Inside Lawrenceville’s Scholar Programs
Lawrentians are provided with an abundance of academic opportunities on campus; the Merrill, Heely, Hutchins, & Leopold Scholar programs offer an immersive learning experience for students to gain research, leadership, and collaboration skills.
Hutchins Scholars: Established in 2010 by former Headmaster Elizabeth Duffy along with Glenn Hutchins ’73 and his wife, the Hutchins Scholars program provides real-world scientific research experiences for the School’s most promising science students in their IV and V Form years.
For Director of Student Research Elizabeth Fox, her favorite part of the program is seeing students “become more invested in research science and fully understand what it entails.” Following their III Form year, the scholars spend two weeks on campus learning to sequence DNA from plants and building their own water filters. On his first summer as a Hutchins Scholar, Harrison Abromavage ’21 said, “The most valuable lesson this program taught me was the rigor of lab work. We constantly had to maintain a high level of focus to create a high-quality product. However, getting to the final product was incredibly rewarding.”
The next summer, the scholars complete various research internships. After her IV Form year, Elaine Wang ’20 completed worked at the Seung Kim Lab at Stanford University, where she studied transgenic fruit flies to understand the genetic roots of pancreatic diseases. While she and her fellow scholars often faced obstacles, Wang said they came to understand the importance of teamwork: “It was good to … keep track of everything happening in the lab ourselves rather than having a teacher hold our hands and guide us along.” Undoubtedly, Hutchins Scholars gain extensive research knowledge, preparing them for leading university science programs and science-related careers.
Heely Scholars: In the summer of 2013, History Master Anne Louise Smit P’10 ’13 designed the Heely Scholars Program: a two-week boarding seminar in archival research for students who have demonstrated a keen interest in their study of American history.
While scholars spend most of their time analyzing primary research through the School’s archival collections, they also participate in excursions to other institutions. Last year’s cohort of Heely Scholars studied the life and career of Frederick Douglass and met with David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University. Dami Kim ’20, who researched Douglass’s natural law philosophy, was inspired that Blight “was so still excited to talk about Douglass” after spending “almost his entire academic career studying him.” On her research process, Kim added, “We were lucky because we had a digital archive of all of Douglass’ speeches and articles from his newspapers. I probably went through all of them, up until midway through his life, so I had to learn how to skim the material and look for relevant keywords in order to research effectively.”
By the end of their work in the summer, the scholars identify specific topics of interest and ultimately produce a 40-page thesis. In addition to sharing their findings at the Fall Poster Sessions, scholars organize an exhibit consisting of posters and digital presentations in the Noyes History Center. According to Smit, “The key objective [of these projects] is to put the history of Lawrenceville into the context of national and global history, both inside and outside the bubble.”
Merrill Scholars: In honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill ’43, former English Master Jeffrey Blevins created the Merrill Scholars Program. Now led by English Masters Marta Napiorkowska P’19 and Margaret Ray, the program provides rising V Formers the opportunity to engage in extensive literary research at Princeton’s Special Collections, gain exposure to creative writing, and pursue cross-disciplinary work.
According to Napiorkowska, “Both the creative component and the analytical component really benefit by working in tandem: students found that their research in the archives bled into their creative work and their creative work would respond to their archival work.”For her project, Stephanie Owusu ’20, a member of the first cohort of Merrill Scholars, analyzed child psychology and racial studies through an investigation of 19th and 20th century children’s literature. While she began her archival research with a general sense of her literary interests, over time, she found “some really interesting pieces of work that many people don’t have access to which “transformed the direction of her project.”
After dedicating weeks of research, creativity, and heart into their projects, the scholars leave with the ultimate reward of sharing their work with the greater community. Reflecting on her experience, Shreya Kumar ’20 said, “The complexity of my classmates’ analyses and the devotion that each person brought to his or her project consistently inspired me. It was something that was refreshing to see—that people, even in the grind of [V Form] fall, are still passionate about their projects.”
Leopold Scholars: The Leopold Scholars program was first established in the summer of 2017 by Sam Kosoff ’88 H’96 P’19 to honor the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold ’1905, one of the foremost American wildlife conservationists of the 20th century. Currently led by Director of Sustainability and Science Master Stephen Laubach P’23, the two-week summer immersion program recognizes students who are dedicated to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
In June 2018, the Leopold Scholars analyzed the 180 letters Aldo Leopold wrote home to Burlington, Iowa, to code a web-mapping project of his Lawrenceville hikes. According to Deven Kinney ’20, coding the maps proved to be a challenge for many scholars: “I wasn’t the best at it, but I’m really glad I got to learn the skill because computer science intersects with so many disciplines.”
While one aspect of the program was coding Aldo Leopold’s hikes, physical exercise was also a significant component. Each morning, the scholars woke up at 6:00 AM to work out, and they even put themselves in the shoes of Aldo Leopold by completing a 16-mile hike. On this physical aspect of the program, Tiffany Lin ’20 believes “this routine helped [her] develop a sense of character” and “not only stay mentally fit, but also physically fit.”
“Of the four scholar programs that exist, it’s definitely the most experiential and the most unconventional. It’s really an interdisciplinary program that combines the environmental humanities and science with hands-on learning,” Kinney added.
Ultimately, the program serves as the perfect blend of outdoor and classroom learning, inspiring students to not only follow in Aldo Leopold’s footsteps, but also promoting sustainability in and out of the Lawrenceville bubble.