by Emily Reely ’10
At Stevenson, our Service, Leadership, and Honors Scholars programs give recognition to incoming freshmen who have demonstrated their academic prowess, leadership, and service to the community—and who consistently stand out among their peers.
There are currently more than 230 Scholars students at Stevenson who are making their study dreams a reality. Nearly 200 of them reside on campus, and most first-year Scholars are in a living-learning community where they can thrive alongside their peers.
The Service Scholars Program was the first Scholars program at Stevenson, debuting in fall 2016. The program, which currently has 85 students, including 42 freshmen, seeks to engage civicminded students in service-learning courses as well as hands-on community service opportunities. Students have participated in weekly service hours with a number of local community partners, including the Baltimore Humane Society, Irvine Nature Center, Catch a Lift, Weinburg Village, and many more. Additionally, there are opportunities for students to volunteer nearly every weekend of the school year.
Since early 2018, the program has been actively working to grow the relationship with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur—the founders of Villa Julie College—through a collaborative service project called Live the Good. (See page 3.) This event brings SU students together with the Sisters to learn more about our shared history, values, and similar missions rooted in service.
Stevenson’s Service Scholars Program also gives students the confidence to lend a hand in areas beyond the Greater Baltimore area. Service Scholars travel to areas affected by natural disasters with Mission: I’m Home, learning how to not only rebuild homes but also to advocate for those trying to recover their lives after a disaster. Some students choose to travel internationally and participate in service abroad.
“I have met some of the most fun and energetic people on campus, and I also get to serve people who endure such difficulties,” says junior nursing major Nick Ellis. “My major alongside my Service Scholar work constantly gives me an opportunity to make friends, have fun, and give back to the community.”
Rising junior elementary education major Natalie Marratto spent the Spring 2018 semester studying in South Africa. In addition to taking several classes, she worked with with 5- and 6-year-olds in a local elementary school. Marratto reflected on her semester: “My experience abroad shaped me into a person who thinks beyond my local community and considers how my actions may impact others around the globe.”
“We are looking forward to seeing the myriad ways our students will make positive impacts on communities locally and globally,” says Service Scholar Program Co-Lead Morgan Somerville, Stevenson’s Director of Student Engagement, “especially the ways they impact the world as this program continues to grow.”
The Leadership Scholars Program, which was started in 2017, focuses on “leadership through action, not position,” meaning that someone doesn’t always have to be the person in the front of the room in order to lead their peers.
“Leaders earn respect by following their values; leaders inspire with their passion, enthusiasm, and persistence,” says Director of Student Activities Dan Schwartz, Co-Lead of the Leadership Scholars Program. “And leaders stay leaders when they are accountable to others as well as to themselves.”
While similar programs at other schools focus on traditional leadership roles, Stevenson ensures that its Leadership Scholars develop into effective and ethical leaders who will make positive differences on campus and in the global community.
“In my experience,” Schwartz explains, “the quietest student in the group has the strongest leadership skills. They just need a little encouragement and direction. Our program helps them to realize their full leadership potential, even if they decide to remain a bit of a ‘follower.’ ”
The classes in this program are developed by faculty across campus to focus on leadership theory as well as curricular and co-curricular application of leadership skills. The curriculum begins with a pre-orientation program, which allows students to explore opportunities for leadership through an off-campus experience that builds teamwork and confidence. Additionally, Leadership Scholars plan the annual TEDxStevensonU, a local gathering featuring talks, demonstrations, and performances that are idea-focused and foster learning with a goal of provoking meaningful conversations within the student population.
At this time, the Leadership Scholar program includes 67 students, 37 of whom are freshmen.
“Diversity isn’t just out there, it is right here on our campus,” says Leadership Scholar Isabella Maxey (business communication ’21). “We are currently preparing ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be for our communities.”
The Honors program had its second cohort of freshman Honors students in fall 2018, bringing the total number of Honors students to 114. A full four-year Honors Program will roll out in fall 2019, and first-year and current Honors students will have the opportunity to join it at the end of their freshman year.
The goal of the Honors Program is to create cross-disciplinary scholars, students who can look beyond the boundaries of their own discipline, use methodologies from other disciplines, and understand each other’s perspectives in order to create, problem solve, and analyze. Honors courses do not necessarily cover more material more quickly but rather delve more deeply into the content.
“My Honors experience has been so positive,” says sophomore student Nasiba Sabirova (legal studies ’21). “I feel like I am always being challenged. I would absolutely recommend incoming freshmen to consider this program if you want to expand your horizons and push your intellectual boundaries.”
In the classroom, Honors students can take courses needed for their major and turn them into an Honors course by adding a cross-disciplinary component to it. These are “Honors contracts.” For example, a student in a history class may “contract” that class by examining the societal/cultural themes during that period of history and explore how those these emerge in literature or music of that same time period. Outside of the classroom, freshman Honors students live in a community with other Honors students, as similarly to the Service and Leadership Scholars, which continues to foster the cross collaboration.
Honors Program Director and Assistant Professor of Biology Rivka Glaser urges faculty to take a roll in the Honors curriculum, stating that faculty and staff are invited to “attend Honors Program-sponsored talks, lectures, or events and to consider becoming a faculty mentor for Honors students who may want to create an Honors contract in a class.”
Positioning Students to Succeed
All three of the Scholars programs are compatible with all majors. Successful participation in these programs gives highly qualified students the ability to become skilled in their specific disciplines. They also gain the personal satisfaction of having met and accomplished the most innovative and challenging programs available at Stevenson.
Says Somerville of the programs, “Overall, our Scholars students truly have an exceptional college experience.”