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Sorin Scholars engage in research, discussion

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the group’s second year on campus, the Sorin Scholars continue to “act as catalysts” for undergraduate research and intellectual discussion outside of the classroom, said Philippe Collon, associate director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) and the group’s faculty mentor.

The Sorin Scholars, comprised of about 30 students per class, is the only University-wide honors program, Collon said. Students are chosen by recommendations from faculty advisors and teachers after their freshman year.

Collon said the group, sponsored by CUSE, formed last year to carry on University founder Fr. Edward Sorin’s legacy of academic leadership.

“We call them the Sorin Scholars [so] they would act as catalysts for all the other students at the University, like Fr. Sorin, who not only managed to create the University but was a really strong catalyst for getting things started and getting things off the ground,” Collon said. “We wanted these students to have Fr. Sorin as their example as being the real catalyst to get students to think early on about scholarly engagement, undergraduate research and making the most out of their four years at Notre Dame.”

The objective of the group is to provide opportunities for the students involved to further supplement their academics through thought-provoking discussion and research, Collon said.

“We want this to be an additional opportunity for students to have mentors, to have a place to meet and to have opportunities to discuss and to grow, then, to become ambassadors of undergraduate research here on campus,” he said.

To accomplish these goals, CUSE chooses students from all colleges to participate in the group, provides a lounge for them and helps them coordinate research projects, Collon said. CUSE also sponsors many other activities, such as monthly coffee house discussions, trips to see plays, ice cream socials and educational workshops.

“It is up to the students to define what they want to do and how they want that research to be as fruitful as possible,” he said.

Junior Michael Fronk said participating in these activities as a Sorin Scholar allows him to engage in intellectual dialogue outside of the classroom.

“It’s been really helpful and insightful in sparking engaging thinking,” Fronk said.

Fronk, who is on the steering committee for the group, said the research opportunity he gained through Sorin Scholars was invaluable.

As an English and mathematics major, Fronk said he received $3,000 to spend the summer in London studying Anglo-Caribbean culture and literature.

“I made the connections that helped me to get the $3,000 grant to go abroad over the summer,” Fronk said.

Junior chemistry major Patrick Kramer said he used his connections through Sorin Scholars to perform chemistry research at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis last summer and continue research on campus this fall.

Kramer said the benefits he has gained through the program will help him discern what to do after college.

“I’m hoping to go to med school eventually, but I don’t know if I want to combine that with clinical research,” Kramer said. “[Sorin Scholars] gave me a window to explore that opportunity and also to look at post-graduate opportunities involved with research.”

Kramer said meeting new people through the group was just as beneficial as making important connections.

“It’s a good group of people to collaborate with on different ideas,” he said.