30 students selected as University Scholars

Mon, 02/24/2020


Sarah Crawford-Parker

LAWRENCE — The 39th class of University Scholars and their faculty mentors were recently recognized at a banquet at the University of Kansas. Perry Alexander, keynote speaker and AT&T Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, called on each of the 30 scholars to stretch their learning into new and unfamiliar areas to fulfil their potential as future innovators and leaders.

Competitively selected from KU’s sophomore class, University Scholars earned their distinction through rigorous academic achievement, intellectual promise, curiosity and leadership. Scholars receive a $1,500 scholarship and are assigned a faculty mentor to support the development of their academic interests and engagement with research. Additionally, scholars enroll in one of the following interdisciplinary seminars:

“The Past is Never Dead: Commemoration, Power, and American Cultural Politics,” taught by Dave Tell, professor of communication studies

“If We Were to Design a University from Scratch, What Would It Look Like?,” taught by Leonard Krishtalka, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and director of the KU Biodiversity Institute, and L. Paige Fields, School of Business dean and Henry D. Price Professor.

Describing the University Scholars seminar, Krishtalka said that students pursue “vibrant, engaged discussion.” The topics are designed to help students make connections across fields and learn from one another as well as the instructors.  

“These are some of the most focused and inquisitive students,” Tell said. “I love their combination of curiosity and commitment. As faculty, we enjoy helping them hone their critical thinking skills and expand the ways they approach academic inquiry.” 

By focusing on important topics in contemporary society, the seminars also prepare students to address challenging issues through both graduate study and meaningful careers.

With over 750 alumni of the program, University Scholars was founded in 1982 under the leadership of retired U.S. 10th Circuit Chief Judge Deanell Tacha, then KU’s vice chancellor for academic affairs, along with longtime University Honors Program director Francis Heller, the Roy Roberts Distinguished Professor of Law and Political Science.

The 2019-2020 University Scholars are listed alphabetically with their hometowns, majors and faculty mentors.


Radhia Abdirahaman: Overland Park; majoring in behavioral neuroscience and global & international studies; mentored by Vincent Francisco, applied behavioral science

Melissa Acosta: Wichita; majoring in biochemistry; mentored by Audrey Lamb, molecular biosciences

Aylar Atadurdyyeva: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; majoring in biochemistry and political science; mentored by Abel Chikanda, geography and African & African-American studies

Clara Boyd: Moran; majoring in vocal performance and psychology; mentored by Nancy Hamilton, psychology

Ariana Brooks: Shawnee; majoring in human biology; mentored by Claudia Dozier, applied behavioral science

Nikki Brown: Lee’s Summit, Missouri; majoring in political science and sociology; mentored by John Head, School of Law

Austin Childs: Hutchinson; majoring in history and global & international studies; mentored by Robert Schwaller, history

Grace Cooper: Lawrence; majoring in sociology and women, gender & sexuality studies; mentored by Pritha Prasad, English

Ava Cormaney: Lawrence; majoring in Spanish; mentored by Rob Bayliss, Spanish & Portuguese

Toni Englund: Leawood; majoring in architectural engineering; mentored by Nilou Vakil, School of Architecture & Design

Grace Ewell: River Forest, Illinois; majoring in civil engineering; mentored by Ali Brox, Environmental Studies Program

Natalie Ford: Topeka; majoring in biology; mentored by Nathan Wood, history

Ceara Funk: McLouth; majoring in nursing; mentored by Danielle Olds, School of Nursing

Kali Holt: Waverly; majoring in molecular, cellular & developmental biology; mentored by Joanna Slusky, molecular biosciences

Emily Hull: Eudora; majoring in business analytics; mentored by Melinda Lewis, social welfare

Kim Jalosjos: Topeka; majoring in physics; mentored by Dave Besson, physics

Nicholas Johnston: Overland Park; majoring in music composition and theory; mentored by Brad Osborn, School of Music

Hayley Koontz: Benton; majoring in economics; mentored by Donna Ginther, economics

Anna Krause: San Jose, California; majoring in English, ecology & evolutionary biology, and French; mentored by Rich Glor, ecology & evolutionary biology

Margarita Madu: Abuja, Nigeria; majoring in business analytics and French; mentored by Christine Bourgeois, French, Francophone & Italian studies

Naomi Madu: Abuja, Nigeria; majoring in computer science and German; mentored by Liz MacGonagle, history

Sophie Moore: Plano, Texas; majoring in speech language hearing; mentored by Panying Rong, speech language hearing

Ivonne Pineda: Tegucigalpa, Honduras; majoring in finance and international business, mentored by Brian Donovan, sociology

Olivia Robison: Boise, Idaho; majoring in English; mentored by Katie Batza, women, gender & sexuality studies

Michaela Russ: O’Fallon, Missouri; majoring in speech language hearing; mentored by Jon Brumberg, speech language hearing

Hunter Schneider: Pittsburg; majoring in human biology and chemistry; mentored bu Misha Barybin, chemistry

Megah Shah: Lawrence; majoring in human biology and journalism; mentored by Joseph Erba, School of Journalism

Lauren Spence: Springfield, Missouri; majoring in strategic communication and sociology; mentored by Randal Jelks, African & African-American studies and American studies

Leah Stein: Dodge City; majoring in sociology; mentored by Jennifer Harrison, School of Business

Nicole Whitten:  Eudora; majoring in chemistry; mentored by Anna Neill, English.

Mon, 02/24/2020


Sarah Crawford-Parker

Media Contacts

Sarah Crawford-Parker

University Honors Program