LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 8, 2021) — The University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities has selected 12 undergraduate students as new scholars for the Gaines Fellowship Program.
The Gaines Fellowship is presented in recognition of outstanding academic performance, demonstrated ability to conduct independent research, an interest in public issues and a desire to enhance understanding of the human condition through the humanities. Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on UK’s campus. The Gaines Center is designed to enrich the study of the humanities at the University of Kentucky.
Amid the pandemic, the Gaines Center experienced a banner year of applications for the prestigious program.
“This has been a challenging year for everyone, so we were concerned that our recruitment efforts would be negatively impacted by those challenges. Instead, we had a record number of applications for the Gaines Fellowship this year,” Gaines Center Director Melynda Price said. “I believe this was the result of the hard work or our Associate Director Chelsea Brislin and a yearning among the students for programs that develop them as scholars and human beings. We are very proud of the new cohort and the work we will do together.”
This year’s scholars represent eight different colleges on campus including: the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Communication and Information; College of Design; College of Education; College of Public Health; Gatton College of Business and Economics; and Lewis Honors College.
UK’s 12 new Gaines Fellows are:
- Larah Ballard, from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, an honors student majoring in gender and women’s studies and horticulture;
- Riley Droppleman, from Athens, Alabama, an honors and pre-med student majoring in biology;
- Abby Eplin, from Barboursville, West Virginia, an honors student majoring in secondary English education;
- Sophie Gershtenson, from Richmond, Kentucky, an interiors student;
- Brandy Jackson, from Atlanta, Georgia, a journalism and merchandising, apparel and textiles student;
- Mihir Kale, from Louisville, Kentucky, an honors student majoring in political science;
- Meron Lemma, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a public health and environmental and sustainability studies student;
- Felix Lowery, from Jackson, Tennessee, a landscape architecture student;
- Chris Lucas, from Overland Park, Kansas, an honors student majoring in economics and finance;
- Haley Nelson, from Frankfort, Kentucky, an agricultural education student;
- Lexi Nolletti, from Wooster, Ohio, an honors student majoring in neuroscience; and
- Luke Schlake, from Hamilton, Ohio, an honors student majoring in economics.
Upon learning of her selection, Haley Nelson could hardly contain her joy. “I am very humbled and excited — I feel blessed to have an opportunity to learn with and from others in the program. I believe this program will help me grow as a student, individual and leader.”
Riley Droppleman said she is also looking forward to the learning opportunity the fellowship will afford her. “I hope to engage with the humanities in a way that challenges me to view the world differently. I want to craft an academic and social experience that I would not be able to find anywhere else."
As Gaines Fellows, these scholars are required to take a specially designed, four-credit hour per semester seminar during both semesters of their junior year. In addition, each junior fellow must complete a service project to benefit a community, whether it be campus, Lexington, the fellow's hometown or a community further afield.
In their senior year, each fellow must complete a major independent study thesis project of six to 15 credit hours. The project must be submitted and defended in front of a thesis committee of three university faculty members and the director of the Gaines Center.
Any student at the University of Kentucky may apply for a Gaines Fellowship. Students in all disciplines and with any intended profession are given equal consideration. Any undergraduate demonstrating excellence in his or her undergraduate career is encouraged to apply. Applicants must have two years of planned undergraduate study remaining and must have an outstanding academic record.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.