Seniors to be first graduates from Academy of Science

This spring, 23 Undergraduate Academy of Science scholars will be the first from the program to graduate from Appalachian State University.

The academy is a program that provides enrolled students with faculty and peer mentoring in math and science while fostering research. The program also provides scholars with a $350 scholarship each semester during their first year of enrollment in the academy. During their second year, they receive $500 each semester.

Rahman Tashakkori, a professor in the department of computer science, started the program four years ago and is currently its director.

“They have the top GPA on campus, they’re going to the top schools, top jobs, boy, it’s just been amazing,” Tashakkori said.

Tashakkori acquired funding for the program from the National Science Foundation in fall 2008.

The program lasts two years for freshmen and sophomores, and one year for transfers.

“If freshman are involved in some activities, they are more likely to stay in school and do well and finish,” Tashakkori said. “That’s really the motivation behind the Academy of Science.”

As scholars, students are required to participate in research clusters, community building programs and presentations. They must also maintain their GPA and meet the expectations of a faculty mentor.

After two years, some students are selected to mentor and tutor scholars.

Ryan Belt, senior computer science major, will graduate from the academy in May. Belt was a scholar in the academy and later became a mentor.

“It was loads and buckets of fun,” Belt said. “Now looking back, we’re the first group of students that are graduating, it’s like, ‘Where the heck did the time go?’ Makes you wish you could do more.”

As a mentor, Belt said he wanted to “dump” his knowledge into the scholars he mentored.

“You want them to have the knowledge you learned to further the program and then help these students out,” Belt said.

Story: KELLI STRAKA, Senior News Reporter