College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Nine Outstanding Freshmen Named 2011-12 Croft Scholars

Six students from Mississippi and one each from Alabama, Tennessee and Texas have entered the University of Mississippi this fall on prestigious scholarships as members of the Croft Institute for International Studies.

The 2011-2012 Croft Scholars each receive $8,000 per year for four years of undergraduate study. The Croft Institute, created in 1997 through a $60 million gift by the Joseph E. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund, ensures that students are prepared for leadership in business, public service, education and other fields with a deeper knowledge of an increasingly interdependent world.

New Croft Scholar Mary Margaret “Maggie” Spear of Kingwood, Texas, says the Croft Institute and Chinese Language Flagship Program attracted her to UM.

“These programs have Ivy League standards and are gaining similar levels of recognition in the job and grad school markets but without the exorbitant price tag, not to mention the fact that Ole Miss is such a beautiful place to be. During my first visit, I fell in love with the campus and Oxford.”

Attesting to their abilities, the new scholars boast ACT scores ranging from 31 to 34 and grade-point averages between 3.5 and 4.0. They include three class valedictorians, two International Baccalaureate Program graduates, a National Achievement Finalist and National Merit Semi-Finalist, and two National Merit Commended Scholars.

“These are among the most promising and competitive students in the nation,” said Kees Gispen, executive director of the Croft Institute. “They could have gone to pretty much any college or university in the United States, and we are fortunate to have them in our Croft program.”

Besides Spear, the new Croft Scholars are Alison Bartel of Harvest, Ala., Taylor Shantrell Brack of Ocean Springs, Laura Elizabeth Bridges of Starkville, Andrew Michael DeLeeuw of Brandon, Kelly Elizabeth Kennedy of Germantown, Tenn., Sheila Arun Kumar of Starkville, Darley Jelgin “Bo” Solomon III of Grenada, and Zachary Lee “Zack” Whitehead of Belmont.

As members of the Croft Institute, all the scholars have declared a major in international studies. Eight of the scholars are also members of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, which provides students from all disciplines with a vibrant center of academic excellence to help them become outstanding in their fields and engaged citizens of their communities.

Bartel graduated from Sparkman High School in Harvest, Ala., posting a 4.0 GPA and 33 ACT score. At UM, she is a member of the SMBHC and is enrolled in the Chinese Language Flagship Program. At SHS, she was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Spanish Club and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, Crimson Crier. She also taught piano and sang in the school choir. She taught Sunday school and was youth representative on the church council. Her parents are Mark and Lisa Bartel.

Brack graduated from Ocean Springs High School with a 4.0 GPA and 31 ACT. In addition to her high school diploma requirements, she completed the International Baccalaureate program. At UM, she is a member of the SMBHC and is enrolled in the Chinese Language Flagship Program. At OSHS, she was a member of the National Honor Society, National Society of the Gifted and Talented, and secretary of the Science Club. A Mississippi Governor’s School Scholar, she is a classically trained pianist and an accomplished origami artist. Her community service activities included serving as project manager for Lutheran World Relief and as a counselor for Camp Noah and Camp Leonardo. Her parents are Do and Tracy Brack.

Bridges was class valedictorian at Starkville High School with a 4.0 GPA and 31 ACT. She is a member of the SMBHC. At SHS, she was the Rotary Youth Exchange Ambassador to Denmark and member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. Her community involvement included tutoring Saudi Arabian children and working with Habitat for Humanity, Operation Smile and Invisible Children. Her parents are David and Diana Bridges.

DeLeeuw was valedictorian at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, posting a 4.0 GPA and 32 ACT. At UM, he is a member of the SMBHC and Lott Leadership Institute. In high school, he was a 2010 U.S.-Korea Network Scholar. He attended the William Winter Summer Youth Institute and was chosen as one of Portico’s Top 25 Students to Change the World. A member of Model UN and Beta Club, he served as president of the Young Democrats and as a two-year editor of the school newspaper. His service activities included work with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance and at the University Medical Center. His parents are David and Yvette DeLeeuw.

Kennedy, a graduate of Germantown High School, completed the International Baccalaureate Program along with her high school diploma requirements. She posted a 3.9 GPA and 34 ACT, earning National Merit Commended Scholar designation. She is a member of the SMBHC and an Ole Miss Intensive Arabic Scholar. While in high school, she was a Finland-U.S. Senate Youth Exchange Scholar and she attended the Tennessee Governor’s School for International Studies. She was a member of the GHS National Art Honor Society, National Beta Club and French Club; president of Model UN and senior captain of Mock Trial. Her service activities included work with the Aga Khan Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Germantown International Festival and Youth United-Education. She is the daughter of Michael Kennedy and Katherine Torode.

Kumar, a member of the SMBHC, graduated from Starkville High School with a 3.7 GPA and 32 ACT. She was a member of the National Honor Society and the Debate Team, president of the Student Council and captain of varsity soccer. Her community service included work with Habitat for Humanity, a mission trip to Peru, Candy Striper at a local hospital and church camp counselor. Her parents are Rangswami and Maria Arun Kumar.

Solomon graduated from Grenada High School with a 3.5 GPA and 32 ACT. A National Achievement Finalist and National Merit Semi-Finalist, he is enrolled in UM’s Chinese Flagship Language Program and is a member of the SMBHC. At GHS, he was a member of Mu Alpha Theta and chosen the Outstanding Jazz Musician. He was co-captain of the Grenada High Band’s front ensemble and official timekeeper for the Hotchkiss Debate Team. A National Youth Scholar, he attended the National Youth Leadership Conference and the Congressional Youth Leadership Forum. His community service included work with the Key Club, 100 Black Scholars and Food Pantry. He is the son of Dr. Darley Jelgin “Bo” Solomon, Jr. and Dana Patterson Solomon.

Spear graduated from Kingwood High School with a 3.5 GPA and 1550 SAT, earning National Merit Commended Scholar designation. She is enrolled in UM’s Chinese Flagship Language Program. At KHS, she was an AP Scholar, secretary of the Squash Club and member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and Student Council. Her service activities included serving as church youth group team leader, and volunteer work at Jesse James Park and with Hope for Haiti and the Maleku Program (Costa Rica). Her parents are Tim and Beth Spear.

Whitehead was class valedictorian at Belmont Attendance Center, where he posted a 4.0 GPA and 31 ACT. Enrolled in the Chinese Flagship Language Program, he is a member of the SMBHC. A Mississippi State Senate Page, he attended UM’s Summer Lott Leadership Institute for high school students. At BAC, he was president of Math Club and Key Club. His service work included volunteering for school landscaping, private tutoring and church outreach. His parents are Tommy and Pam Whitehead

For more information, visit the Croft Institute for International Studies.