The inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars is seen at the program's retreat held last weekend at a lodge in the Hocking Hills.

Photo courtesy of: members of the Marget Boyd Scholars Program


Members of the inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars wrote notes of encouragement to each other throughout the retreat and placed the notes inside paper bags designated for each of the 20 scholars.

Photo courtesy of: members of the Marget Boyd Scholars Program


Written on this "chain of gratitude" is the name of someone who inspired the scholars during the retreat, someone who served as their role model, someone who helped them get to Ohio University, or what their hopes are for the future of the program.

Photo courtesy of: members of the Marget Boyd Scholars Program

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Twenty first-year students selected for inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars

For more than a century, there has been a Boyd Hall on Ohio University’s Athens Campus, housing students and standing as a tribute to the Class of 1873 alumna Margaret Boyd, OHIO’s first female graduate. Boyd’s legacy takes on new life this semester in the form of 20 young women of promise – the University’s inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars.

OHIO’s first women’s scholars program, the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program seeks to inspire and encourage undergraduate women to become engaged, confident and connected leaders at Ohio University and beyond.

The program was founded by Patti McSteen, associate dean of students; Tanya Barnett, director of degree programs at University College; and Susanne Dietzel, director of OHIO’s Women’s Center.

“When we were developing the program, we began with a goal of seeding leaders both on campus and beyond,” said McSteen, the program’s director. “As much as the program is for the students while they are here, it’s also about who they will become as alumni and about being part of the greater legacy of Ohio University as women who are strong and will do great things.”

The Margaret Boyd Scholars Program is open to all first-year female students on the Athens Campus and offers those accepted into the program academic enrichment and leadership development opportunities throughout their undergraduate years.

More than 100 students applied for the program last semester.

“We were thrilled with the number of applications we received,” said McSteen, who credited faculty and staff in all of the University’s academic colleges, student support groups, learning communities, and Residential Housing who referred students to the program and who encouraged students to apply for the program. “This truly has been a University-wide effort.”

The program’s founding members and its five-member advisory board considered the applicants’ initial applications followed by small group interviews and then individual interviews when selecting the 20 women accepted into the program.

“During the small group interviews, we led group discussions in which we wanted to see how these women interacted with each other as well as how they answered their questions,” McSteen said. “One of the things we didn’t necessarily expect to see was how these women connected with each other almost immediately. In fact, when one group was done with the interviews, they decided to go have dinner together. ... These were people meeting each other for the first time, and they were saying things like, ‘Whether we make it or not, I really enjoyed talking to you.’ These women regardless of their backgrounds or academic interests connected with each other and felt the need and desire to want to connect with each other, and they were just enjoying themselves tremendously.”

The group that selected the scholars was committed to having a diverse group of students enrolled in the program and didn’t base its decisions on academics.

“We were thoughtful as we whittled down the applicants,” McSteen explained. “We took particular interest in the women who had something that set them apart and to those who showed a little bit of a spark and intellectual curiosity – the kinds of things you really aren’t going to see in a test score per se.”

What resulted was a truly diverse group of scholars.

“We didn’t just look at what each student could bring to the program but also what the program could give to her,” McSteen added. “There are a lot of accomplished, bright, together young women who know exactly where they want to go, and we have many of them in this inaugural class, but we also have women who are undecided in their majors. We feel that the undecided students will be really good role models for those who think they know what they want to do, and vice versa.”

The 20 women selected for the program come from throughout Ohio and beyond and represent nearly every college on campus.

“I’ve always been inclined to take leadership opportunities,” said Bianca Hillier, a broadcast journalism major accepted into the program. “I initially applied for the program partly for that reason and partly to make new friends; however, as the interview process went on, I learned more about Margaret Boyd and what she means to this school. Her dedication to education and everything she represents about women’s rights made me even more motivated to be accepted into the program.”

When asked what she hopes to take away from the program, Hillier said, “I hope to lead other undergraduate women to be the strongest they can be both academically and socially,” defining social strength as having the confidence to approach and make connections with others.

“I hope to take away my own connections from this program as well,” she added, noting the friendships she looks forward to developing with the other scholars as well as the faculty and staff administering the program.

Jessany Middleton, an undecided student accepted into the program, said she applied for the program because it “seemed like a great opportunity for young women to learn and grow together, and, being new to Athens, I jumped at the chance to be more involved on campus.”

