get good grades,win academic competitions, and, much to their
fellow SFSU students' consternation, enjoy priority course registration.
They are SFSU's Presidential Scholars, students whose academic and personal
accomplishments in high school have earned them a scholarship that offers
more than just financial support for their undergraduate education. The
program also offers a helping hand with scheduling classes, field trips
to arts and cultural events across the city, and a chance to make new
In the fall 25 Presidential Scholars joined SFSU's freshman class.
"I always enjoy getting to know the Presidential Scholars,"
said President Robert A. Corrigan, who founded the program at SFSU in
1995. "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."
The scholars' grades and test scores (most applicants have a grade-point
average of 3.8 or higher and an SAT score of at least 1100) along with
their extracurricular activities and application essays helped them rise
to the top of a pool of some 400 applicants. The $17,000 scholarship provides
scholars with enough money for tuition and textbooks for the next four
years and, for the first time, financial assistance for housing in their
The scholars get to know each other right from the start. More than half
of the freshmen in the program live together on the same floor of a campus
residence hall. All scholars take two general education courses and a
special seminar together during their first year.
Faculty Director Ray Pestrong takes the scholars on cultural fieldtrips
which include museum tours and performances by the San Francisco Symphony.
"I have the best job," Pestrong says, "interacting with
these students is a joy."
Presidential Scholar Michael Rubin, a sophomore majoring in English, says
the program helps academically inclined students find a balance between
studying and socializing. He travels back and forth to SFSU from his home
in Daly City, but because of the program, he lingers on campus more than
"The Presidential Scholars program really ties you into all that
State has to offer," he says. Rubin got to know his fellow scholars
better through the classes they took together and says he especially enjoyed
Eric Solomon's "Freshman First Year Experience" seminar. He
found an invaluable resource in Solomon.
"Whether it was parking or blocking out my schedule, I could always
come to Professor Solomon for advice and tips," Rubin says. "I
always got answers. I remember one time when he was speaking with President
Corrigan, he turned and asked me if I needed to speak with him. That was
The enriched learning environment has paid off for many graduates who
have gone on to successful careers. Former Presidential Scholar Glendy
Chan (B.A., '02) was accepted at UC Davis but selected SFSU for
the diversity of its student body. "Being with such a talented group
of individuals, most from very different backgrounds, really helped me
to socialize with different types of people," Chan says. She graduated
at the top of her class in the College of Business and was the student
speaker at Commencement in 2002. Today she's a tax generalist at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Former scholar Lianne Marie Dobbs (B.A., '02), who starred in
a recent TheatreWorks production of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little
Night Music," is making a living as an actress, has an agent, and
just auditioned for her first production on Broadway.
Other scholars have continued their studies in graduate school. Raymond
Wu (B.S., '03), who won first place among undergraduate students
at the College of Science and Engineering's Student Project Showcase during
his senior year, is now at UCLA. Nelly Lau (B.A., '02) 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.
The Presidential Scholars program at SFSU is funded in part by million-dollar
gifts from the Bernard Osher Foundation and Evergreen Group Chairman Y.F.
Chang, who recently donated an additional $100,000 to help pay for the
scholars' first year of student housing.
Presidential Scholars make a lasting connection.