Montana State University

MSU finishes strong year of scholarship wins with Rhodes, Udall, Goldwaters, Marshall and more

May 2, 2013 -- MSU News Service

Twenty-five MSU students were honored recently for being named winners and finalists of major national scholarships and fellowships. Included in the group were four Goldwater scholars, as well as Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright and Udall scholars. The honored students are pictured here with MSU President Waded Cruzado, MSU Provost Martha Potvin and Ilse-Mari Lee, director of the University Honors Program. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

After a year during which a stunning number of students won major national scholarships and fellowships, Montana State University learned this week it is once again the school of choice for many of the state's best and brightest students.

Out of 213 Montana high-school students eligible for the Montana University System Honor Scholarship, 135 or 63 percent have applied to MSU for fall 2013, university officials announced this week.

The scholarships provide free tuition for up to four years to top students from Montana high schools, based on their grade point averages and college entrance exam scores. Students can choose to use the scholarships at any one of the state's colleges, universities or two-year institutions.

MSU regularly gets the largest share of the students, with 127 of 206 scholarship recipients choosing MSU last fall; 99 out of 176 in 2011; and 121 out of 199 in 2010.

Overall, the university has been drawing record numbers of students to its doors. Fall 2012 enrollment hit a record 14,660 - the sixth time in seven years MSU hit an enrollment record.

In addition, the 2012-13 academic year has been an amazing one overall for the university in terms of major scholarships, said Ilse-Mari Lee, director of the University Honors Program at MSU.

In March, the university learned that all four of its nominees for the Goldwater Scholarship had been chosen as winners - a rare feat for any university nationally and one that last happened at MSU in 1998. The Goldwater is the nation's premier scholarship for undergraduates studying math, natural sciences and engineering, and it gives each student up to $7,500 a year for tuition, fees, books, and room and board. MSU has now received 58 Goldwater Scholarships, keeping the university one of the nation's top institutions for numbers of recipients. 

Also in March, Blake Bjornson, a former student body president at MSU, won a Udall Scholarship in recognition of his commitment to an environmentally related career and sustained efforts and leadership toward this goal. He is MSU's fifth Udall Scholar.

In November, Joe Thiel was named MSU's 10th Rhodes Scholar, and Bryan Vadheim was named MSU's first Marshall Scholar. Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowship awards in the world. In addition to outstanding scholarly achievements, Rhodes Scholars are chosen for their "character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead."

The Marshall Scholarship is similar to the Rhodes Scholarship, but while Rhodes Scholars must study in the Oxford University system, the Marshall Scholarship may be used at any institution in the U.K.

Major scholarship winners from MSU were honored at a reception earlier this week and are listed below by scholarship, name, major and hometown:

Newman Scholar, Dani Clark, sociology, Livingston, Mont.

Fulbright Scholar, Elizabeth Browning, English, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Udall Scholar, Blake Bjornson, mechanical engineering, Missoula, Mont.

Goldwater Scholar, Alissa Bleem, chemical engineering, Fort Collins, Colo.

Goldwater Scholar, Natasha Pettinger, chemistry, Laramie, Wyo.

Goldwater Scholar, Brian Redman, electrical engineering, Crane, Mont.

Goldwater Scholar, Matthew Sherick, chemical engineering, Hudson, Wis.

National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, Vanessa Murray, chemistry (doctoral candidate), Craig, Colo.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Anna Bergstrom, land resources, Rockford, Ill.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Kevin Harlen, cell biology and neuroscience, Helena, Mont. 

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Ethan Keeler, electrical engineering, Butte, Mont.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Catherine Kirkland, environmental engineering (doctoral candidate), Bozeman, Mont.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Tiphani Lynn, molecular biosciences (doctoral candidate), Great Falls, Mont.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Brieann Webber, civil engineering (bio-resources), Kalispell, Mont.  

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Kaysha Young, mechanical engineering, Pony, Mont.

Marshall Scholar, Bryan Vadheim, chemical engineering and economics, Miles City, Mont.

Rhodes Scholar, Joseph Thiel, chemical engineering and liberal studies, Idaho Falls, Idaho

A number of MSU students also received honorable mentions or were finalists for major awards. Those students are listed below by scholarship, name, major and hometown:

Fulbright National finalist, David Besh, biological sciences (organismal biology), Anchorage, Alaska.

Fulbright National finalist, Robert Cruz, health and human performance, Newport, R.I.

Fulbright National finalist, Gabe Lavin, anthropology, Bozeman, Mont.

Fulbright National finalist, Kevin Murray, industrial engineering, Butte, Mont.

Truman finalist, Alana Lake, political science, Missoula, Mont.

Gates-Cambridge finalist, David Halat, chemistry, Bozeman, Mont.

Rhodes National finalist, Eric Dietrich, civil engineering (bio-resources), Portland, Ore.

Udall Scholar honorable mention, Kellie M. Phillips, nursing, Kaycee, Wyo.


Contact: Ilse-Mari Lee, director, University Honors Program, (406) 994-4689 or