Honors offers new Presidential Fellowship, changes scholarships

Honors at Iowa introduced the new Presidential Fellowship for first-year students this spring.


Nick Rohlman

A bus stops at the Old Capitol Transit Center on Wednesday January 30, 2019.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Honors at Iowa has decided to rearrange scholarship opportunities and add a Presidential Fellowship for first-year students.

The addition of the award is among the changes the program has undergone in its 60th years, including the decision to omit direct admittance, meaning all future members must apply.

After getting feedback from students, Honors officials realized there was a need for more community, Honors Director Art Spisak said, which is one of the missions of the Presidential Fellowship.

“With the Presidential Fellows, there will be more of an emphasis on community and less of an emphasis on the award,” he said. “The money is important, we are not trying to downplay that, but just as important, if not more, is the community you’ll get.”

The 25 to 30 Presidential Fellows will be selected from this year’s first-year students. After completing the universal application, finalists will be asked to interview in March and create a video submission a week later. Winners will be announced April 1.

RELATED: Students now required to apply for UI Honors

Presidential Fellows will receive $500 each semester for four-consecutive semesters over the course of their sophomore and junior years.

In addition, they will take two Honors seminars in the first year of funding. One is in the fall with Spisak focusing on self-discovery, and the other is with Kelly Thornburg, Honors director of scholar development, and English Associate Professor Blaine Greteman. Thornburg, a Truman scholar, and Greteman, a Rhodes scholar, will focus their course on scholar development.

“We are looking for people who we can imagine plopping down in front of us and taking us down a rabbit hole with them,” Thornburg said. “For me, that means there are people who are really passionate about something and are not in any way waiting for people to help them know more, be more, or do more. It’s very much an ownership of something they love.”

Greteman and Thornburg’s course will assists the Presidential Fellows in applying for internships and graduate school, creating competitive résumés or CVs, and applying for prestigious awards at their passion and will, Spisak said.

RELATED: Celebrating 60 years of Honors at Iowa

“What I hope to do for them is make the process itself meaningful, to help them become better thinkers and citizens and pursue their passions in ways that are meaningful and rewarding,” Greteman said.

Honors has made the decision to do away with the Presidential Scholarship and use that money to benefit more students, Spisak said. That money will be directed toward the Honors Program Admissions Scholarships for incoming first-year students.

Instead of giving a large amount to around 20 students, Honors will give smaller scholarships to 80 students, he said. The current Presidential Scholarship recipients will continue to be funded.

“The driving force behind the decision is we only have so much money to use, and we want to try to use it to benefit students in the best ways possible,” Spisak said. “The amount will be less, but we will have a stronger influence enabling more students.”