MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Five of the state’s young emerging leaders have been named to the 2020 cohort of West Virginia University Foundation Scholars, the highest academic scholarship the university awards.
Jillian Blair from Wheeling Park High School, Olivia Dowler from Weir High School, Bethany Knight from Notre Dame High School, Rushik Patel from George Washington High School and Sarah Sweeney from Spring Mills High School are the 2020-21 cohort of WVU Foundation Scholars, according to a press release.
“Every year, I am impressed by and thrilled to meet our Foundation Scholars,” President Gordon Gee said. “Jillian, Olivia, Bethany, Rushik and Sarah will join a long list of accomplished West Virginians who have taken the education and experiential opportunities this scholarship makes possible to make the state — and even the world — a better place. That opportunity is even more critical as we look to the future. I cannot wait to see that they will accomplish.”
WVU provided biographies on each of the students chosen to be Foundation Scholars.
Jillian Blair, who dreams of bringing a strong renewable energy industry to West Virginia, believes more effective communication between scientists and policy makers is key to a sustainable future. She plans to use her environmental and energy resources management major and minor in sustainable design as the path to a career in environmental law. Blair will use her stipend to attend conferences and summits on sustainable development and environmental policy to expand her knowledge and help set her apart from other applicants for the highly-competitive internship with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany.
With a passion to serve those who have been unjustly silenced, first-generation student Olivia Dowler plans to eventually serve as a human rights lawyer and teach history at a university level. She will double major in history and world languages, literatures, and linguistics with an emphasis in Spanish and minor in political science. Dowler is anxious to research the differences between Spanish-speaking cultures through history and the critical role language plays in prejudice. She looks forward to the opportunity to serve as a volunteer with the WVU Global Public Health Brigades in Central America and plans to use her stipend to study abroad in Spain.
Opportunities to participate in multiple mission trips have reaffirmed Bethany Knight’s decision to become a physician-scientist dedicated to innovative treatments and cures for diseases. She is a biochemistry major who looks forward to a career aimed at discovering new treatments for some of the most vexing diseases. Knight is excited to promote mental health awareness on campus as a member of WVU Active Minds and join the student chapter of Doctors Without Borders, and would like to use her stipend to study abroad in Italy.
Rushik Patel, who has established strong patient relationships while serving as a volunteer at a local family medical practice, will pursue his dream of changing lives with the development of prosthetics and artificial organs. Although he will begin his journey at WVU as a biomedical engineering major minoring in computer science, he has not ruled out medical school in the future. He will use his stipend to conduct research and study abroad in Germany or Italy, and ultimately, he hopes to develop a single blood test to detect cancers in their earliest stages. Patel is scholastic chess champion who enjoys developing game apps in his spare time.
Sarah Sweeney, an acting major minoring in English, believes “nothing is more satisfying than portraying a character on stage.” Although she dreams of becoming a famous actress, she also plans to pursue her backup career as a civil liberties attorney, dedicated to prison and immigration reform and homeless rights advocacy. Sweeney, who will use her stipend to establish connections in the theater industry, hopes to land an internship with a professional theater in Washington, D.C. or New York City or study abroad in England while volunteering her time to Shakespeare’s Globe. She also looks forward to joining Active Minds WVU and the Appalachian Prison Book Project.
To qualify for the Foundation Scholarship, high school students must meet certain criteria, including holding West Virginia residency, possessing a minimum GPA of 3.8 and achieving a minimum composite score of 31 on the ACT or the equivalent SAT score, the release explains. Twenty of the applicants who interviewed for the Foundation Scholarship were named Neil S. Bucklew Scholars. The value of the Foundation Scholarship, when paired with the state’s PROMISE Scholarship, is more than $95,000 over four years.