For 20 newly-selected Margaret Boyd Scholars, the New Year promises an abundance of enrichment and development opportunities.
Named in honor of Ohio University’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 100 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 the program’s newest 20 scholars.
McSteen described this year’s class as “a very energetic and diverse group of women who are excited to be a part of this distinguished community of scholars.”
Among this year’s scholars is Cierra Smith-Carter, a sociology major from Dayton, Ohio. Smith-Carter said she first learned about the program through the Ohio First Scholars Program and eventually applied, thanks to some nudging from her mother.
“As a first generation student, it’s great to have something encouraging me to broaden my horizons,” Smith-Carter said. “The women who run the program are absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to learn from them. Beyond that, the ability to make connections with other young women with similar aspirations sounds great.”
Inductee Paige Miller, a first-year journalism major from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, said she applied for the program on a whim, after spotting a Boyd Scholars poster on the way to class.
“I am hoping to gain camaraderie and leadership skills in a setting where the stakes are low and the opportunity to learn is high,” said Miller, who aspires to become an investigative journalist. “During the spring semester specifically, I am excited for the seminar and to have a ‘think tank’ with such intelligent peers by my side.”
The 20 women selected for the program this year were officially welcomed into the program at a welcome on Sunday before fall semester finals week. During that event the scholars were given the book “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The essay was adapted from Adichie's 2012 TEDx talk, which has been viewed more than five million times. 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 book was chosen as a way to set the tone for the new scholars regarding why this women’s scholar group is important, but also to get the students familiar with our common reading efforts throughout the rest of their years as a Margaret Boyd Scholar,” McSteen said. “Many of the alumnae cite the book discussions with the faculty were the most memorable parts of their experience. Having a chance to have scholarly discussions with a group of peers and faculty is a pretty unique experience for the typical undergraduate student.”
Not only will new scholars partake in leadership training, they will also be challenged to put their leadership skills to the test this spring. Under the guidance of Graduate Assistant Vanessa Bak, inductees will spearhead a community service initiative of their choosing for the entire Margaret Boyd Scholars community.
"We received a lot of feedback from students that they wanted to do more community service projects with the Margaret Boyd Scholarship Program,” Bak explained. “We decided to have the first years spearhead this initiative as a way to get them more connected and involved with the program, and also learn about opportunities they can continue to volunteer with throughout their undergrad at OHIO."
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.
“My hope for these scholars is to build upon the traditions created by the five cohorts who came before them but also to contribute to the growth and creativity of this unique experience at Ohio University,” McSteen said.