Gaines Center for the Humanities Names 12 New Scholars for 2021

12 headshot photos of the 2021 Gaines Center Fellows
The Gaines Center for the Humanities announced their 2021 cohort of Gaines Fellows representing eight UK colleges..

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:

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.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.