By Julia Wallace
This Sewanee Scholars Weekend, which brought 78 prospective students to campus Feb. 24-25, is a departure from the event’s past. Rather than bringing students to campus to compete for scholarship money, the Admissions staff informed each student of their respective reward, and then invited them to campus as a celebration rather than a competition.
“Students were notified of the scholarships at the time they were being invited,” Ryan Cassell, Associate Director of Admission said. “We’re hoping to foster a less competitive environment. There have been times in the past where we’ve sensed that some of the Scholarship Weekend students have viewed each other not as classmates, but as competitors for the same awards.”
In years past, Sewanee Scholar students would interview with several professors, who would then decide the scholarship amount each student deserved. This year, Admissions counselors and the Faculty Scholarship Committee chose just over 150 students to be offered specific scholarships.
“This event is for our Wilkins Scholars and our Benedict Scholars,” Forbes Mann, Assistant Director of Admissions, said. “The Benedict Scholarship is the full cost of attendance and there are two in each freshman class. The Wilkins scholarship is $14,000.”
Students arrived on campus at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 and were guided through campus and driving tours. They were then welcomed to campus by Lee Ann Afton-Backlund, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid and Watson Hartsoe (C’13). Students continued on to student-lead panel discussions, which explored topics such as study abroad experiences and classes unique to Sewanee, like The Life and Literature of Tennessee Williams taught by Dr. Virginia Craighill.
Cassell estimated that 120 current students helped out with the event by giving tours, driving, setting up panel discussions, and hosting prospective students.
Will Watson (C’13) and biology professor Dr. McGrath spoke to Sewanee Scholar students about “Finding Your Place,” a pilot program that will introduce incoming freshman to all aspects of life at Sewanee. Students will come to campus eleven days early in August to, as McGrath put it, “hit the ground running and feel a strong connection to [their] professors and community.” Professors and upperclassmen will introduce this new class to the Mountain by taking them on field trips to nearby communities and some of the most beautiful spots in the Domain.
Sunday night ended with a “speed networking” dinner with professors in Convocation, followed by a trip to the Pub to hear live music by A Boy Named Banjo. On Monday students attended classes and a closing session held by Dr. McCardell.
“It’s a pretty rapid fire introduction into everything we have to offer,” Mann said. By Monday, already five students had decided to send in their deposits.