University of Arkansas Announces 2009 Sturgis Fellows

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas is pleased to announce the 2009 Sturgis Fellowship selections. The incoming freshman class for fall 2009 is comprised of four Arkansans and one out-of-state student from Mississippi. Those from Arkansas include Preston Caldwell of Batesville, Bobby Howard of Mountain Home, Katie Soerens of Fayetteville, and Lydia Thompson of Bentonville. Christopher Peterson is from Ocean Springs, Miss.

The 2009 Sturgis class boasts an average of a 34 composite on the ACT, 4.0 high school grade point average, four National Merit Semifinalists, and one National Merit Commended Scholar.

The Sturgis Fellowship is the University of Arkansas’ oldest fellowship and covers tuition, fees, room and board, as well as discretionary funding for professional journals, academic conferences and study abroad excursions. For more than 20 years, the Sturgis Fellowship has allowed exceptional students to receive a top-tier education, compete for and often win national awards, and gain admission into prestigious graduate and professional schools.

Sturgis Fellows have continued their education after Arkansas at Brown, Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Virginia and Washington-St. Louis, among others. They have also spent time studying in Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Spain, China, India, Japan, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa and Bulgaria.

William A. Schwab, dean of Fulbright College, observed that “As we approach the 20th anniversary in 2010 of the first class of Sturgis Fellows to graduate from the University of Arkansas, we have an opportunity to review two decades of extraordinary academic accomplishment. But as I look over my shoulder, I am happy to report that the five new Sturgis Fellows who will arrive on our campus this fall point very clearly to a future of equal distinction. All of us in Fulbright College and the University of Arkansas are indebted to the Sturgis family for their commitment to higher education, and so we look toward the coming years with the kind of optimism that rests on two decades of proven achievement and excellence. It is a privilege to work with students of such diverse and distinguished abilities.”

Preston Caldwell will pursue a bachelor of arts degree in political science and economics with plans of attending law school following his undergraduate career. Preston graduated from Batesville High School, where he was active in band, cross-country, golf and quiz bowl. Active in state and national politics, Preston organized a schoolwide debate around the 2008 presidential elections, served as a page during the March 2007 state legislature and campaigned throughout Arkansas in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. His parents are Rita Cooke and Dr. David Caldwell.


A graduate of Mountain Home High School, Robert “Bobby” Howard will major in political science, international relations, and economics, and plans to pursue a doctorate in economics in the future. His ultimate goal is working in the U.S. Department of State, drafting economics legislation to protect free trade. At Mountain Home High, Bobby participated in student council, quiz bowl, the German Club and band. Bobby has been active in Boy Scouts of America, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout in 2006, and has consistently held leadership positions throughout the organization. His parents are John and Becky Howard.


Christopher Peterson from Ocean Springs, Miss., plans to major in biological sciences and pursue research in herpetology. Christopher wants to explore the consequences of introducing snakes and other reptiles into various ecosystems to see how they compete with the indigenous species. In addition to his major in biology, Christopher plans to minor in music. Currently, he teaches clarinet lessons to beginning students in Ocean Springs. Christopher plans to eventually obtain a doctorate in biology. His parents are Nancy Brown-Peterson and Mark Peterson.


Katie Soerens is a first-ranked graduate from Fayetteville High School. Though Katie anticipates a major in biology, she enjoys the humanities as well, offering private violin lessons, participating in the Northwest Arkansas Youth Symphony Orchestra and proofreading an online e-book collection for Project Gutenberg. Last summer, she spent six weeks in India studying Indian culture and politics at the International Center of India Studies. After graduating from the University of Arkansas, Katie plans to attend medical school, allowing her to help underprivileged groups locally and abroad. Her parents are Kelly Soerens and Thomas Soerens.


Lydia Thompson from Bentonville High School plans to double major in Spanish and anthropology, with a specific focus in cultural studies. An avid reader, Lydia cites The New Yorker as one of her favorite sources and notes that outside of her family, books are “the most influential factor in shaping the person” that she is today. She is interested in linguistics and hopes to engage in studies that will challenge well-established ideas about language and learning throughout the U.S. and South America. In high school, Lydia was an active member of the Forensics League, competing in debate tournaments throughout the year. Her parents are Clayton Thompson and Melissa Thompson.

More than 500 students applied for prestigious fellowships at the University of Arkansas in 2009, and selections were based on a rigorous application that included an academic resume, multiple essays, letters of recommendation and high school transcripts. Finalists were invited to campus for interviews, and five students were chosen from that group to receive the Sturgis Fellowship.

The Sturgis Fellowship requires that its recipients pursue a major in Fulbright College. Moreover, Sturgis Fellows must complete the Scholars Program within the Fulbright College Honors Program, completing the demanding course of study that allows them to graduate with Honors.

Professor Sidney Burris, director of the Fulbright College Honors Program and chair of the selection committee, remarked that “The interviews this year were extraordinary; I regarded them, in fact, more as intelligent conversations than interviews, and as always I came away from them having discovered a book or two that I need to read. Of course, our final choices were difficult; the spectrum of talent was a wide and diverse one; and this diversity and talent will be amply represented by the wonderful group that is arriving here in the fall.”

The Sturgis Fellowship is made possible by an endowment from the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust to Fulbright College. Each Sturgis Fellow receives $50,000 or $12,500 per year, representing one of the most lucrative scholarships offered by any university in the country.


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