November 21, 2016

Two School of Public Health students, Sana Haider and Kurt Hufker, received the prestigious 2016-17 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholar award. The program honors the University of Maryland’s most successful seniors, who in turn select University faculty and K-12 teachers to recognize for their mentorship.

Ms. Haider, a Behavioral and Community Health major, selected Behavioral an Community Health lecturer Sylvette A. La Touche-Howard as her designated faculty mentor, crediting Professor La Touche-Howard for inspiring her to change her major to Behavioral and Community Health.  Mr. Hufker, a Kinesiology major, recognized Kinesiology Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Brown, who was named a Faculty Mentor by previous Merrill Scholars during the 2005-06 and 2009-10 academic years. Mr. Hufker said he found Professor Brown to be an encouraging mentor, pushing him to pursue goals that he had previously thought as “unreachable.”

The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholar program also builds bridges between the university community and K-12 schools. In addition to faculty mentors, scholars select a K-12 teacher who helped them in their academic path. A scholarship is then awarded to in the K-12 teacher’s name to a new first year student from that teacher’s high school or school district.

Ms. Haider recognized her high school sophomore and junior high school photography and independent research teacher Ms. Mary Jane Sasser from River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md. Ms. Sasser served as Ms. Haider’s photography and independent research teacher, inspiring Ms. Haider to use photography as a creative outlet and bolstering Ms. Haider’s public speaking skills. Mr. Hufker, who attended Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore, Md., selected Clay Bonham as his k-12 teacher mentor. Mr. Hufker wrote that Mr. Bonham taught him, “what it means to live a good life and be a good person,” in addition to creating at atmosphere where Mr. Hufker could feel comfortable and flourish.

On Friday, November 18, student scholars and faculty mentors were honored at the Merrill Presidential Scholars Luncheon held at Riggs Alumni Center. The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Program, in addition to honoring top University of Maryland undergraduate students, is designed to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of teaching and mentoring in student success.