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Five WVU Foundation Scholars to be chosen from Bucklew cohort

A photo of 2018 Bucklew Scholars.

The 2018 Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship cohort. 


The 2018 Bucklew Scholars chose West Virginia University for a variety of reasons — its status as an R1 Research Institution, its close community feel, its school spirit and most of all — it’s home.

The Bucklew Scholarship is given to 20 high-achieving West Virginia students who have been accepted to the University and qualifies them to be considered for a Foundation Scholarship, the highest academic scholarship the University awards.

For Brooke High School’s Ashley Eby, it’s “always been WVU,” where she said tradition meets innovation. Eby, who plans to study chemical engineering before entering law school, wants to write policy for the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I love the environment,” she said. “I don’t think there are enough legislators that know enough about the science.”

Jenna Soltesz jokingly said her parents “pretended” to let her choose her school, but as alumni, they were fairly set on her coming to Morgantown. 

“I came out of the womb going to WVU,” she said. The Bridgeport High School senior plans to study industrial engineering at the school that’s close to home, but still far enough away for her to have a college experience. Soltesz can see herself working in manufacturing quality control in a large company.

The discovery of elevated emissions from Volkswagen diesel vehicles by WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions was a deciding factor for Jackie Arnold from Washington High School. Shortly after that 2015 discovery, WVU won NASA’s Centennial Challenge in two consecutive years.

“Beating schools like MIT in these competitions not only means prize money and bragging rights, it sends a message to students throughout the state,” Arnold said. “The message I received was that if I wanted a world-class engineering degree, I don’t need to look any farther than Morgantown.”

Arnold plans to earn a degree in chemical engineering and to be in on the ground floor of nanotechnology, using her knowledge to solve the plastic/waste issue or to create a pharmaceutical or nanobot that could attack or repair certain cells in the body.

Research is important for Hunter Moore from South Harrison High School. Moore plans to study aerospace engineering, earn a Ph.D. and then a spot at NASA. 

Moore, who describes himself as “sleep-deprived and philosophical,” plans to jump into WVU life by running for a student government position. His high school career includes soccer and theater, including the role of Mufasa in his school’s production of “The Lion King, Jr.” 

“I’m not the best at everything, but I’m able to enjoy a lot of different things,” Moore said. 

That’s also true for Grafton High School’s Louis “Jay” Latta, who spent some of the recent teacher work stoppage writing a 90-second stand-up comedy routine. Latta, who also plans a career in engineering was a cabinet member for Youth in Government. WVU was “always the heart option” for Latta, who admires Thomas Edison, the man he calls the “most prolific innovator of all time.” 

“I want to run my own software company,” he said. “I feel like computer science is the path to innovation.”

Ethan Weaver will join Latta on the computer science career track. Weaver chose WVU because of the ability to do undergraduate research here and the chance to study abroad. The Parkersburg High School senior notes he got 5,000 likes for a Tweet about his AP calculus test that included a final question about a potato that no one in his cohort could answer. 

If he’s one of the five who are chosen as a Foundation Scholar, Weaver said he’d be grateful.

“It would give me not only the opportunity to do things like study abroad and research, but it would give me a community of people and that’s a good thing to have,” he said. 

Study abroad is also important to Heath Cottrill, who wants to travel to Haiti to help bring water to villages still without basic infrastructure since the 2010 earthquake. Cottrill, who will study engineering, visited Haiti as part of a church group. Church is important to the Braxton County High School senior, and he often volunteers with his father there. 

“A lot of my free time is working at the church with my dad,” Cottrill said. “I’ve started to enjoy it. Now, I’m starting to thank him for taking me with him when I was younger.” 

Jacob Hise from Pocahontas County High School also volunteers at his church in Green Bank and works on church-related community projects in his spare time. Hise plans to study civil engineering as a path back home to work for the West Virginia Division of Highways or the U.S. Forest Service. He’s good at math and has placed highly in the Regional Math Field Day, but he also spends a great deal of time outdoors. 

“I’m probably the only math nerd you’ll ever find who loves to cut trees, hunt and fish,” he said. 

Katherine Whittington’s grandfather is the pastor at her church, where she volunteers as a pre-K Sunday School teacher. Whittington has spent this last semester of her high school career helping to raise money for a classmate diagnosed with cancer and in leadership positions with her volleyball and tennis teams, as well as the state president of West Virginia DECA. Whittington plans to study political science before attending law school. She sees herself entering the political arena, perhaps as a judge. 

“I don’t think my career will be one job, I think it will be many,” she said. 

In his spare time, Ian McKnight from Parkersburg South High School enjoys playing the ukulele and writing poetry in classic sonnet style. McKnight wants to major in biomedical engineering and also study international religions and political science. Combining three seemingly unrelated disciplines, he wants to work around the world with vaccines to help people in foreign countries survive diseases that can be cured in the U.S. But McKnight also has a future career in politics in mind. 

“I’m interested in why a person misleads others for their own benefit,” he said. “I enjoy proving my point without having to mislead others. I want to be that ‘noble politician’ we see so few of in our society.”

