Westminster student receives rare scholarship

By Theresa Evans

A student who sings at Westminster and conducts scientific research on the Lawrenceville campus has been given a rare honor. Sophomore biochemistry and music double major Shayna Holness received an honorable mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

“To my knowledge, Shayna is only the third Rider student to be honored by this scholarship program,” said Dr. James Castagnera, the Rider University faculty representative to the Goldwater Foundation. “She also is the first student, so far as I know, to aim for both a bachelor of science degree on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus and a bachelor of arts degree on our Princeton campus. Her academic career to date is one of the best examples I know of the almost unique opportunity offered to Rider students who come to our campuses with diverse interests and career goals.”

Holness said, the purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.

According to the scholarship’s press release, 252 scholars received the award out of 1,150 mathematics, science and engineering student nominees. The students were selected on academic merit and nominated by representatives from 415 colleges and universities nationwide. All of the scholars intend to obtain a Ph.D.

“The Barry Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 to honor the famous senator and 1964 presidential candidate, who took a tremendous interest in educating more American scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” Castagnera said. “It is perhaps the most prestigious award of its kind. The best students from every major research university in the United States compete for these awards.”

Holness plans on graduating in 2018 and hopes to continue her work in the science lab on campus as she currently works for Dr. Kelly Bidle, a professor in the biology and behavioral neuroscience department. After she graduates, she plans to get her Ph.D. in a field related to biochemistry and sing in a professional choir. Pursuing both passions is very important to her.

“I find Shayna to be a wonderfully curious, talented and intelligent person,” said Dr. Kathy Price, a vocal pedagogy professor. “These qualities carry over into her study of voice, and her curiosity regarding how the voice works physiologically and acoustically.  She is also a very musical individual who uses her voice and her person expressively to interpret both music and poetry with nuanced sensitivity.”

Rider faculty helped Holness with the application process as well as giving her support as she obtains a dual degree at both the Westminster College of the Arts and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her parents, past vocal coaches and current professors have given her the support she needs to get to where she is today.

“She is truly a unique student and one who works incredibly hard. To be able to work with someone who excels in two completely different disciplines —music and science— has been a real pleasure,” said Bidle. “She brings a unique perspective to her studies, and it’s just been a real pleasure working with her in the research lab.”

Holness said she believes that an honorable mention “represents my promise as a researcher and my potential to make a significant contribution to the biochemistry field.”

“I believe I’m only the third person in Rider history to receive any award in this fiercely competitive program, a fact that both amazes and humbles me,” she said.

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