News from The Mahurin Honors College
Ralphy Gardner - Scholar Spotlight
- Colby Alexander
- Wednesday, April 19th, 2023
The Mahurin Honors College (MHC) works closely with WKU to present its scholars with academic opportunities and the financial assistance they need to succeed. One way they are actively pursuing this mission is through the Office of Scholar Development (OSD). The OSD team helps WKU students make more possible by mentoring them through applications for national scholarships that fund “academic extras” beyond what’s covered by tuition, such as study abroad, research, professional experience, and more. Ralphy Gardner (MHC ’23) is extremely thankful for how OSD has helped him through his time on the Hill.
Ralphy is from Todd County, KY, and is a fourth-year scholar majoring in Criminology, Psychology, and Arabic. Beginning work with OSD his freshman year, Ralphy has built a set of professional writing skills that has aided him in a handful of scholarship applications. Ralphy also serves as an MHC Alumni Ambassador, connecting students with alumni and building networks to give students internship opportunities.
His first experience with OSD came early in his first year at WKU. “I was wandering the halls of the MHC wondering if someone was willing to meet with me to discuss an application. I met with Dr. Cobane, and he told me they actually pay people to do this… so since freshman year, I’ve been coming to OSD with every single application and essay I have.”
Ralphy explained that OSD has helped him build a portfolio of experiences for himself that he otherwise wouldn’t have thought possible.
“They take whatever your story is and drag it out of you. People will ambush you and ask you what your story is, and you won’t have a good answer for them… OSD helped me build a profile for my entire college experience. I’ll use it on applications to tell people what my motivations are and do it in a way that paints me in a professional manner.”
Most recently, OSD was able to help Ralphy through his application process for Rangel Fellowship. Per the program’s website, Rangel Fellowship seeks to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers as diplomats in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State. They award scholarships and allow students the opportunity to serve as a Foreign Service Officer for five years directly out of graduate school. Ralphy was selected as one of 45 fellows nationwide and he is the third student of WKU to ever earn this honor. He will receive up to $84,000 for a two-year master’s degree, two paid internships in the U.S. Congress and a U.S. Embassy, as well as other opportunities for professional development.
“For the Rangel Fellowship, I met with Will Randolph who’s relatively new in OSD,” says Ralphy. “I had all of these old essays that we combined and catered towards the Rangel Fellowship application… OSD is really good about taking your essays and helping you fine-tunethem until something really good comes out of them. They also held practice interviews for me that ended up relatively close to the actual interview.”
Appointments with OSD often involve learning about opportunities that fit the specific students goals, then brainstorming content for a competitive application for that scholarship. Through the process, students become skilled storytellers who can adjust their experiences to different scenarios--scholarships and beyond.
Ralphy also worked with OSD to earn a Gilman Scholarship that enabled him to study abroad in Morocco, taking a language intensive course for Arabic. During his time living in the capital city of Rabat, he learned and got to experience new cultures from native speakers. Ralphy is grateful for a newfound international perspective regarding US affairs that he hopes to benefit him in Rangel Fellowship.
“Being an honors scholar has been a good opportunity to get an upper hand in college because the MHC is a really tight knit community,” Ralphy stated. “You can go down the hall and meet with Dr. Cobane or ask Ms. Davis a question. It’s a really intricate network that’s put me into opportunities like Rangel.”
Ralphy encourages other scholars to reach out to OSD with any essay or application they may need help with. “If you put in the time to work with OSD, they’re willing to do the best they can with what they have… In high school, I was a pretty poor writer. They were able to show me what should be put in a paper and how it should be set up to convey your message.”
The MHC and the OSD team are extremely proud of all your hard work, Ralphy! We are excited to continue to watch you grow in your ascent towards excellence!