Grace Roy UNH
Grace Roy ’22
Photo By Jeremy Gasowski
Showing their SMARTs
Across multiple disciplines, undergraduate students drive UNH scholarship success

here’s smart, and then there’s SMART. With scholarship success rates — a measure of the percentage of scholarship applicants who receive awards — that place the University of New Hampshire among the best colleges and universities in the country, it turns out that UNH undergraduates are both.

In April, Julia Hilinski ’23, Eric Smith ’23 and James Wirth ’23 were awarded Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarships through the Department of Defense (DoD). Awarded to undergraduate or graduate students in STEM-related fields, SMART scholarships include full tuition and related fees, a $25,000 to $38,000 annual stipend, summer research internships and employment placement within the DoD after graduation.

Julia Hilinski UNH
Julia Hilinski ’23
Eric Smith UNH
Eric Smith ’23
James Wirth UNH
James Wirth ’23
Photos By Brooks Payette ’12
A tremendous achievement for these students, all of whom have secured placements with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, these awards also cement the university as a top producer of SMART scholars in the region and nationwide. Since 2006, 28 UNH students have received SMART scholarships — making the university the top SMART-scholarship-producing institution in New England and placing it in the top 7% nationwide.

“The SMART scholarship has historically been an excellent fit for UNH students,” says Jeanne Sokolowski, director of UNH’s Office of National Fellowships. “Our students excel in STEM not only due to our dedicated faculty and outstanding research opportunities, but also because of their passion for service.”

Hilinski is an analytics and data science major from Wallingford, Connecticut. Smith, from Silver Lake, New Hampshire, is studying electrical engineering. Wirth is an engineering physics major from Sherborn, Massachusetts. All three students will participate in their SMART internships — unique hands-on experiences offered at 200-plus innovative laboratories that exist across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defense — at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in summer 2022.

And the trio aren’t the only smart Wildcats out there. Sam Mercer ’23, a chemical engineering major from Sanford, Maine, was recently awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, and Grace Roy ’22, a health management and policy major from Dover, New Hampshire, was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar.

The Goldwater Scholarship is widely considered the nation’s premier undergraduate award for science, math, engineering and technology majors who plan to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in research. Mercer, who is just 17 years old, is one of only 410 college sophomores and juniors to receive one for the 2020-21 academic year. Goldwater Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“I was ecstatic to learn I won a scholarship,” says Mercer, who enrolled at UNH at the age of 15 and works with Nan Yi, assistant professor of chemical engineering, studying methane conversion processes and how to improve the turnover rate of desirable reaction products. “Earning such an award has reinforced my commitment to a career in research and the financial support allows me to focus more on my research, career and outreach efforts.”

After UNH, Mercer plans to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering.

Sam Mercer UNH
Sam Mercer ’23
Photo By Brooks Payette ’12
Roy, who is UNH’s sixth Truman Scholar, is one of just 62 named nationwide, selected from a field of 845 candidates. The $30,000 graduate fellowship, the brainchild of the 33rd U.S. president, is awarded to undergraduates seeking a career in public service — a field in which Roy boasts an extensive track record. A Hamel Scholar, she’s been involved with the program’s Substance Misuse Awareness Task Force, and she serves as an Alcohol, Nicotine, & Other Drugs (ANOD) peer educator with UNH Health & Wellness. She’s also been volunteering with Dover’s Youth 2 Youth drug prevention program since 2011 and last summer received a Governor John G. Winant Fellowship to work as an intern with the organization. Since February 2020, she’s been working in the lab of associate professor Semra Aytur conducting public health research on increasing access to acceptance and commitment therapy, and after college plans to pursue a master’s in public health, concentrating in health policy and community health intervention.

“It means so much to me to be selected as a Truman Scholar and be part of a network of people across different disciplines who are helping to change things for the better,” Roy says. “It gives me hope that I will be able to have the same impact.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Wayne Jones is confident that Roy will have an impact — as will Mercer, Hilinski, Smith and Wirth. “These students and their success on the national and international stage exemplify the strength of our student body and the commitment to every student’s success demonstrated by our faculty and staff,” he says.

— compiled from stories by Brooks Payette ’12 and Jody Record ’95

Five for Fulbright

even UNH students are part of a celebrated moment in the history of scholarships this spring, selected as Fulbright scholars or alternates in the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program. Signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in 1946, the legislation was proposed by Sen. J. William Fulbright to help increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those in other countries.Of the 20 UNH applicants this year, 14 were selected as semifinalists, with five receiving Fulbright offers and two being named alternates to teach, study or conduct research abroad. Those receiving offers are Sawyer Cawthern ’21, Emma Danais ’20 ’21G, Danielle Johnson, Elizabeth Mamros ’26G and Samantha Sullivan ’21G, and alternates Daniel Frehner ’21G and Emily Olivier ’21G. Cawthern declined her offer; she will attend MIT next year to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Emma Danais ’20 ’21G will be going to the Canary Islands in Spain in September to work as an English teaching assistant in an elementary school classroom, helping Spanish students learn English. This aligns with the master’s degree the Center Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, resident is receiving in Spanish K-12 and elementary education.

Elizabeth Mamros ’26G will travel to Dortmund, Germany, in August to conduct research at the Institut für Umformtechnik und Leichtbau (IUL),  which is affiliated with TU Dortmund University. A third-year doctoral student in mechanical engineering, the Pennsylvania resident’s research will investigate manufacturing processes that can be utilized to create patient-specific parts with functionally graded materials.

Samantha Sullivan ’21G will travel to Argentina to teach English in March 2022. A resident of Chester, New Hampshire, she will receive her master’s degree in secondary education with a certification in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in May.

UNH Manchester graduate student Danielle Johnson ’21G will work at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, also known as the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, in Amsterdam, where she will help first-year students in the English teacher preparation program improve their English and learn how to teach it. The Londonderry, New Hampshire, resident is getting her master’s degree in secondary education with a focus on social studies and English language.

UNH’s success with the Fulbright program dates back to 1949, when Ruth E. Winn became the first Wildcat to receive an award.

— Jody Record ’95