Middleton said she hopes “to grow more as a person and as a woman and to take full advantage of all the opportunities that come as part of the program. I also hope to develop strong friendships with the other 19 scholars as we spend the next four years together.”

The Margaret Boyd Scholars Program officially kicked off this past weekend with the inaugural class participating in a retreat at a lodge in the nearby Hocking Hills. The retreat was the first time the scholars were all gathered in one place, providing them an opportunity to bond with one another, get to know the program’s staff and advisory board, and set goals.

“Part of the retreat will be spent on discussing our expectations of the scholars,” McSteen explained. “We tell the scholars that they are going to benefit from this program, but they also have responsibilities – not just to Margaret Boyd Scholars but to all Ohio University students.”

The first year of the program will be focused on bonding among the scholars, learning about the program and participating in the first-year seminar. The seminar began Monday and is being taught by the three faculty members on the program’s advisory board: Gerardine Botte, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research; Melissa Haviland, associate professor of art and associate director of the School of Art; and Miriam Shadis, associate professor of history. The other members of the program’s advisory board are Jennifer Bowie, executive director of development, communications and marketing for University Advancement, and Peggy Pruitt, retired senior associate director of athletics.

During the program’s second year, McSteen plans on connecting the scholars with alumni and friends of the University to help the scholars begin their professional networking.

Also during the second year, the scholars will reside in Bryan Hall but will select their roommates – be it a fellow scholar or someone else.

“This program is not just about these 20 women,” McSteen said. “We want this program to create a ripple effect throughout the University.”

The third year of the program will be dedicated to internship and study abroad opportunities while the final year of the program will be focused on a capstone seminar designed to prepare the scholars for the next phase of life.

The Margaret Boyd Scholars program is a collaboration between the Division of Student Affairs, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and University College. Applications for the next class of Margaret Boyd Scholars will be accepted in the fall of 2014 with a goal of having 80 scholars enrolled by 2016.

Introducing the inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars

More information about members of the inaugural class of Margaret Boyd Scholars, including their photos and biographies, is available online.

They are:

Anna Bekavac of Pittsburgh, Pa., music therapy major, College of Fine Arts

Tyann Carter of Cleveland, Ohio, pre-engineering major, University College

Gabriela Clarke of Columbus, Ohio, industrial engineering major, Russ College of Engineering and Technology

Bridget Cooper of Belpre, Ohio, undecided, University College

Alina Freeman of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, undecided, University College

Bianca Hillier of Dublin, Ohio, broadcast journalism major, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Alexa Hoynacke of Cleveland, Ohio, mechanical engineering major, Russ College of Engineering and Technology

Grace Keyes of Mansfield, Ohio, global studies war and peace and environmental pre-law major, College of Arts and Sciences

Hannah Kingsbury of Louisville, Ky., screen writing and producing major, Scripps College of Communication

Nora Kornelakis of Cleveland, Ohio, undecided, College of Arts and Sciences

Rachel Marison of Lake Villa, Ill., specialized studies major with a concentration in counterterrorism and security studies, University College

Stacey Mbelle of Maineville, Ohio, biological sciences pre-med major, College of Arts and Sciences

Jessany Middleton of Dayton, Ohio, undecided, College of Arts and Sciences

Emily Quinn of Pittsburgh, Pa., undecided, University College

Zulfa Rizqiya of Athens, Ohio, strategic communications major, Scripps College of Communication

Sara Sand of Athens, Ohio, engineering physics major, Honors Tutorial College

Claire Seid of Mason, Ohio, sociology major, Honors Tutorial College

Madeleine Toerne of Walbridge, Ohio, adolescent to young adult integrated language arts major, Patton College of Education

Erin Webb of Pataskala, Ohio, biological sciences pre-professional major, College of Arts and Sciences

Leah Wilson of Lancaster, Ohio, geography/art major, College of Arts and Sciences

How to support the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program

In September 2012, the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program received funding from Ohio University’s 1804 Fund to launch the program.

Since then, the Margaret Boyd Scholars Support Fund has been created to help provide general support for the program as well as academic enrichment, internship and study abroad opportunities for the scholars.

For more information on the Margaret Boyd Scholars Support Fund, visit http://www.ohio.edu/boydscholars/support.cfm.