Campus: Northridge -- January 26, 2006

Focus is on Undergrads in New Cal State Northridge Scholarship Program

While still in its first year, Cal State Northridge's ambitious new Northridge Scholarship Program is offering a rare opportunity for undergraduate students to work side-by-side with faculty mentors on academic projects and activities without having to worry about how they are going to pay for school.

Northridge President Jolene Koester said the merit-based program's objective is to support and develop CSUN's high-achieving undergrads. "We have a collective responsibility for student success," she said, "and by supporting these bright scholars, we help strengthen the entire undergraduate academic culture."

Established in spring 2005, the Northridge Scholarship Program offers one-year funding--either a $5,000 Presidential Scholarship and a $3,000 University Scholarship--at a level that allows undergrads to devote more time to learning and fewer hours at jobs unrelated to their fields of study. The scholarships fully cover university tuition and fees. This year, there are seven Presidential Scholars and 14 University Scholars.

"We look for students with well-developed ideas who can effectively communicate their plans for their proposed projects," said finance professor Patricia Born, committee chair for Presidential Scholar selection.

For the academic year 2005-06, "we accepted a group of students with ambitious, yet realistic proposals for groundbreaking research," she said. "These are students who are thinking beyond their required coursework, looking to enhance their college experience and…prepare themselves for graduate school or research careers."

Aaron Christopher, a pre-dental student majoring in biology, was urged to apply for a Presidential Scholarship by mentor Thomas Minehan, assistant professor of chemistry/biochemistry. Intrigued by organic chemistry, Christopher had begun lab research with Minehan, but yearned to do more.

"I'm a husband and a father," said Christopher, parent of an 11-month-old son. "In order to do long hours of research, I needed more financial support. The Presidential Scholarship allows me to spend six to ten hours a week in the lab, working on our project. It would have been difficult to keep up morale without the scholarship."

Christopher and Minehan are developing a synthetic tool that chemists and pharmaceutical companies can apply to the mass production of important biological compounds. The duo's initial findings have been published in The American Chemical Society's Organic Letters.

CSUN's new scholarship program, Christopher believes, paved his way to the Harvard School of Dental Medicine for fall 2006.

"Monetary benefits aside," he said, "the scholarship helped me build my resume for dental school. The award itself, the publication of my research, the strong recommendation from my faculty mentor, all of that made me stand out."

University Scholar Tasha Collins, a junior majoring in kinesiology/exercise science, used to put in 25 to 30 hours a week at work.

"It was always a struggle with money, a stress you don't need when you're in school," she said. "Now I have the freedom to do internships like the one I have now. What I'm learning there I can take right into the classroom."

Collins' internship as a physical therapy aide serves as the activity she must complete as a University Scholar. At Progressive Physical Therapy in Granada Hills, she is learning first-hand about ultrasound, electrical stimulation, balance and fine motor skills exercises.

The Northridge Scholarship Program provides a number of "entry points"--periods in a student's academic career when applications to scholarships are open--for Cal State Northridge students. The new program's predecessor, called The Northridge Presidential Scholarship Program, made funds available to incoming freshmen only.

Presidential Scholarships are available to juniors and seniors who have attended CSUN on a continuous basis and to transfer students who have attended for one year. Students can apply for University Scholarships at the end of the freshman year and can re-apply for an additional year of funding. Transfer students--at the junior level with 60 academic units--also may apply.

Initial funding for the program has come from the James Russell Simpson endowment, and the Financial Aid and Scholarship Department makes funds available to students receiving other university support.

CSUN recently received a bequest from the estate of Jack and Mary Bayramian that also will provide funds to the program.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130,

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