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Deepening Hodson Scholars' connection to Hopkins — and each other

New engagement opportunities for undergraduates are modeled on the nation's top fellowship programs
Posted November 15, 2017
  • For the first time this year, incoming Hodson Scholars had a chance to enjoy a new pre-orientation experience that introduced them to Hopkins and one another. The program was one of several advocated for by previous Hodson Scholars.

For nearly 60 years, the Hodson Trust Scholarships have attracted the best students from across the country to Johns Hopkins — alumni who become star scientists, successful entrepreneurs, even Rhodes Scholars. But until recently, Hodson Scholars have navigated their undergraduate years relatively independent of each other. As the Hodson-Hopkins partnership enters its seventh decade, an effort initiated by the Hodson Scholars themselves is connecting these brilliant students with one another while on campus, building relationships that will last long past graduation.

Keeping Hopkins competitive on a national scale

The Hodson Trust was established in 1920 by Col. Clarence Hodson, a Maryland native and a successful banker whose Beneficial Loan Society grew to more than 200 offices across the United States in the early 20th Century. Upon his death, his heirs continued to advance his lifelong philanthropic interest — supporting higher education — through the Hodson Trust. Hopkins, which has received nearly $90 million for a variety of priorities, is one of four Maryland higher education institutions the Trust supports. The Hodson Scholarship in particular has been a valuable asset attracting undergraduates to Hopkins.

“You may start a business with someone you meet, or you may meet a future surgeon who may save your life someday. [The Hodson Scholars are] a very powerful network for Hopkins.”
Anthony Garay, Class of 2019 Hodson Scholar

"These admitted students are deciding between some of the top colleges in the country, and this can be an important tipping factor for them to consider Hopkins more closely. These awards go to students who show both demonstrated excellence in an academic and extracurricular area and the potential to be a high-impact student in the Hopkins environment and culture," says Ellen Kim, dean of undergraduate admissions. Over the past three years, Kim adds, Hopkins welcomed an average of 23 Hodson Scholars annually.

When Nicole Mihelson, A&S '17, arrived at Hopkins, she considered studying linguistics. But she quickly discovered an interest in neuroscience, thanks to the exposure Hopkins undergraduates have to the School of Medicine. Her work with Medicine faculty, which included research on cancer, maternal mental health, and child development, helped her earn one of 32 Rhodes Scholarships awarded in fall 2016.

"Having access to incredible mentors both at Homewood and the School of Medicine allowed me to define what I wanted to do after Hopkins," says Mihelson, who begins her Oxford tenure this fall. "I owe everything to my mentors and to Hopkins, and the Hodson Scholarship is what first brought me to Baltimore."

Mihelson's fellow Hodson Scholar, David Hamburger, A&S '18, similarly discovered his academic interests thanks to a connection with the School of Medicine. The international studies major learned about what would become his sub-concentration, medical diplomacy, when taking an Ancient Chinese Medicine course.

"I was interested in how people use something apolitical, like the exchange of medical information and developments, for political reasons," says Hamburger, who is using the fourth year of his Hodson Scholarship to take advantage of a five-year BA/MA program offered by the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

"These relationships are what you take with you"

Over the past year, Mihelson and Hamburger have helped build the foundation for a Hodson Scholars community that encourages students to connect across class years, schools, and majors for intellectual and social aims.

"This is the kind of program many of our peer institutions have," says Kelly Barry, the director of Hopkins' National Fellowships Program. "You want the students connected to one another, the institution, and their donor. Those bonds build a community ethos among students who'll go on to become successful alumni, and we have an opportunity to facilitate that through the Hodson Scholars."

Over the past three years, since Barry began working with the Hodson Scholar Student Advisory Board, the program has expanded from its annual luncheon to include a mentoring program between older and younger students, occasional peer forums on political topics, small off-campus social gatherings, and a welcome-back reception in September. In 2017, after hearing students talk about the importance of the freshman orientation period, Barry supported the creation of a pre-orientation session to immediately introduce the newest Hodson cohort to the campus and one another.

"The benefits of walking onto campus and feeling like you're already part of a community are hard to overstate," Mihelson says. "So much of the university experience depends on who you're surrounded by, and the Hodson Scholarship has the potential to bring together a group of really high-impact students."

"You go to college to get an education, but the things that you do outside of class are what really define your experience and path," says Anthony Garay, Engr '19, who's collaborated with fellow Hodsons on projects ranging from TEDxJHU to TCO Labs, a nonprofit organization he cofounded to promote entrepreneurship among Hopkins students. "These relationships are what you take with you after four years. You may start a business with someone you meet, or you may meet a future surgeon who may save your life someday. It's a very powerful network for Hopkins."

That enhanced network, along with continued, generous financial support from the Hodson Trust, serves to only strengthen Hopkins' reputation among the world's highest-achieving young people.

To learn more about the Hodson Trust's support of Hopkins and other foundation engagement opportunities, please contact Ann Koch, senior director, foundation relations.