Scholars’ programs off and running

The Student Success Centre welcomed the high-achieving students of its Scholar’s Electives program, Western Scholars and Western’s Initiative for Scholarly Excellence (WISE) program to campus this fall.

Lauren Starr, Scholar’s Programs co-ordinator and academic counsellor, and her colleagues have been hard at work all summer, helping these highly motivated and talented students to choose their courses and planning an exciting series of academic and social events to guide them through the year.

The Scholar’s Electives program offers a small group of high-achieving students the opportunity to pursue a research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor, learn about the connections between different academic fields through interdisciplinary seminars, and develop themed modules for their degree.

In order to become part of the Scholar’s Electives program, students had to achieve a minimum 90 per cent admission average and submit a supplemental application detailing their academic interests, leadership and extracurricular experiences.

Admission to the program was extremely competitive, and the selected students demonstrate a high degree of excellence, both within and outside the classroom. This year, Scholar’s Electives welcomed 53 talented first year students to the program.

In addition to the academic opportunities provided by the research projects and seminars, first-year Scholar’s Electives students may choose to live on the Scholar’s Electives floor in Elgin Hall, where they can make friends who share their interests and motivations.

Melody Ren, a 2010-2011 resident on the Scholar’s Electives floor, says everyone on her floor community became fast friends because of their common foundation.

“By choosing the Scholar’s Electives Floor, I met so many incredible people that were as motivated and curious and hungry to learn and participate in the greater world as I was,” Ren says. “They became people who I learned from.”

Scholar’s Electives students can also attend several academic and social events throughout the year, including the Scholar’s Stepping Stones workshops, which help students to develop the research, writing and presentation skills.

High-achieving students can also choose to become a member of the Western Scholars honours society, a program that allows students to make connections with faculty, community leaders and like-minded peers through a series of academic, social and volunteering events throughout the year.

In order to be eligible for Western Scholars, students must have a minimum admission average of 90 per cent and register as a full-time student. To retain the Western Scholars designation, students must achieve a sessional average of at least 80 per cent with no mark less than 65 per cent.

This year, the Western Scholars program welcomed more than 480 incoming first-year students and had more than 650 upper-year students return to the program.

In recognition of their continuing commitment to academic excellence, the Western Scholar’s designation appears on students’ academic records, diplomas and transcripts.

Finally, a slightly younger group of high-achieving students will be exploring Western’s campus and classrooms this fall.

Western’s Initiative for Scholarly Excellence (WISE) offers high-achieving Grade 11 and 12 students the opportunity to take one university course tuition-free alongside their regular high school courses. This year, there are more than 60 students participating in the program.

The WISE program is a great way for high school students to explore some of their academic options, learn about the expectations of their professors, develop new skills, and expand their social networks before they arrive on campus as full-time students.

Heeseo Kim, a WISE student during the 2010-2011 school year, credits it with opening her eyes to the world outside of high school and get a head start on her peers.

“I was privileged to take a free university course with other first-year students and two established lecturers,” Kim says.

There is still space in the WISE program for qualified students to take second term half courses. For more information visit the program website.

Often, the WISE experience proves so rewarding that many WISE students come back to campus full-time the following year. Lauren Starr, co-ordinator for the program, says that 40 to 50 per cent of the WISE students choose to return to Western for their post-secondary education.

For more information about Scholar’s Programs and how to apply, visit the website.