February 15, 2006
SIUC student one of only 60 to win national honor
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is one of just 60 college students nationwide named to the 2006 All-USA College Academic Team by USA Today.
The newspaper selected Fahran Robb, a Pinckneyville native majoring in agricultural information and political science, from a pool of more than 600 nominees. Robb, who also is pursuing minors in speech communication, environmental studies and agribusiness economics, is a one of 20 members of the third team. She is the first SIUC student to receive the honor in the program's 17-year history.
The program honors full-time undergraduates who excel in scholarship and extend their abilities beyond the classroom to benefit society. Judges rated applicants based on grades, academic rigor, leadership, activities and an essay describing their most outstanding intellectual endeavor.
The newspaper featured the winners in today's (Wednesday, Feb. 15) edition.
"I'm very pleased," SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said. "I know she is an excellent student, and this is a very competitive program."
Robb, the daughter of Sam and Myrna Robb, said making the team has been her dream since high school, where she attended agriculture classes under her favorite teacher – her father. She credits him with sparking her intense interest in agriculture and environmental issues.
"My dad was the agriculture education instructor at Pinckneyville High School for 37 years. He just recently retired," Robb said. "I took four years of classes with him. He just really got me interested in it."
As a freshman at SIUC, Robb was among 250 top students identified each year by the University's Office of Major Scholarship Advisement, which helps students achieve the background they need to compete for high profile, national scholarships and academic awards.
"They need quite a hefty resume. Good grades are not enough," said Laurie Bell, assistant director of the University Honors Program and head of the scholarship advisement office. "These students need time to help them understand what they need in order to win these major awards. That's why identifying them early is important."
Robb was one of about a dozen elite SIUC students selected from the top 250 to participate in the Freshman Colloquium class, which prepares them for major scholarship competition. The class is one aspect of the University's growing emphasis on raising its academic profile.
"We committed some dollars a few years back to creating a position for working with students to help them better prepare for these types of prominent awards, and I think we're starting to see some success, " Wendler said. "We have excellent students, but these processes require lots of attention."
Rick Williams, director of the University Honors Program, said Robb's award will bring other high-achieving students to SIUC.
"Not only that, but it will help make those top quality students who are already here – and there are many – realize they too can compete not just in the classroom but also at a national level," Williams said. "That is a great obstacle that awards like this help us to leap over. This award shows we are in fact a competitor with the best schools in the country."
Robb said she was "extremely excited" upon learning she had made the team.
"It showed one can achieve anything if you set your mind to it," she said.
Gary L. Minish, dean of the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences, nominated Robb for the honor. She also gathered letters of recommendation and wrote an essay on her 2005 white paper for the National Corn Growers Association on biomass conversion to ethanol.
The 21-year-old has specific interests in alternative fuels, such as ethanol, and preserving natural resources.
"I'd like to work in Washington, maybe at the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or a think tank on agriculture and environmental issues," said Robb, a third-year SIUC student with enough credit hours for senior status. "It's always been part of my life, and I want to improve policy for farmers and the environment."
She plans to pursue graduate studies at either Cornell University or Yale University, aiming for joint degrees in agribusiness economics and law.
But when it came time to choose a university to begin her higher education, Robb said SIUC was a natural choice.
"All my family have gone to SIUC – my mom, dad, older sister, everyone," she said. "I have strong ties to the University and received a lot of scholarships. It's a beautiful campus and all my professors are extremely friendly and helpful."
Promoting excellence in undergraduate academics is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.