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Roan Scholars Program develops leaders

March 14th, 2012 3:10 pm by Staff Report

Roan Scholars Program develops leaders

Before their freshman year, Roan Scholars are required to participate in a 10-day outdoor challenge in which they learn the importance of teamwork.

By Pam Cox

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Currently in its 11th year, East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Roan Scholars Leadership Program recently announced its newest class of recipients - Brad Fisher, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Maddie Gilmer, Tennessee High; Audrey Smith, Abingdon High School; Austin Wike, Pisgah High School, and Sierra Wilson, Ashe County High School.

Established in 2000 by Johnson City Philanthropist Louis Gump, the purpose of the Roan Program is to retain, educate and develop the region’s best potential leadership talent at ETSU, according to Kathy Feagins, interim director. The highly-competitive, full-ride scholarship is available to graduating seniors in the Northeast Tennessee region from Sevier to Johnson Counties and three neighboring counties in Virginia and seven North Carolina counties.

Next fall, Grayson County in Virginia will be added to the three current eligible counties in Virginia - Scott, Washington and Lee. The leadership program is open to North Carolina students in Ashe, Avery, Haywood, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey.

Modeled after the Morehead-Cain Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, students are nominated by their respective high schools for the Roan Scholars Leadership Program.

"Just to be nominated by your school is a big honor," Feagins said. The program annually receives 40 to 45 submissions for the four to five slots awarded.

Criteria are steep for the Leadership Program and include Intellectual Curiosity, Physical Vigor, Character and Leadership. Following nomination to the program, each applicant goes through a three-stage selection process.

In step one, a screening panel reviews all nomination packets to ensure that all applications are complete and that all eligibility requirements are met. During step two, members of the Regional Selection Committee (a committee chosen based on the qualities and characteristics being sought in the Roan Scholar nominees) evaluate credentials and interview each eligible nominee. Regional finalists are selected from this applicant pool.

Finalists are invited to the ETSU campus in step three for a final interview with the Roan Scholars Steering Committee. Members of this committee are appointed by the ETSU President and are the oversight group for the Roan Scholars Leadership Program. Based on interview results, four or five finalists will be chosen to become the next class of Roan Scholars. Recipients are notified within a week following the final interviews.

Recipients receive a four-year, full-ride scholarship plus a stipend for housing, meals and books.

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program, however, is much more than receiving money for college. It is a leadership development program that prepares the recipients for future community leadership roles.

Before their freshman year, Roan Scholars are required to participate in a 10-day outdoor challenge in which they learn the importance of teamwork.

"So many students are anxious about their first year in college, and this is a good way for them to bond and start their freshman year in college," Feagins said. During their freshman year, students additionally attend specific monthly lectures and programming and participate in the Johnson City Citizens Police Academy.

As sophomores, they are given job shadowing opportunities with professionals in their field of study. During their junior year, students participate in a crisis communications workshop in which they interact with members of the local media.

Seniors work on a Capstone Experience in which they choose a project utilizing their experience as well as the resources offered by the other Roan classes. This service project varies from year to year depending on the interests of the Roan Scholars.

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program has graduated 26 members in the last 11 years, with many of the alumni currently serving in community leadership roles in Northeast Tennessee. Last year, the program was recognized in the annual Excellence in Tennessee award program. The program was honored with the level one "Interest Recognition," which is the first stop for institutions seeking to adopt and apply Malcolm Baldrige quality standards.

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