Morgan Smith


Behind the scenes of the Summer Scholars Program

The Miami University Summer Scholars Program is a two-week, academic program offered by the university to rising high school juniors and seniors interested in learning more about the college experience. The program is intended to provide students with exposure to both the perquisites and challenges they will face during their college years. For two weeks, students participate in rigorous, comprehensive academic modules focused on a particular area of knowledge, learn with Miami’s professors, live in a campus residence hall, eat in the dining halls, and get access to campus facilities. Additionally, students have the opportunity to attend workshops on topics such as college essay writing and the college admissions process.

jane lee
Jane Lee shares information about the Summer Scholars Program. — Photo by Kendall Fields

Considering all these aspects, the program takes an extensive amount of planning on part of the admissions office team. “We needed multiple hands in charge to make (the program) a success. It’s truly a team effort,” Senior Associate Director of Admissions Jane Lee explained in an interview. From coordinating transportation to preparing the Miami campus facilities for the arrival of the Summer Scholars, everyone in the admissions office is working to do it all. For example, Emily Suchomski, as transfer coordinator, normally specializes in dealing with transfer students, but she also works to send out forms, arrange transportation, and keep in constant communication with the Summer Scholars students leading up to the program.

When asked about the logistics behind selecting modules for the program, Lee explained that there is a survey sent out at the conclusion of the program every year. “We’ll take comments that we receive from the students and decide what (modules we want to offer) for the next year,” she said. “But we also have to determine, based on that feedback, are there faculty available that would have an interest in developing something? It’s not something we just do — it takes a lot of time to develop that format and that module.”

In terms of selecting counselors, Lee and Suchomski communicated that most of the counselors they select have previous experience as resident assistants and are involved in extracurriculars. “We like the students we select to be comfortable working in big groups. We also like to have the different academic divisions represented, maybe different geographic areas, so that students can see that there’s somebody that they would have a connection to,” Lee said.

The admissions office also creates a calendar of events for both two-week sessions, plans daily meetings for counselors, organizes move-in and move-out days and communicates with participating students and their families. “It is a lot to do. There is so much that goes into it all — so many small but important details that have to be worked out,” declared Suchomski. “In the end, it is wonderful to see all of the students come and enjoy something we all worked so hard to coordinate…That’s the whole point of this program.”

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Mable Harper’s life on ice 

Mable Harper earns first place at a skating competition in Nashville in 2016. — Contributed photo

Being selected as one of 192 students to participate in Miami University’s Summer Scholars Program II this July may seem unremarkable to most. But it has greater significance for Mable Harper, whose entire pre-K-12 school enrolls only 734 students. “I am not going to lie, it’s intimidating,” said Mable, a 16-year-old junior at Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Ky. “Our graduating class this spring was made up of 38 kids. This program has more students in it than there are in my whole high school.”

Although intriguing, Mable’s small, private high school is far from the most important aspect of her identity. Mable lives and breathes competitive ice skating. Since the early age of 6 years old, this has been the case. Skating is Mable’s lifelong passion, which is why she dedicates her time to events like the Nutcracker On Ice production that occurs over the holidays each year in her hometown. “This may sound like a cliche,” she pronounced, “but I love skating for the discipline…It adds purpose and structure for me. When life gets confusing or crazy, I can always rely on the ice rink to be consistent.”

Mable’s love for her sport is so compelling that it even drives her to take on a coaching role. She coaches skaters from ages 3 to 10 at a local ice rink once per week. The coaching aspect of Mable’s sport is something she is passionate about, because she has the privilege of sharing what she loves and seeing other young people enjoy it the same way.  “It feels really good,” she said. “I love feeling like my coaching contributes to the kids’ feelings of accomplishment and joy.”

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Kalia Brown traces temples and traditions in Japan

Kalia Brown of Westerville, Ohio, is participating in The Entrepreneurship Experience module in Miami University’s Summer Scholars Program. Her favorite class in school is PBS (Principles of Biomedical Science), with interests that revolve around science. 

A torii gate marks the entrance to a Shinto shrine in Japan. — Contributed photo

Dancing, watching Netflix, sleeping, and participating in her school’s drill team are among Kalia’s many hobbies. “Westerville is the only high school in my district with a drill team,” Kalia explained.

Despite those many interests and involvements, Kalia is, at this moment in time, most interested in travel. Not surprising — given that she’s just back from a two-week family trip to Japan.

