University of Arkansas Announces 2012 Sturgis Fellows

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences has selected five incoming freshman to receive the prestigious University of Arkansas Sturgis Fellowship.

The 2012 Sturgis Fellows are Daniel Key of Mountain Home, Samantha “Sammi” Mason of Norman, Okla.; Cole Plunkett of Van Buren; Alison “Ali” Schroeder of Overland Park, Kan.; and Hilary Zedlitz of Rogers.

 “We have the highest standards for those who receive a Sturgis Fellowship, and this class meets those expectations,” said Robin Roberts, dean of Fulbright College. “Each of these students has been recognized at the state and national level for their academic achievement and commitment to community service.”

The Sturgis Fellowship is made possible by the Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable and Educational Trust and awards each fellow $12,500 per year for four years. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board and provides support for educational tools such as computer hardware and software, high-quality musical instruments, professional journals and participation at educational conferences. Applicants must be exceptionally talented, illustrate extraordinary academic performance and enter Fulbright College and participate in its honors studies program.

“The Sturgis Fellowship is the University of Arkansas’ oldest fellowship,” said Sidney Burris, professor of English, director of the Fulbright College honors studies program and chair of the selection committee. “It requires the students to pursue a major within Fulbright College. The fellows must complete the intensive scholars program and graduate with honors.”

2012 Sturgis Fellows:

Daniel Ryan Key graduated summa cum laude from Mountain Home High School where he was an active member and drum major in the school band. Key plans to continue his musical education at the University of Arkansas, pursuing degrees in music composition and international relations. In high school, he was a member of Key Club, National Honor Society, Thespian Troupe, quiz bowl and the swim team. He is a National Merit Scholar Commended Student. In his community, Key volunteered as a tutor for students at an alternative school and organized a 5K race to raise awareness for diabetes and healthy living. His parents are Shannon and Johnny Key.

Samantha “Sammi” Mason comes from Norman, Okla., where she graduated first in her class from Norman North High School. She plans to pursue a double major in chemistry and journalism. She is a National Merit Scholar and Advanced Placement Scholar. In high school, she received numerous awards for her excellence in the fine arts, earning honors for her prose and poetry as well as her skills as a cellist. She was active in track and field, qualifying in discus at the state level. As a member of the Girl Scouts of America, Mason organized and ran a junior campout and was a founding member of Helping Oklahomans Prevent Exploitation, an organization for raising awareness of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Her parents are Deborah and Bruce Mason. 

Cole Plunkett graduated from Van Buren High School, tying with his twin brother for first in their class. He plans to major in biochemistry. In high school, he served as vice president of the student senate, organizing events within the school and community. He was a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society. He received the Hooten Arkansas Air Guard Scholar Athlete of the Year, awarded to a high school football player for excellence on and off the field. Plunkett has been active in Van Buren’s youth sports, coaching and refereeing basketball teams for students in first- through fifth-grade. His parents are Holly and David Plunkett. 

Alison Leigh “Ali” Schroeder graduated from Blue Valley West High school in Overland Park, Kan., finishing first in her class. She plans to study biology and Spanish. She is a National Merit Commended Scholar and a Kansas Honor Scholar. In high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish National Honor Society and the school’s dance team. She was a four-year member of the principal’s honor roll and received the Curie Award for Science and the Sotomayor Award for Languages. Schroeder served as a Children’s Mercy Hospital summer volunteer, an elementary school tutor and mentor and at the YMCA’s after-school care program. Her parents are Lisa and Joel Schroeder.

Hilary Zedlitz, a graduate of Rogers Heritage High School, plans to major in political science. In high school, she was a War Eagle Scholar for four years, received academic awards from the Public Service Academy and Rogers-Lowell Area Camber of Commerce and was selected as a National Merit Scholarship Commended Student. She has been a part of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) organization since 2010 and was selected as one of 50 HOBY International Team Leaders from more than 375,000 alumni. Zedlitz has served as master acolyte and Children’s Chapel volunteer at All Saints’ Episcopal Church and was a counselor at the Dick Johnston Children’s Camp, a week-long summer experience for children with incarcerated parents. Her parents are Brenda and Mark Zedlitz.

More than 500 students applied for Sturgis Fellowships in 2012. Selection was based on a rigorous application that included an academic resume, essays, book lists, letters of recommendation and high school transcripts, as well as interviews. “The applicants are wonderful, and they seem to get better every year,” said Burris. “It’s inspiring to see such talent and ambition in these young men and women. The selection is difficult because we face such a wide range of talents that are hard to compare side-by-side. However, the selection committee members are confident that this incoming class exemplifies the group’s diversity and talent.”

The Sturgis Fellowship has brought remarkable students to Fulbright College for more than 20 years, and helps its recipients to compete for top national awards and gain admission into prominent graduate and professional schools.

Previous Sturgis Fellows have won Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Gates, Cambridge, Goldwater and Fulbright Scholarships. Fellows have studied abroad in India, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, China, Russia, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Bulgaria.


Sidney Burris, director, Fulbright College Honors Program
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Darinda Sharp, director of communications
School of Law


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