The Presidential Treatment
They get good grades,win academic competitions, and, much to their fellow SFSU students' consternation, enjoy priority course registration. They are SFSU's Presidential Scholars, students whose academic and personal accomplishments in high school have earned them a scholarship that offers more than just financial support for their undergraduate education. The program also offers a helping hand with scheduling classes, field trips to arts and cultural events across the city, and a chance to make new friends.
In the fall 25 Presidential Scholars joined SFSU's freshman class.
"I always enjoy getting to know the Presidential Scholars," said President Robert A. Corrigan, who founded the program at SFSU in 1995. "They are the cream of the crop -- an enthusiastic, bright and diverse group who are easily the equal of their peers at the nation's most prestigious universities."
The scholars' grades and test scores (most applicants have a grade-point average of 3.8 or higher and an SAT score of at least 1100) along with their extracurricular activities and application essays helped them rise to the top of a pool of some 400 applicants. The $17,000 scholarship provides scholars with enough money for tuition and textbooks for the next four years and, for the first time, financial assistance for housing in their first year.
The scholars get to know each other right from the start. More than half of the freshmen in the program live together on the same floor of a campus residence hall. All scholars take two general education courses and a special seminar together during their first year.
Faculty Director Ray Pestrong takes the scholars on cultural fieldtrips which include museum tours and performances by the San Francisco Symphony. "I have the best job," Pestrong says, "interacting with these students is a joy."
Presidential Scholar Michael Rubin, a sophomore majoring in English, says the program helps academically inclined students find a balance between studying and socializing. He travels back and forth to SFSU from his home in Daly City, but because of the program, he lingers on campus more than most commuters.
"The Presidential Scholars program really ties you into all that State has to offer," he says. Rubin got to know his fellow scholars better through the classes they took together and says he especially enjoyed Eric Solomon's "Freshman First Year Experience" seminar. He found an invaluable resource in Solomon.
"Whether it was parking or blocking out my schedule, I could always come to Professor Solomon for advice and tips," Rubin says. "I always got answers. I remember one time when he was speaking with President Corrigan, he turned and asked me if I needed to speak with him. That was unbelievable."
The enriched learning environment has paid off for many graduates who have gone on to successful careers. Former Presidential Scholar Glendy Chan (B.A., '02) was accepted at UC Davis but selected SFSU for the diversity of its student body. "Being with such a talented group of individuals, most from very different backgrounds, really helped me to socialize with different types of people," Chan says. She graduated at the top of her class in the College of Business and was the student speaker at Commencement in 2002. Today she's a tax generalist at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Former scholar Lianne Marie Dobbs (B.A., '02), who starred in a recent TheatreWorks production of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," is making a living as an actress, has an agent, and just auditioned for her first production on Broadway.
Other scholars have continued their studies in graduate school. Raymond Wu (B.S., '03), who won first place among undergraduate students at the College of Science and Engineering's Student Project Showcase during his senior year, is now at UCLA. Nelly Lau (B.A., '02) recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in electrical engineering -- one of only 46 awarded nationwide -- and just entered Stanford's doctoral program in electrical engineering.
The Presidential Scholars program at SFSU is funded in part by million-dollar gifts from the Bernard Osher Foundation and Evergreen Group Chairman Y.F. Chang, who recently donated an additional $100,000 to help pay for the scholars' first year of student housing.
-- Adrianne Bee
More: Presidential Scholars make a lasting connection.