Colvin, a senior with three majors (biochemistry, music and cell biology), will use the one year of postgraduate study in Ireland funded by the scholarship to earn a master's in musical therapy from the University of Limerick. Following his studies in Ireland, he hopes to return to the U.S. to enroll in medical school with an eventual practice that includes the relatively new science of musical therapy.
Colvin was selected for the Mitchell scholarship from more than 300 applicants from across the country. Colvin is the second MSU student to receive the Mitchell Scholarship. Michelle Miles, an MSU graduate from Bozeman, was named a Mitchell Scholar in 2001 and received her master's degree from Trinity College in Dublin.
Colvin said that "it was humbling and exciting" to be among this year's Mitchell recipients, who include a National Book Award Nominee and an Emmy winner. "To have something that combined all of my musical and medical interests is a dream come true," Colvin said.
Michael Miles, director of the MSU University of Honors Program, who helped guide Colvin through the application process for the Mitchell Scholarship, said Colvin will now engage renowned scholars within Ireland, but will also be invited to interact with political and cultural leaders from throughout the world.
"Shane is now in very distinguished company indeed," Miles said. "Such distinction speaks volumes both about him and Montana State University. He will soon discover that being a Mitchell Scholar opens doors of opportunity that will accompany him throughout his lifetime."
Colvin said the Mitchell program will synthesize his diverse passions. He came to MSU as a Presidential Scholar to study architecture, but soon switched his major to pre-medicine. While taking chemistry courses from Mary Cloninger and Steve Holmgren, he became interested in that discipline and added a biochemistry major. He said he later added a music major after a class in the University Honors Program with music professor Ilse-Mari Lee rekindled his long-held passion for music.
In addition to his many duties as president of the Associated Students of Montana State University, Colvin also finds time to sing in several MSU choral groups included The Chorale, the Montanans and an a cappella group, TBA. He also plays keyboard but intends to learn how to play the guitar before he begins his studies in Limerick in October.
"I came to MSU expecting to get one major in three years but I'll be leaving with three majors in six years," Colvin said. "I like to call it an insatiable intellectual curiosity, but some say I might be an academic masochist."
Colvin said that musical therapy, an ancient concept that has found scientific status in the U.S. in the last decade, not only combines his interests, but also has had an impact in his personal life. He said he saw the power of the technique when his grandmother suffered a stroke when he was six years old, "and the only thing that gave her joy was music." Colvin also found power in music therapy after he broke his back sledding a year ago. He said that while the science surrounding musical therapy is relatively young in the U.S., it is more established in Ireland.
Colvin said that he began researching Irish music, and the role Celtic music has long played in music therapy, four years ago for Lee's University Honors Class. When he attended a workshop that Miles conducted on application for national scholarships, he was excited about the Mitchell and the possibilities it had for him. He said the interview process, particularly the finals conducted in Washington, D.C., was intense.
"I'm still awed by the accomplishments of the people who didn't get it, and even more so by those who did," Colvin said. "It's humbling and exciting to have this opportunity."
Colvin hopes to one day incorporate what he learns in Ireland in a pediatric practice in Montana where "I can nourish the soul as well as the body." To that end, he has already taken the M-CAT and is applying to medical schools, with the hope that he can defer medical school for one year, or after the completion of the Mitchell fellowship.
"I don't know for sure where my varied interests will lead," Colvin said. "But to have music and its power to heal as a part of it is extremely exciting to me."
To learn more about Colvin and the 2008 George J. Mitchell Scholars, go to: http://www.us-irelandalliance.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=898