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Three students win essay competition

RELEASED: March 10, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — Three University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students were selected as campus winners of the fifth annual Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition, sponsored by the UW System Advisory Group on the Liberal Arts.

Alexander Bell, Nick Hogan and Cory Ploessl each will receive a $500 scholarship from the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to be used for UW-Eau Claire educational expenses during the 2010-11 academic year.

The winners also will be UW-Eau Claire's nominees for the UW System's annual essay competition. Two UW System winners will be chosen this spring to receive $2,000 scholarships.

To enter the competition, students needed to be in good academic standing, have completed a minimum of 30 credits by the end of the fall 2009 semester and have at least one semester left as a full-time student. Students also were required to write essays about how their liberal education has been transformative; what they've learned about themselves or the world in general as a function of their experience; and how they've changed and the long-term impact of that change.

Junior Alexander Bell, a mass communication major from Lakeville, Minn., wrote his essay, "Transformed: From Seed to Success" about how his world view and personal convictions have been changed by experiences both in and out of the classroom.

"Instead of being taught what to think, I was educated on how to think," he said.

A service-learning experience in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina also has made him think about what he wants to do with his career.

"We gutted out destroyed homes and sorted what was salvageable," wrote Bell. "We also painted fences, planted gardens and walked dogs at an animal shelter. It was the first time I ever wore a gas mask."

Although he has focused on public relations and music in his undergraduate studies, Bell wrote that he never would have learned about the kind of help that is needed around the world if not for his liberal education. As a result, he's considering missionary work.

"The benefit is that I have the room to grow in other areas," wrote Bell.

Senior Cory Ploessl, an art major from Cambridge, also was transformed by a study abroad opportunity. In "Ten Thousand Transformed" Ploessl traveled to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the fall of 2006. As a result of that experience, he and his fellow students formed a fundraising organization to help send children to school in the small village of El Fortin. The annual El Fortin 5K run/walk has funded scholarships and built a bridge, among other projects.

"To be transformed is to ask more of yourself each and every day and to find an avenue to live that change," Ploessl wrote, adding that his transformation has been profound but it is not the only one. "There are ten thousand plus students who attend this university alone. That is the beauty of it! Individually these transformations touch lives, but together they can transform the world."

Nick Hogan, a junior from Colgate majoring in mass communication, took note that understanding diversity is a primary benefit of a liberal education and that at UW-Eau Claire diversity lessons are embedded into nearly every class he has taken.

"As students become more globally aware, the skills gained contribute to another transformation: becoming more socially responsible," wrote Hogan, who was in a nutrition class in which the course culminated in a study of the role of nutrition in world hunger and poverty. The class was so moved that it held a bake sale for Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for gifts of food, training and income-producing farm animals. "Learning, analyzing and critical thinking become a lifestyle," said Hogan. "A transformation from being indifferent to proactive occurs."

For more information on the UW System Liberal Education Initiative or the Liberal Arts Essay Competition, visit the UW System Web site.

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RD/DW

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