Montgomery Scholars Hosts Information Session

By: Natalia Pila Staff Writer

Despite the harsh, cold weather on the afternoon of October 29, the MC Theater Arts arena warmly welcomed many high school students and their parents. At the entrance, there were students who were ready to help the guests, and were giving out bags and folders with programs on them. The bags, folders and students name tags had one thing in common: They all had the label, “Montgomery Scholars” on them. The gathering was an information session for the Montgomery Scholars Program.

The Montgomery Scholars Program is one of several honors programs that the college provides for its students. The Montgomery Scholars, in particular, is a two-year honors program designed for high-school graduates that plan to transfer to a four-year institution. It focuses on interdisciplinary teaching, liberal arts, and having good social support—not only through a small class size of around 25, but also through close personal relationships with faculty and staff—during the first two years of college.

During the summer between the first and second years of the program, students are taken to a study travel experience, all paid for by the college. At the end of the second year, the students in the program use all that they have learned to write a twenty-page thesis paper (called the “Capstone paper”) that must relate to globalization, which is presented at the last Monday of February in front of their families and friends. It also provides a full-tuition scholarship for the whole two years. Many graduates of the program have successfully transferred to four-year institutions, and there are graduates who are currently in graduate school, or pursuing some kind of post-graduate degree.

The information session consisted of people directly involved in the program, describing not only the program itself, but also their personal experiences. After a brief welcome from the director of the program, Dr. Mary Furgol, two first-year students came to the stand. Jennifer Yeboah described her experience at Harpers Ferry, and how the program affected her decision on what to major in.

Before she decided to enter the Scholars Program, she intended on double-majoring in Communications and International Relations. Now, Yeboah has decided to major in Nursing.

The second first-year speaker was Tin Lok Wong. Wong talked about the small class sizes, Philo Café (a gathering every other Friday at Professor, Bob White’s house to discuss any kind of philosophy) and the interdisciplinary teaching approach that the program has.

After the first-years finished telling the audience about their experiences, Dr. Aram Hessami, the International Relations professor for the second-years, described what the second-year class, “Capstone,” was about. “We teach the students how to think, and to look at things in a different perspective. So that wherever they are, they know what to think,” said Hessami.

Shortly after Dr. Hessami stepped down, Silvia Argueta, a second-year Scholar, explained what her topic for the Capstone paper was. “I’m doing mine on Dollarization, which is when a country adopts another country’s currency to use as their own,” said Argueta. The idea was inspired by a visit to her home country of El Salvador, to find out that they had switched their currency to the American dollar.

The other second-year Scholar to speak was Yves Gomes. Before he explained what his topic was, Gomes described how he was a bit iffy about entering the program at first, since he was a science major and the program focuses on humanities. But without the program, Gomes would not have known about the summer internship at Georgetown University that he was fortunate enough to have been accepted into. He lived very close to the campus for 11 weeks during this past summer, and participated in cancer research. “Even if you’re a science major, you should definitely apply to this program,” Gomes concluded.

The second-years’ speeches were followed by an explanation of the admissions process into the Montgomery Scholars program by Maria Adams-Davidson, the program’s recruiter. After Davidson went over the requirements and the specific steps for applying, Professor Linda Robinson, counselor to the current first-years of Scholars, took the stand.

Robinson explained her job as a counselor, not only for the Scholars, but for Montgomery College as a whole. “The counselors here teach study habits classes, in addition to providing students with advising for classes,” Robinson said. The counselors for the Scholars help students come to a decision when it comes to majors, where to transfer or even just what kinds of classes to take while still at Montgomery College.

This section of the session was concluded by having two Scholars from the recently graduated class of 2011 talk about their current experiences in their transfer institutions. Diane Lameira, a psychology major, now goes to Georgetown University. She is currently serves as a research assistant, and works with delinquent adolescents. Shahram Bahrami, on the other hand, goes to University of Maryland Baltimore County, on a full-tuition scholarship as a Biology major.

Once the 2011 graduates had finished describing their experiences, the music professor for the first-years, Professor Cheryl Tobler, explained the study-travel experience of the current first-years for next summer. Pending funding, the students will partake in the Swannanoa Gathering, a music festival at Warren-Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Cultural and service learning activities are also planned.

The finale of the information session was a scripted presentation with four second-year speakers: Claire Jones, Sairam Nagulapalli, Philip Kem and myself. The four speakers worked together to summarize their experience as Montgomery Scholars as a whole. From talking about “intense discussions in the classroom,” to “throwing each other surprise birthday parties,” the Scholars gave the audience a taste of what their past year has been like together.

The presentation ended with a short, musical slideshow that was made together with the help of other Scholars in the class. The slideshow summarized the time of the Scholars together and let the music speak for the pictures, and the class themselves.

It is around this time of the year that high school students are narrowing down their options for where to apply to for college. The Montgomery Scholars program is one of the many options available for students, though it has a small acceptance rate. If you would like to know more about the Scholars program, check out the website at “www.montgomerycollege.edu/admissions/MCScholars.”