Ballard-McConnell-Willis Mathematics Scholarship Manual

Huy Nguyen:

Ballard- McConnell- Willis (BMW) scholarship is the most prestigious award offered by the Math Dept, and the single biggest outside scholarship on campus. There are many ways you can make the most out of this award; however, the process of “spending” it is rather informal. I have had quite a few BMW recipients asking me about the specific procedures of using this pretty big amount of money. That is why I decided to write up this so-called “manual” of BMW award, so that people who receive it after me can have a clue what to do. This is written merely based on personal perspectives and experiences from the two times I received this scholarship.

1. The selection:

To be considered for BMW awards, these criteria must be met:

  1. In the upper 10% of class
  2. With excellent scholarship
  3. Having upright moral character
  4. Demonstrating potential for accomplishment
  5. With ability to instill in others an appreciation for mathematics

Every year, around April, three new BMW scholars will be chosen out of three classes: sophomore, junior, and senior, based on nominations of BMW committee. You do not need to submit an application or anything. It is rather crucial that you do well in Math classes. Furthermore, there are also other facts that could show your dedication or strong interest in becoming a good mathematician. For example, working for the Math/CS department for your labor position is one significant way for students to satisfy the 5th criteria. So when selecting a student whether they work for the department and how well they work for the department factors significantly into the selection.

BMW awards will automatically be renewed every year for existing scholars, as long as they maintain their GPA among the top 10% of their class.

2. How to use:

BMW awards can be used toward academic purposes, as listed on BMW description page. If you are a senior, your BMW award can only be used to purchase computers (typically), journals, books, etc. with the total amount must be <= 3500 (typically). Non-senior BMW scholars usually choose to go to different schools to take courses not offered at Berea, then transfer those courses back. Your proposal is a very informal process. You first write a proposal of what you plan to do with the award, with expenses and fees specified in the proposal. Typically, everyone is entitled to an amount of $10,000 or below, depending on each year. Then the proposal will be considered by the Chair of the BMW Committee (Prof. J.P. Lee for now), as well as the representative of the donor families (Ms. Ann Sebrell). If the proposal is accepted, you could proceed to receive the money from Financial Aid office. Sample proposals include: professional conferences, journal subscriptions, going to different schools, purchasing computers or software, etc.

Notes for those who plan to go to a different school:

There is no official program that Berea College or Math Dept organizes for the students to go to other schools. This is when you shows your independence and creativity. The fund will be supplied by the BMW fund, but the process to get you off and going at the other school, as well as transferring courses back, totally depends on you.

When you look for a school, make sure that it is worth the money that you are about to spend. Also you need to make sure the courses you take there can be transferred back. Usually, you will have to go out there to the school, find a place to stay, get your course registration forms signed by professors, then get you registered. If you choose to do the summer program instead of a regular semester at the school, you will miss out good courses taught by good professors, but the trade-offs will be that you do not have to worry about finding housing and getting registered yourself.

List of schools that BMW scholars chose to go to in the past:

  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of Washington
  • London School of Economic
  • North Carolina State University
  • Harvard University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Having been used to Berea, I suspect that there will be many differences you are going to encounter, especially if you are participating in a regular semester instead of summer school. Among those is housing, a real difficulty for a big college town like Berkeley, Seattle or Raleigh. You may find it helpful to live in a motel in the first couple of days while you look for housing over there. There are housing services by the school that may have you find roommate or apartment listings. Newspapers, internet websites are also useful to find postings. Another difficulty you may encounter is selecting a good course load. It is typical that big schools are more challenging than Berea, so 3 or 4 classes are OK (recommend: 3). This is a valuable opportunity to take a wide variety of classes, so you may want to choose wisely.

Remember, while you are away, you first are given only a portion of the fund to start out with. Then you will save up receipts and send them back to Berea to get reimbursement.

For those traveling abroad, discuss with the International Office about visa issues first.

In order to transfer back the courses you take, you need to have an official transcript from the school you studied sent to Berea College’s Academic Services. Some or all the courses may or may not be transferred. The transferred courses will appear on your transcript, but will not affect your grade at Berea. Another thing to keep in mind is that when you go to study at another school, you will miss out some courses offered at Berea, especially the general education courses. So make plan so that you can still finish your general education before graduation.