In Japan, Kalia walked from temple to temple, performing the Japanese purifying ritual called “misogi.” This tradition entails washing both hands and the lips to purify the body and mind prior to encountering the temples’ deities. Learning about this Japanese custom made a significant impression on Kalia. “It gave me a unique perspective on a culture that I didn’t know all that much about,” she declared. The time in Japan also granted her time with her family members — she is the oldest of four children — who love to travel just as she does. “My family is very important to me. We always go places together and try to experience as much as we can…Japan was another opportunity for us to do that.” 

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Maille Drellishak embraces the power of words

Maille Drellishak lives in Avon, Ohio, a 15-minute drive from downtown Cleveland. She is going into her senior year at Saint Joseph Academy, a private, Catholic, all-girls school in Cleveland. She was accepted into the Miami University Summer Scholars Program’s Local/State and Government module and qualified for a full-ride scholarship.

Maille spends the majority of her free time reading, running and biking with her family. “My family and I love to ride bikes. It’s a huge deal to my mom, especially. She loves her bike and so do I.” Besides these hobbies, Maille is particularly inclined academically. She is an SJA (Saint Joseph Academy) Ambassador, National Honor Society Historian, member of the track team (hurdles, long jump, and high jump), and participates in Latin Club.  “I pretty much love every subject, because I love going to school,” Maille said, “but my favorites are probably English, Latin and anatomy.”

Maille Drellishak, LEFT OR RIGHT?, and her younger sister, Riley, attend the Lumineers’ concert together. — Contributed photo 

ion to all of her other interests, Maille has an extensive appreciation for music. The best concert she ever attended was the Lumineers concert she recently went to with her younger sister, Riley. “The lead singer discussed the past and present leaders of our country and their impact on young people…He told the story of his Uncle Charles, who was planning on being a doctor, but enlisted in the Army after hearing a speech from John F. Kennedy, who was president at the time. My favorite thing he said was ‘The leaders of today, their words matter.’ ”

Maille now considers the Lumineers concert an awfully important event in her life. Not only did it inspire her to truly consider the influence of today’s leaders’ words, but also to contemplate the authority of music as a platform for delivering relevant, valuable messages to a specific audience. “I wouldn’t trade that night for the world,” she said.

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My “Media Matters” experience: why it matters to me

Being someone who is relatively new to journalism, with only minimal experience working on my school’s newspaper to reference, participating in this module was incredibly beneficial to building my understanding of journalism and media. These two weeks with my “Media Matters” group granted me significant new knowledge about the world of journalism, including all of its many aspects (television, radio, print media, etc.), the complications that naturally accompany the journalist’s quest for information, and the unparalleled excitement of working in media. By way of visiting with professionals from the Columbus Dispatch, Global Citizen, WCPO, The Cincinnati Enquirer, WVXU-FM, WKRC-TV, The Cincinnati Business Courier, and other media outlets, I now realize how many different ways news is delivered as well as how hard each outlet’s employees work to communicate important information to their audience.

The “Media Matters” team learns about covering business news at the Cincinnati Business Courier. — Photo by Patricia Gallagher Newberry

Mike Horsley, news operations manager at WKRC-TV, for example, conveyed to me with his contantly modified board of stories that news media demands flexibility and the ability to think on your feet. Between keeping up with competing news stations, ensuring the program runs smoothly, and relaying relevant news stories, Horsley made it apparent — he and his staff toil away to produce their finished product and take immense pride in their efforts. Chris Graves also provided me with insight regarding the trials and tribulations of the individual reporter. She disclosed the story of eight murders that took place in Ohio, a story she has been following relentlessly for months and months. Her desire for answers even took her on a reporting trip to Alaska, where she traced a family associated with the victims. Throughout the process of covering this story, Chris faced aggravated characters and dangerous situations. Personally, her story communicated to me the unequalled thrill of reporting and displayed the fulfillment a career in media is capable of bringing.

Through my participation in “Media Matters: Journalism in Action,” I not only uncovered remarkable facts about the world of journalism and met extraordinary people, but also began to envision my potential role in media. Hearing from professionals manifested a new sense of respect in me for individuals who pursue media careers as well as impressed upon me the satisfaction of doing a job that has such unique authority in today’s society. I look forward to witnessing journalism’s place in my life and am excited to be leaving Miami with such meaningful information and experiences.

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About the authormorgan

Morgan Smith is a senior at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. She has a broad breadth of interests, including writing, reading, running, and yoga. Morgan enjoys listening to podcasts while driving to school and walking her two dogs, Daisy and Chewbacca, pictured at right. Her favorite podcast is Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, which revisits misunderstood aspects of history and examines them in greater detail. Her favorite book is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, because of Lahiri’s unique language and writing style. Morgan is currently working to attain her scorpion pose in yoga and training to run a half marathon. She hopes to attend college in Ohio, get a degree in education, and become a high school English teacher.