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A world of possibilities
Multicultural students encouraged to seek potential, apply for awards

April 25, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle

Ask Ann Brown to name one thing she finds fulfilling about shepherding students through the process of applying for nationally competitive awards, and she doesn't skip a beat. 

"I take what they've done, who they are, what they want to do, and try to open the world of possibilities to them," says Brown, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. 

Photo of Michael Spencer by Kim WalkerBrown hopes that this year, she'll have the opportunity to help more multicultural students on campus make those connections. Last week, her office, along with the President's Office for Diversity, launched an effort to encourage multicultural students to think about applying for nationally competitive awards. More than 85 students attended a special dinner to encourage them to do just that.

"We wanted to encourage them to at least come and talk to us about options that might make sense for them," she said. "We really hope that some of these students will be candidates for these awards in the future."

Attendees included those from various multicultural scholar groups, such as Appalachian, Urban and Templeton scholars, as well as other multicultural students with strong GPA's. During the dinner, those attending talked informally with faculty members and current student award applicants. But the highlight of the evening was a talk by alumnus Michael Spencer, a 2002 campus candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Spencer, who earned a bachelor's degree in specialized studies in 2001 and a master's in communication and development studies in 2003, credits the process of applying for the award for changing the course of his life. Even though he didn't make it past the first round of interviews, he believes the work involved in applying can be more valuable than the outcome.

"Through the process of applying for the Rhodes, I had to ask myself questions I've never asked before," he said, adding that he pondered difficult questions such as how he is perceived by others. "During this process, I found the courage to be myself."

Spencer, who grew up in inner-city Washington, D.C., and was the first male in his immediate family to get a high school diploma, recently earned his law degree from Ohio State University and is a first-year attorney at a law firm in Columbus. He told the students that while some opportunities may fall through, others reveal themselves if you keep working. 

Be proactive, he said. Go to the Office of Education Abroad and find out about scholarships and trips; go to the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and talk to Brown; go to Career Services and develop a resume.

"This is the time for you all to grasp your passion and transfer it into your lives," Spencer said. "It's about trying to put yourself in positions where you can realize your dreams."

The students soaked up his words, asking questions about how he dealt with failures and what the application process entailed (a personal statement, an interview, multiple letters of recommendation). Afterward, they gathered around him to introduce themselves. 

As students filed out of the room, some stopped to reflect on the Spencer's speech. Alan Grigsby, a freshman studying sociology and criminology, summed up his takeaway: "Don't be afraid to reach your potential or go beyond the potential you think you have."

Elizabeth Boyle is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.     


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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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