student during their time at Ohio University.

“It seemed like no matter where I was on campus, I saw a sign or button or flier advertising the program, and I thought it would be foolish of me to ignore what seemed like a sign to me,” she said.

Through the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program, Stitt said she hopes to gain a better sense of who she is and to build an empowering and supportive network at OHIO that will extend beyond graduation.

“What I hope that these women take away from their experiences with this program are the skills that will enable them to be leaders and to do so with integrity,” McSteen said. “I also hope their experiences fill them with gratitude for this institution, which so strongly supports the mission and legacy of Margaret Boyd and what she was to our campus and continues to mean to our women students in particular.”

McSteen said she also hopes that the scholars take away from the program opportunities that they otherwise might not have even known about – opportunities that have already begun.

The 20 women selected for the program this year were officially welcomed into the program at a Dec. 5 gathering that allowed them to mingle with the program’s inaugural class. McSteen said that during that event the scholars were given the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. The scholars were tasked with reading the book over the winter break in order to prepare for a book discussion slated for this month. The Margaret Boyd Scholars Program is a collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and University College. Women in leadership roles in each of those offices – Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Shari Clarke, and Dean of University College and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Elizabeth Sayrs – will lead the book discussion.

The weekend of Jan. 9-11, this year’s class of Margaret Boyd Scholars participated in a retreat held at a lodge in the nearby Hocking Hills – a retreat similar to the one that the inaugural class of scholars participated in a year earlier. One difference in this year’s retreat was that members of the inaugural class of scholars served as facilitators for the weekend designed to allow the scholars time to bond with one another, get familiar with the program’s staff and advisory board, and hear about expectations and goals.

“The retreat was wonderful,” said Anna Bekavac, a sophomore majoring in music therapy who was accepted into the inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars and who served as a facilitator for this year’s retreat. “I so enjoyed watching the new class interact with the joy and anticipation that our class did just last year. I felt like I had grown so much since I was in their shoes, and I credit most of that growth to the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program.

“My hope for the new class of scholars is that they take advantage of all of the opportunities,” Bekavac continued. “Go to all of the events you hear about. Apply for all of the things Dr. McSteen will suggest. Spend time with each other. Value the experiences you will collect.”

Each academic year of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program is dedicated to a different focus. During the first year of the program, scholars participate in a seminar during spring semester. The first-year seminar is taught by the three OHIO faculty members on the program’s advisory board: Gerardine Botte, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Melissa Haviland, associate professor of art; and Miriam Shadis, associate professor of history. That seminar began the first week of spring semester, and the scholars will spend four weeks studying under each of these faculty members.

The second year of the program includes a residential component. Students who were selected for the program last year are all residing in Bryan Hall, where a lounge that serves as both a secondary office space for McSteen and a gathering area for the scholars is now located. According to McSteen, some of the scholars are living together while others are living with friends not involved in the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program or in singles.

“So we’re widening our Margaret Boyd Scholars circle by bringing in friends and those who aren’t involved in the program,” McSteen said.

The third year of the program is dedicated to internship and study abroad activities, and the final year of the program focuses on a capstone experience designed to prepare the scholars for the next phase in their lives.

“I would describe the Margaret Boyd Scholars experience as unending opportunity,” McSteen said, adding that the women accepted into the program last year have already seized amazing opportunities for academic enrichment and leadership development and have become agents of change on the Athens Campus.

As she ran through a list of those accepted into the program last year, she noted their individual achievement over the past year. Several scholars have or are presently studying abroad in countries that range from Scotland to Thailand to the United Arab Emirates. Others are partnering with faculty throughout the University on exciting research projects and serving as leaders in everything from Student Senate to the University’s learning communities.

This past summer about six of the scholars accepted into the program’s first year participated in the LeaderShape Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a nationally recognized leadership development program for college students. The students’ cost for attending the program was paid for through a collaboration with the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program and the students’ individual colleges.

“The entire Margaret Boyd Scholars Program – from the faculty and staff who serve on the program’s staff and its advisory board, to the faculty who are referring students to the program, to the deans and their office staffs who help find and provide experiences for these women – has been very much a campus-wide effort,” McSteen said. She noted that of the 20 women selected for the program this year, 11 were referred to the program by OHIO faculty and six indicated they were referred to the program by students selected for the program the first year.

“That is why I love this program and why I think the world of it – because it’s bringing our campus together and doing some really exciting things for students,” McSteen added.

Applications for the next class of Margaret Boyd Scholars will be accepted in the fall of 2015 with a goal of having 80 scholars enrolled by 2016.

Meet the 2014-15 class of Margaret Boyd Scholars

Members of the 2014-15 class of Margaret Boyd Scholars are:

Hannah Borowski of Summerville, S.C., linguistics and global studies major, College of Arts and Sciences

Lily Bradley of Johnstown, Pa., broadcast journalism major, Scripps College of Communication

Hannah Britton of Painesville, Ohio, journalism major, Scripps College of Communication

Sierra Cardiff of Marietta, Ohio, undecided, College of Arts and Sciences

Mia Chapman of Kent, Ohio, biological sciences pre-medicine major, College of Arts and Sciences

Olivia Cobb of Hiram, Ohio, English major, College of Arts and Sciences

Mara Díaz of Columbus, Ohio, photojournalism major, Scripps College of Communication

Sasha Gough of Garrettsville, Ohio, creative writing major, College of Arts and Sciences

Nicolette Lacich of Youngstown, Ohio, undecided, College of Business

Katherine McMahon of Chillicothe, Ohio, pre-early childhood education major, Patton College of Education

Alexandra McManamon of Avon, Ohio, studio art major, Honors Tutorial College

Emily Morello of Warren, Ohio, mechanical engineering major, Russ College of Engineering and Technology

Mailé Orr of Athens, Ohio, theater major, Honors Tutorial College

Allison Prybelski of Perrysburg, Ohio, political science major, College of Arts and Sciences

Stevie Putnam of Athens, Ohio, undecided, University College

Cassandra Rich of Chesapeake, Va., pre-med major, College of Arts and Sciences

Rachel Rogala of Hudson, Ohio, publication design major, Scripps College of Communication

Mara Siegel of Atlanta, Ga., theater (production design and technology) major, College of Fine Arts

Niara Stitt of Fairlawn, Ohio, political science/pre-law major, College of Arts and Sciences

Adrianne Talmadge of Findlay, Ohio, forensic chemistry major, College of Arts and Sciences