June 09, 2010

Three named to All-USA College Academic Team

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- A national newspaper’s list of the top university students in the nation once again includes students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Andrew Dennhardt, Lucas Pulley and Jennifer Murray each have a place on USA Today’s 2010 All-USA College Academic Team, published today (June 9) in that newspaper. They are the latest Saluki installments on the team, which in recent years has featured several SIUC students.

This year’s SIUC students are members of the second/third/honorable mention tier of the team, which honors outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership. Laurie Bell, assistant director of the SIUC University Honors Program’s Office of Major Scholarship Advisement, said this year’s contingent proves once again that some of the top students in the nation study at SIUC.

“We have students here who are really doing outstanding work. Their work outside the classroom, which is a key component of this award, as well as their research projects show that,” Bell said. “You have to build a very impressive record to compete at this level. There are hundreds and hundreds of applications. To be named to this team means you’ve done something extraordinary. These students are all deserving, and that’s the joy we have in working with them.”

The contest is open to full-time undergraduates of at least junior standing at four-year institutions in the United States and U.S. territories. The student’s institutions must nominate them for the award and judges consider several factors, including grades, leadership, activities, and how students extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom in making their selections.

In recent years, SIUC has made a habit out of placing students in this elite company.

SIUC alumna Fahran Robb, of Pinckneyville, was the first Saluki to achieve the award, making the team in 2006 as a junior. Robb made the team a second time the next year as a senior in agriculture information and political science.

SIUC alumna Lisa Furby, a mechanical engineering major from Carbondale; alumnus Sean Goodin, a physiology and philosophy major from Red Bud; and alumnus Joe Batir, geology major from Channahon, made the team in 2009.

With three more students making the grade this year, Bell said future students will have an easier time believing they can achieve great things.

“We’ve always had these kind of students here, but from when I started seven years ago, students didn’t believe so much. Now they are beginning to understand because of those who went before them,” Bell said. “It has really snowballed. It’s a matter of identifying these kinds of students early, which we do, and encouraging them to think out of the box about what they’re capable of achieving.”

Last year, Dennhardt traveled to Washington, D.C., with an elite group of scholars to present his research on the peregrine falcon during the annual Posters on the Hill competition. The University also twice nominated him for a Goldwater Scholarship and presented him with a prestigious undergraduate research award in 2008. He also served on the University’s Leadership Council and as an SIUC Environmental Ambassador.

Dennhardt, a senior in zoology from East Moline, said he felt honored and humbled by the achievement.

“It’s excellent for the University to have students named again this year,” said Dennhardt, the son of Eugene and Beri Dennhardt of East Moline. “It’s a great tribute to the University and its dedication to research, and a credit to its University Honors program and all the great student advocates there.”

Pulley, who won a Chancellor’s Scholarship, was extremely involved in the Saluki Volunteer Corps and started Project Ignition, a registered student organization that promotes safe driving and pedestrian safety. He also received an undergraduate research award and was named to the national honor society Alpha Lambda Delta.
Pulley, a junior in mechanical engineering from Gibson City, said he feels incredibly blessed and humbled by the award.

“This honor is truly a testament not only to my personal academic achievement and accomplishments, but also to the amazing support I received from my research mentors and other faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale,” said Pulley, the son of Brian and Ginny Pulley of Gibson City.

Murray, a University Presidential Scholar, served on SIUC’s Leadership Council. This year, the SIU Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Council tapped her for one of 25 Distinguished Senior Awards.

Murray, a senior in political science and economics from O’Fallon, said she was very excited at the news, which she had awaited impatiently.

“When I read the long-awaited email announcing my position on the team, I felt both ecstatic and humbled,” said Murray, the daughter of Alan and Diann Murray of O’Fallon. “Four years of hard work have finally paid off, but I don't think it would have been possible without a handful of very special faculty members at SIUC who fiercely challenged me and believed in my potential. It's an honor to represent the University in this way.”