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Freshman Class to Include
Six New Merit Scholars

RELEASED: July 14, 2006

EAU CLAIRE — Six of the approximately 2,025 new freshmen enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this fall are National Merit scholars who have been awarded full in-state tuition for four years by the university. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation funds the university-sponsored scholarships.

The six scholars are Paul Brandt, Eau Claire; Janelle Gergen, Stillwater, Minn.; Robert Hagen, River Falls; Ian MacMillen, Sturgeon Bay; Astri Mikkelson, Wausau; and Joshua Zamzow, Princeton.

Brandt, a graduate of Eau Claire North High School, has not yet declared a major. Gergen, from Mahtomedi Senior High, plans to major in English. Hagen, a graduate of River Falls Senior High School, plans to study music. MacMillen, of Sevastopol High School, will pursue a dual degree in physics and engineering. Mikkelson, a graduate of Wausau West High School, plans to teach French, and Zamzow of Princeton High School, has not yet declared a major.

Gretchen Switalski, from the Admissions Office, said these most recent recipients of the prestigious scholarship bring the number of National Merit scholars currently attending UW-Eau Claire to 17.

High school students qualify to win the scholarships by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall some 16,000 semifinalists were named on a state representational basis, in numbers proportional to each state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. Semifinalists, who represent less than one percent of a state's seniors, were the only students who had an opportunity to continue in the competition by submitting a detailed scholarship application and meeting other requirements to advance to finalist standing.

More than 15,000 semifinalists advanced to the finalist level, and approximately half of this group was chosen to receive Merit scholarship awards for 2006. Three types of awards are offered: National Merit Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships.

UW-Eau Claire has participated in the program since 1982 and averages from three to eight college-sponsored Merit Scholarship recipients each year.

"UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison are the only schools in the UW System that participate in the program," Switalski said.

Switalski attributes UW-Eau Claire's success in consistently attracting top students to the universitys strong liberal arts emphasis and the opportunities for students to pursue interests outside or complimentary to their academic majors.

"UW-Eau Claire's outstanding study abroad programs, service-learning and student-faculty collaborative research opportunities strongly appeal to these students," said Switalski, adding that UW-Eau Claire's Honors Program is another attraction for National Merit scholars, who automatically qualify for the program.

Program director Paul Hoff said the Honors Program offers highly interactive classes with no more than 20 students and extracurricular opportunities to academically distinguished students who attend UW-Eau Claire.

These new members bring the number of Honors Program students for fall to 389, Hoff said.

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