Ohio University’s current cohort of Pepsi Scholars is pictured with the group’s previous advisor, Chelsea von Pagels, and its current advisor, Kendra Lutes.

Ohio University’s current cohort of Pepsi Scholars is pictured with the group’s previous advisor, Chelsea von Pagels, and its current advisor, Kendra Lutes.

Pepsi Scholars alumnae Brooklyn Adams (left) and Bailey Simons volunteer with Community Food Initiatives during a fall semester 2016 community service project.

Pepsi Scholars alumnae Brooklyn Adams (left) and Bailey Simons volunteer with Community Food Initiatives during a fall semester 2016 community service project.

Photographer: Sarah Holm

Pepsi Scholars alumni volunteer with Community Food Initiatives during a fall semester 2016 community service project.

Pepsi Scholars alumni volunteer with Community Food Initiatives during a fall semester 2016 community service project.

Photographer: Sarah Holm

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Information sessions for first-year student scholarship program begin Sept. 26


First-year students interested in developing their leadership skills and connecting with their peers – all while offsetting some of the cost of their tuition – are encouraged to apply for Ohio University’s Pepsi Scholars Program.

Administered by OHIO’s Career and Leadership Development Center, Pepsi Scholars is a one-of-its-kind scholarship program designed specifically for first-year students and financed by PepsiCo Inc. as part of its pouring rights contract with the University. 

The year-long program, which kicks off at the beginning of first-year students’ spring semester and continues through the end of the following fall semester, seeks to help students establish, empower, effect and evolve their leadership skills in ways that create positive change and growth within themselves, others and the greater community. Each student selected for the program is awarded a one-year, non-renewable monetary scholarship.

According to Erika Peyton, assistant director for employer relations and marketing at the CLDC, 12 first-year students are selected for the program at the end of each fall semester. Over the course of the following year, the students engage in weekly leadership development programming as a group, in team development/service retreats and in various campus programming.

“The purpose of this program is for these students to not only be developing themselves as individual leaders but also to be developing relationships with the group,” Peyton said. “We know that leadership development happens through growth of self-awareness, but in order to develop self-awareness, you have to understand who you are in relation to others.”

Team development activities include leadership retreats and community service, and this year the scholars’ will be participating in a leadership conference in New York. 

All of the Pepsi Scholars programming has been developed by the CLDC staff, but the program itself is facilitated by the office’s graduate assistant for special projects. Last year’s program was facilitated by GA Chelsea von Pagels; this year’s program will be facilitated by GA Kendra Lutes.

Overseeing the GA’s work is Jodi Pavol, assistant director for outreach at the CLDC, who noted that two years ago the Pepsi Scholars Program was changed from serving OHIO’s upperclassmen to first-year students.

“We really want to be developing potential leaders on campus rather than working with more established student leaders,” Pavol explained, adding that the program has seen several success stories since the change was implemented.

Among those success stories, Pavol noted that every student in the first cohort of first-year Pepsi Scholars was employed on the Athens Campus after participating in the program – and employed in student leadership positions in these jobs. Three of those students, she added, are employed at the CLDC.

“I think that’s pretty cool because for two of them their initial connection to our office was through the Pepsi Scholars Program,” Pavol said.

Bailey Simons, a junior majoring in business management and entrepreneurship, was already employed as an office assistant at the CLDC when she applied for the Pepsi Scholars Program – an experience that she described as “the favorite thing that I did my freshman year.”

“The Pepsi Scholars Program offers so many opportunities as well as a support system,” Simons said. “Everything we did in the program was free, and it was just amazing knowing that someone was funding activities to advance you.”

Simons noted a few of her favorite activities during the program, including:

  • Attending the Lead365 National Conference in Orlando where the students, in a setting with their peers and staff from various institutions of higher education, learned how to improve their leadership skills and adapt them to different environments
  • Earning the CLDC’s Professional Leadership Certificate and its 21st Century Leadership Certificate 
  • Reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and discussing it as a group
  • Engaging in team-building activities with staff from OHIO’s Department of Campus Recreation, in which they learned about various leadership styles and how, in a group, to utilize each person’s strengths
  • Completing a community service project in which they helped to clean up a community garden in Athens and, in the process, learned a lot more about the Athens and Athens County communities

Simons shared that the Pepsi Scholars Program went above and beyond in supporting her. She said that she was just starting her lodging business, TiPi’s at Timber Ridge in the Hocking Hills, when she became a Pepsi Scholar. 

“The CLDC and the Pepsi Scholars Program were my very first booking,” Simons said, explaining that the program held its retreat there. “Knowing that the people you are surrounded by really care about you and want to help you, that’s something I’ll never forget, and it meant so much.”

“The Pepsi Scholars Program made me feel comfortable on campus,” Simons added. “When you leave home for the first time, it’s really hard to just dive into a new community and a new culture, but this program helps ease you into that. It helped me connect with people early on, and taught me so many skills.”

To be considered for the program, first-year students must:

  • Be enrolled in Ohio University full time
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Exhibit leadership potential
  • Maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA throughout the program’s entirety
  • Be in good standing with the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility at the time of application and remain in good standing throughout the duration of the program
  • Attend weekly meetings that will be scheduled based on the scholars’ availability throughout the academic year
  • Attend all Pepsi Scholars retreats and workshops during spring and fall semester

“We are looking for first-year students who show an enthusiasm and an interest in developing as leaders,” noted Peyton. “Applicants don’t have to be students who already have a lot of leadership experience under their belt.”

First-year students interested in applying for the Pepsi Scholars Program should attend an information session on Tuesday, Sept. 26; Monday, Oct. 2; or Thursday, Oct. 12. The information sessions will all be held from 7 to 7:30 p.m. in Baker University Center 503. Pavol also encouraged students interested in applying for the program to participate in a career coaching session and a mock interview through the CLDC. For information on these free services available to all OHIO students, click here

Applications for the Pepsi Scholars Program are due by Friday, Oct. 20, and are available here. Candidates for the program will be interviewed, and the 12 students selected for the program will be notified by December. 

For more information, call 740-593-2909, email careerandleadership@ohio.edu, visit https://www.ohio.edu/careerandleadership/ or stop by the Career and Leadership Development Center on the fifth floor of Baker University Center. 

Students can also check out the following CLDC blog posts: