Goldwater, Truman Scholarships give UGA a Sweep of top Undergraduate Scholastic Honors

ATHENS, Ga. – University of Georgia students have again been named recipients of Goldwater and Truman Scholarships, two leading national awards for college undergraduates. Along with the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships announced last fall, UGA has swept four of the country’s most prestigious scholastic honors for undergraduates.

Laura Ellen Downs, a junior from West Point, and Amanda Morgan Casto, a junior from Anderson, S.C., will receive the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which provides up to $7,500 for students pursuing careers in mathematics, engineering and the natural sciences.

Virginia Leigh (Ginny) Barton, a junior from Chapin, S.C., will receive the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 grant for graduate study in preparation for a career in government or public service.

This is the third consecutive year, and the sixth of the last seven years, that UGA students have been named Goldwater Scholars. A total of 16 students has received the award since 1995.

UGA last had a Truman Scholar in 1998, and has had a total of 11 since 1982.

The selections add to UGA’s tally of top scholastic awards for undergraduates in this academic year. Last fall, Adam Cureton was chosen to receive a Rhodes Scholarship and Josh Woodruff was named a Marshall Scholar. This is the first time UGA students have won all four scholarships in the same year.

“This recognition of Ellen, Amanda and Ginny is simply further evidence that University of Georgia students stand as scholastic equals with the best of America’s college students,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “The competition for Goldwater and Truman scholarships is fierce, and these winners bring great honor and credit to UGA. We are exceedingly proud of their accomplishments.”

Downs and Casto are among 300 winners selected from 1,093 applicants for the Goldwater Scholarship, named for U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The award will cover tuition, fees, books, room and board for their senior year at UGA.

Barton is one of about 80 winners of the Truman Scholarship, which honors former President
Harry S. Truman. The grant will help pay her graduate school expenses after she graduates from UGA in 2004.

All three students are in the Honors Program and are Foundation Fellows, UGA’s premier undergraduate scholarship program. They are also on the Deans List and have already been invited into Phi Beta Kappa. Downs and Casto have perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Barton, who has a 3.8 GPA, has been nominated to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Downs, a chemistry major, plans to earn a doctorate in chemistry and pursue a career conducting research on medicinal therapeutics. She has spent two years conducting research under the direction of UGA chemistry professor Gregory Robinson and is co-author of three peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. She has been president of the UGA March of Dimes chapter and was on the Collegiate Council.

Casto, who is majoring in genetics and cell biology, plans to get a Ph.D. in human genetics and direct a genetics research laboratory. She has worked on research projects at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She is a volunteer in the Center for Undergraduate Research and a member of the women’s lacrosse team.

Barton is majoring in cell biology and psychology. She intends to get a joint law degree/master’s degree in public health, and work in the field of health policy. She has served two years in the Student Government Association and was elected vice president for the upcoming academic year. A co-founder of the UGA chapter of the Association for Women in Science, she is an Orientation Leader and a member of the Arch Society and the Georgia Recruitment Team.

Jere Morehead, associate provost and director of the Honors Program, said Honors faculty and staff played a key role in the students’ selection for the scholarships.

“We are indebted to Dr. Del Dunn and Dr. Karl Espelie, chairs of the respective Truman and Goldwater campus committees, and to Else Jorgensen, the Honors Program scholarship coordinator, for their extraordinary work,” said Morehead.