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Science major named first recipient of new scholarship

04/24/2014

From left, Bentley Munsell '15 and Diane Sammer '81.

Earlier this semester, Bentley Munsell '15, a double major in biology and psychology from Grand Blanc, Mich., learned that his financial aid award would not fully cover his senior year at MCLA.

Worried that he would not be able to complete his degree, Munsell - who had returned to college after 13 years - secretly stressed as he franticly looked for a way to come up with the funding he needed.

That stress quickly turned to relief when he learned that he was the first recipient of the Pamela P. Dennis '82 Scholarship, supported by the newly endowed Pamela P. Dennis '82 Achievement and Triumph Fund.  Munsell was awarded the $2,000 scholarship at the 12th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference (UNC) by Diane Sammer '81.

In addition to providing the scholarship each year, the Fund - which honors Pamela P. Dennis, a psychology major who graduated from the College in 1982, and who passed away in 2008 - helps to underwrite the cost of the URC, and provides for an annual student internship at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Mass.

"While Diane Sammer was introducing the scholarship and the funding being provided to MCLA, the weight and reality began to set in. It's a tremendous honor to receive a scholarship in memory of someone's loved one," Munsell said.

"I truly never thought I would be back in school, academically successful, and the recipient of such a large and generous scholarship. For me, it means that hard work and perseverance pays off, and perhaps it is not such a long shot to hopefully fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine."

To qualify for this new scholarship, recipients must demonstrate high potential, have overcome adversity in their lives, and participate in the URC.

At this year's URC, Munsell presented his poster on academic performance and motivation in the core curriculum at MCLA with Michael McCormick '14. In addition, they presented the poster at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Kentucky earlier this month.

According to Munsell, MCLA is education's best-kept secret.

"The quality of the professors is phenomenal. They are genuinely interested and invested in our academic success as students. They are accessible, they challenge and push students in the classroom, and are people, too," he said. "MCLA faculty want students to be well equipped to enter the field of their choosing. I went to a larger public university when I attended college the first time, so the small public liberal arts experience has been refreshing, and I have thrived in this environment."

When he arrived at MCLA, Munsell had no idea he would participate in undergraduate research. However, in addition to this year's URC and NCUR, he took part in a previous URC, as well as the Northeastern Undergraduate Research Conference of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges last October.

"I am astounded by the work MCLA students produce," he said. "I have been fortunate to work under the tutelage of some fantastic faculty here. I would have never received an opportunity like this at another institution. I never would have considered myself a researcher, but because of these experiences, I think I have found a calling!"

Munsell expects his graduation next spring will be one of the proudest moments of his life. After that, "I will continue to work hard and persevere in everything I do. Fundamentally, it is what I am good at - working hard and pushing forward toward the next obstacle, whatever it may be."