Sarah Ihlenfeld from Wheeling Park High School acknowledges that politicians can be less than sincere; however, she admires former President Barack Obama for his strong will.

“I think that Obama was really a good-hearted man. Being in politics you have to do things you don’t want to do,” Ihlenfeld said. “I think looking back he’ll be proud of what he did, doing the best he could for people.” 

She plans a career in international studies, and then law school to study international or human rights law.

Cabell Midland High School is home to Shamil Patel, who plans to study abroad in Italy to learn more about the history before settling into a career in aerospace engineering. An Eagle Scout, Patel has volunteered to install energy-saving light bulbs at a Ronald McDonald House, then constructed a picnic area and fence for residents to enjoy some natural light. Like many of his fellow Bucklew Scholars, Patel is a Governor’s Honors Academy alumnus. 

“I liked the independence,” he said. “It was a good introduction into college life.

Vijay Bharti from Morgantown High School has already gained some independence through his family’s non-profit STEM Enterprises. Bharti’s family uses robotics to teach science in the U.S. and in Brazil, Afghanistan and India, where students may not have access to higher level science. Bharti is the non-profit’s treasurer and plans to study business, along with biology for a pre-med degree. But he also is curious about other sciences; he’s also interested in earth science and astronomy. 

“I’ve learned there’s so much more to study, I may just do everything,” he said.  

Teresa Riffle wants to be an educator, as well, and aspires to be a high school math teacher. The Ravenswood High School senior is an FFA member without a farm, yet is president of her local chapter and has placed first in national FFA floraculture competitions. Riffle would like to study abroad in Taiwan, where she was born, to study her mother’s culture, and would use a Foundation Scholarship to do that. 

“Additional support and resources would be the final step to put me on really good footing for the next chapter,” she said. 

Meg Sorrells from Hurricane High School wants to work with students who have speech issues and will study to be a speech pathologist. Sorrells found she liked working with younger students while she was employed at a summer camp in the mountains and giving private swimming lessons to kids who had learning disabilities. She finds herself on the side of people who lack privilege in society. 

“I’m constantly standing up for people with disabilities, transgender people and for gay rights and equality in general,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to be bullied for any reason.”  

Taking care of others is important for Brady Hanshaw from Sissonville High School, too. Hanshaw plans to go to medical school so that he can practice in underserved rural areas in West Virginia. He’s already worked at HealthRight in Kanawha County, where he’s helped a working physician do research into the number of ultrasounds pregnant women should have, discovering that many women have more than is healthy for themselves and the child they’re carrying. If he’s chosen as a Foundation Scholar, he’ll study healthcare policy in Europe to research how the U.S. can improve its own policy. 

“I really want to be the best at what I do,” Hanshaw said, noting he describes himself as “ambitious.”

Jamie Higgins used his National Honor Society position to start a tutoring center at Shady Spring High School. Higgins will major in computer science (with perhaps some study in electrical engineering, too) for a career in software engineering and would like to study abroad in Germany. He’s first in his senior class and takes his studies seriously. 

“I’m determined to do the best I can in school because I know it will shape my career,” he said.

Murad Hamirani from Parkersburg High School describes himself as a “perfectionist.” Always seeking the perfect solution to whatever problem is in front of him, Hamirani wants to major in computer science or computer engineering, then study for an MBA so he can be a consultant for a technology business firm. He was named AAA first team All-Conference forward and would like to coach youth soccer while he’s at WVU. He admires his physics teacher.

“Mrs. Berry definitely created the interest I have in physics,” Hamirani said. “She’s been more than a teacher; she’s been a mentor about life and she’s been there when I needed her.” 

With biochemistry as her intended major, Morgan Glass wants to be involved in medical research, which may mean medical school, but might also mean a Ph.D. and clinical trials that would allow her to do hands-on research. Her attention to detail should stand her in good stead as she explores career possibilities.

“I really like biology and I really like chemistry,” the Wheeling Park High School senior said. “I like where they come together; the entire body is a chemical reaction.”  

Raegan Hughes is the captain of her Shady Spring High School soccer team and also works with Next Step, mentoring freshmen who are at risk of dropping out of high school, making sure they have a plan. Hughes is a pre-veterinary major and wants to work with larger animals while she’s studying at WVU. Although she isn’t a West Virginia native, Hughes wants to open a veterinarian practice in the Mountain State when she completes her studies. She says she’s both a perfectionist and a compromiser. 

“I want it to go my way,” she said. “But I’ve learned that compromise is the perfect way in the long run if you try to make both sides work.”

The Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship is named after WVU’s 20th president and is valued at $40,000, providing its recipients with more than $10,000 per year over four years to be used toward educational costs. All Bucklew Scholars have qualified for the Honors College at WVU, and the scholarship can be used in addition to the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.

The Foundation Scholarships, which will be announced May 15, are awarded to five Bucklew Scholars.

The scholarships are part of the University’s comprehensive awards program and are supported, in part, by the  WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU.



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