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Record Number of National Merit Scholars
to Attend UW-Eau Claire This Fall

RELEASED: July 5, 2007

EAU CLAIRE — Eleven of the approximately 2,025 new freshmen enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for this fall are National Merit scholars, and according to Gretchen Switalski, an admissions counselor, that's the largest number of incoming National Merit Scholars UW-Eau Claire has ever had.

Switalski said these most recent recipients of the prestigious scholarship bring the number of National Merit scholars attending UW-Eau Claire this fall to 24.

There are three types of National Merit Awards — National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships. The UW-Eau Claire National Merit Scholars receive full in-state tuition for four years, funded by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

The 11 scholars are Kate Conerton, Cascade; Giselle Conde, Platteville; Megan Daily, Brookfield; Brandon Holt, Mount Horeb; Jacob Kampen, De Pere; Aaron Kittson, Wausau; Anna Merry, Antigo; Heather Phelps, Middleton; Jonathan Schummer, Fall Creek; Tristan Williams, River Falls; and Molly Woodford, Waukesha.

Conerton, a graduate of Kewaskum High School, plans to major in biology, and Conde, from Platteville High School, plans to teach Spanish. Daily, a graduate of Brookfield East High School plans to study physics. Holt, of Mount Horeb High School, will pursue a degree in computer science, and Kampen, who was home schooled, will study business finance. Kittson, of Wausau West High School, will be a print journalism major, and Merry of Antigo High School has not yet declared a major. Phelps, a graduate of Middleton High School, will major in political science, and Schummer, from Fall Creek High School, is also undeclared at this time. Williams, a graduate of River Falls High School, will study music, and Woodford will pursue a dual degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Switalski said high school students qualify for the scholarship competition 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 more than half of this group, or approximately 8,200, were chosen to receive Merit Scholarship awards for 2007.

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 officially participate in the program," Switalski said.

Switalski attributes UW-Eau Claire's success in consistently attracting top students to the university's 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 11 new members bring the number of Honors Program students for fall to more than 400, Hoff said.

For more information about the National Merit scholars at UW-Eau Claire, contact Switalski at 715-836-5415 or



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