Presidential Scholars enter SFSU at head of class
September 3, 2003
A cohort of 25 freshmen could have attended the nation's most competitive universities, but instead chose SFSU. They are the Presidential Scholars, earning the University's most distinguished academic award for first-time freshmen.
Each student in the Presidential Scholars program receives a scholarship for about $17,000 over four years.
Many of the Presidential Scholars were accepted to such institutions as UC Berkeley, UC Davis and University of Southern California. All of them graduated from high school at or near the top of their class and participated in extracurricular activities. Their decision to attend SFSU is often based on its location in a popular, cosmopolitan city and its traditions of diversity, activism and academic excellence -- not just because they are awarded scholarships.
Take Heather Riggall, an aspiring journalist from Vallejo. She believes SFSU is the ideal place to develop her skills and work toward her goal of launching a world news magazine for teenagers.
"I could attend a private school that boasts test scores and statistics, but doing so would be of no use for the cause I am pursuing," she said. "I must be among the people and communities I plan to help."
The campus made a good impression on Chino Hills resident Wendy Pei during a tour.
"When I visited San Francisco State, it seemed to have a calming atmosphere and I felt that I would have a really good experience," the music major said. "I have always wanted to go to San Francisco and explore the area."
For others, such as San Pablo resident Christopher DeCarlo, the reasons are simple.
"San Francisco State is close by, has my major and it was recommended by friends," the mechanical engineering major said. "And I am getting a great scholarship."
Acceptance into the Presidential Scholars program, founded by President Robert A. Corrigan in 1995, is highly competitive with up to 400 applications each year.
"I always enjoy getting to know the Presidential Scholars," Corrigan said. "They are the cream of the crop -- an enthusiastic, bright and diverse group who are easily the equal of their peers at the nation's most prestigious universities. We are delighted to be able to provide them with ample financial support and participation in culturally enriching activities. We are proud that they have chosen to attend San Francisco State."
Many of the program's graduates have gone on to successful careers and graduate schools at UCLA and Stanford University. Nick Krautter has started his own flourishing musician management company. Nelly Lau recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in electrical engineering -- one of only 46 awarded nationwide -- and just entered Stanford's doctoral program in electrical engineering. John Dilley and Kit Fox became close friends and made a movie that screened at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
"If it wasn't for the Presidential Scholars program, I would not have met John (Dilley). That in and of itself is immeasurable to me," Fox said. "Other than that, the program gave me the freedom to concentrate on my studies and meet a wide variety of interesting students and faculty members."
The scholars take three classes together as freshmen and attend seminars and cultural events including museums, the San Francisco Symphony, and a retreat in the Marin Headlands. More than half of the freshmen live together on the same floor of a campus residence hall.
In addition to full tuition, the students receive aid for school supplies and first-year housing, and priority course registration.
The program is funded by million-dollar gifts from the Bernard Osher Foundation and Evergreen group founder and Chairman Y.F. Chang, as well as other smaller donations. SFSU recently received an additional $100,000 from Chairman Chang to provide housing assistance for students in their first year.
For details, call (415) 338-2789 or visit the Presidential Scholars Web site.
For a complete list of this year's incoming Presidential Scholars, see the press release.
-- Matt Itelson