By Whitney Jones, News Editor
Union’s lone Alaskan student will graduate this may, but two more residents of the Arctic state might replace him. The prospective students from Alaska visited campus Feb. 17-18 for Scholars Weekend, an event that brought 160 soon-to-be freshmen, a record high.
Christian Winter from Palmer, Alaska, and BethAnne Davis from Anchorage, Alaska, traveled to campus to compete for Union’s top scholarships in the annual event that brings students from all over the world.
The weekend includes personal interviews and group discussions on current issues and the book, “Serious Times,” by James Emery White, founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C.
Rich Grimm, senior vice president for enrollment services, said the event gives top-notch students a chance to compete for Union’s most significant scholarships, which includes at least one full-tuition and room-and-board scholarship. Every student who attends is guaranteed at least a half-tuition scholarship.
Still, the entire weekend is just as much about friendship as it is competition.
“(Scholars Weekend) gives these students an opportunity to meet and bond with their future classmates, as each year, more than half of the students who compete in the program enroll at Union the next fall.” Grimm said.
Scholars included students from even farther away than Alaska. Some traveled from as far away as Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amman, Jordan and Kijabe, Kenya.
Winter, whose host was Michael Lewis, senior biology major and the only Alaskan enrolled as a student, said what drew him too look at Union was its sports management major with an emphasis in sport ministry, as well as the university’s Christian environment.
The only schools offering sports ministry programs were in the contiguous U.S., so Winter knew he would have to study far from his frigid home.
“If I’m down in the lower 48, no matter where I am I’m probably not going to be able to return home very often,” he said. “Either way, it’s a plane trip.”
Davis, who hopes to run cross-country if she attends Union, also said the university’s strong academic programs — nursing in her case — and Christian atmosphere pulled her to apply.
She does, however, intend to return to Alaska after college no matter where she attends.
“I have it set in my mind that I want to go back to Alaska after college,” Davis said. “It’s just going to be a different experience for me to try something new since I don’t know that I’ll necessarily have the chance to do it again.”
Grimm said the event is a chance for the university to “to showcase itself to top students,” especially because participants get a true Union experience. They roomed with Union students on campus and attended a concert at Barefoots Joe, a typical way for Unionites to spend a Friday night.
“This is very much a campus-wide effort as numerous faculty, staff and students come together to serve the Scholars of Excellence participants and their families,” Grimm said. “It is the highlight of the year for many of us, and it is truly an honor to host these students on our campus.”