Ready to take on the world, West Virginia University’s latest class of Foundation Scholars were announced Tuesday (May 17), representing top high school seniors from across the state. All five will be pursuing science-based careers, using their talents to make contributions in this world and beyond.
The 2016 Foundation Scholars are:
• David Laub, Martinsburg, Martinsburg High School
• Caroline Leadmon, Hurricane, Hurricane High School
• Delana McCoy, Ravenswood, Ravenswood High School
• Hayden Nichols, Elkview, Herbert Hoover High School
• Travis Rawson, Ravenswood, Ripley High School
“These five students represent the best hope for our future,” said President Gordon Gee. “David, Caroline, Delana, Hayden and Travis are excited to start discovering, exploring and making a difference. At West Virginia University, we will give them the tools to build successful careers and make world-changing breakthroughs.”
Gee, Provost Joyce McConnell and WVU Foundation Senior Vice President of Development and Chief Development Officer BJ Davisson welcomed the students to the Mountaineer family during Tuesday’s event at the Blaney House.
“Our five scholarship winners all have excelled in academics, leadership, and community service,” Davisson said. “But more than that, they have been tireless and passionate in their pursuit of excellence, and we are delighted that they will be attending WVU in the fall.”
Established in 1987, the Foundation Scholarship will provide in excess of $80,000 to cover college costs for four years of undergraduate studies, including tuition and fees, room and board, and a book stipend. They will also each receive a $4,500 stipend to be used to broaden their horizons through study abroad or academic enhancement opportunities such as internships.
Laub, Leadmon, McCoy, Nichols and Rawson were selected from a pool of 19 West Virginia high school seniors who were awarded the Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship, valued at $32,000 over four years of undergraduate studies. The Bucklew Scholars visited campus over two days in early April and interviewed with the selection committee for consideration for the Foundation Scholarship.
Students must meet a rigorous set of criteria to qualify for the award, including holding West Virginia residency, possessing a minimum GPA of 3.8 and achieving a minimum composite score of 30 on the ACT or 1,340 on the SAT college entrance exams.
Although unsure of which path he will ultimately pursue, Laub was inspired to study medicine when he attended a Relay for Life event a few years ago. One of the people recognized at the fundraiser for their cancer battle was a child. That didn’t sit well with Laub.
“This 6-year-old kid is fighting cancer. That’s not fair,” said Laub. “The experience really motivated me to become a doctor.”
His own childhood, filled with books, was also a factor in his educational pursuit. As an oncologist or pediatrician, Laub would be required to communicate clearly to his patients, a task he takes seriously. He hopes to use the English literature portion of his degree to continue developing the communication skills that reading has provided him.
Additionally, he felt that WVU would offer him the research opportunities he needed to get ahead in his field and discover what path he truly wants to take.
“One thing I’m really excited about is the opportunity to research,” he said. “There’s a certain kind of person it takes to be a doctor, so if it turns out I’m not one of those people I can do research and help kids and make a difference in lives that way.”
Leadmon also plans to help the community, albeit in a different way. She has always valued leadership and community service in her life, and wants to use those skills to give back to the state she loves.
“Lots of people talk about community service but then end up going to Ivy Leagues,” said Leadmon. “We are West Virginians, born and raised, and I think it’s important to give back to the state that gave us so much.”
And her plans for giving back are big. A biochemistry major, Leadmon eventually hopes to obtain a PhD in public health and potentially go to medical school. While unsure of her ultimate career choice, she has a deep passion for work with genetically modified organisms. Wanting to explore both the agriculture and medical sides of the topic, Leadmon aims to one day work for the USDA or FDA.
Beyond the connection with her studies, Leadmon has found a connection with the campus.
“The campus has a soul. It really does,” she said. “When I drive into Morgantown I get excited – I’m coming home.”
Animal and nutritional sciences major McCoy had similar sentiments.
“WVU is the only place I applied to,” she said. “I really want to represent the school, and that’s something I could do as Foundation Scholar. I really want to give back.”
Much of this motivation came from the University’s status as the state’s land-grant institution. As such, one of the main focuses on campus is agriculture – a topic near and dear to McCoy’s heart.
Her family back home in Ravenswood operates an Angus farm, where she has gained her fair share of large animal care experience. Additionally, she shows cattle at the Jackson County fair and served as both secretary and president of her school’s Future Farmers of America chapter, which has competed nationally.
With all of this background, it’s no surprise that McCoy has dreamed of being a veterinarian since she was a little girl, and nothing will stop her from achieving that – not even her allergies to animals and hay. She would ultimately like to open a large animal practice in her hometown, which currently lacks that resource.
Before taking her knowledge back home, though, she wants to gain experience in as many places as she can.
“I’m definitely looking forward to studying abroad,” said McCoy. “I want to go to Argentina or Nicaragua or something like that. I’ve met a lot of people from Argentina and they’re very nice, plus the area is beautiful and a lot like home. They also have a lot of cattle farms; they’re one of biggest cattle places in the world.”
Childhood passions were an important factor for Nichols as well.
Growing up, Nichols was a self-proclaimed science fiction nerd. He watched all the movies and read all the books in the genre that he could get his hands on. But what stood out to him the most were those about space, a topic that has always fascinated him.
This passion has driven Nichols to become a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, with the intent to eventually be sent into space on missions for NASA or SpaceX.
In the meantime, he wants to get involved with the many opportunities the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has to offer.
“I’ve been seeing in the news a lot of things going on with engineering at WVU,” Nichols said. “There are lots of professors getting awards, and a lot of programs doing big things. It’s enticing to see they’re involved and making a difference because I want to make an impact on the world, and I think this is place that’s going to get me there.”
Rawson saw that potential, too. A biomedical engineering major, Rawson recognized the opportunities that the Statler College offers.
“They have a lot of research opportunities in the engineering department,” said Rawson. “And their program is dedicated to helping students, focused on preparing them for the future and getting them jobs right out of college.”
For Rawson, that job will be in the medical field. Growing up on a farm exposed him to a lot of medical experiences, and he wanted to transform his time treating animals to a career of helping humans, either as a cardiothoracic surgeon or an OBGYN.
As for his tenure at WVU, it was a natural choice. He found WVU to be the only college in the state with a biomedical engineering program and a place with national accolades. More than that, though, he has simply been a fan of the University his entire life.
“WVU represents the state I’ve grown up in,” Rawson said. “They treat you nicely here. Everyone, all of the faculty members, they knew me by name. It makes you feel like you’re part of the family.”
For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources:
College Relations office: 304-293-4086
Office of the Dean: 304-293-4157
Other College administrative and department offices: Administration