Four QUEST Students Selected as Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars

Four QUEST seniors, Chineme Obiefune (Q25), Sarina Haryanto (Q26), Miriam Silton (Q26), and Cece Ukejianya (Q26), were selected as 2017-2018 Philip Merrill Scholars. This award is bestowed to only three students per college and recognizes students for their outstanding achievements throughout their undergraduate career at UMD. Additionally, as part of the award, winners are able to recognize their mentors and teachers from K-12 and college who have helped them get to where they are today. The QUEST student winners represented a few of those chosen from the Robert H. Smith School of Business and A. James Clark School of Engineering. I had the recent pleasure of interviewing three of the award winners from QUEST: Chineme, Sarina, and Miriam.

Sarina Haryanto (Q26) and her mentors at the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Event

How did you get selected for the Presidential Scholars Award?

 Sarina: While I don’t know the exact details of how I was selected as a Presidential Scholar, I am aware that selection is determined through a nomination process. I received a letter from the Office of the Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Studies towards the end of the spring 2017 semester. Thank you to the individual or group in the Smith School who nominated me as a Presidential Scholar. I appreciate the recognition of my academic excellence and engagement in the Smith School. In addition to connecting with my peers in the QUEST and Smith communities, I believe that developing relationships with the wonderful and supportive Smith faculty and staff since my freshman year played a major role in this award.

Miriam: In the spring semester of 2017, I was notified by my advisor that I should apply for this award. After seeing what it was for, it was mainly for honoring mentors and teachers who have helped me along the way, and I don’t think they get enough recognition most of the time. So it was an opportunity for me to put in some work to do the application, and in the end, having [the teachers] know they’re appreciated, as well as providing a scholarship from my school to come to the University of Maryland. I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the award and help benefit a bunch of people as well.

Chineme: I got selected for the program by being nominated by the business school. To be completely honest, I don’t know about the specifics of the nomination process, but I work in the Smith Office of Undergraduate Studies with Dean Mullins so I have a feeling that may have had something to do with it.

Can you tell me about the teachers/professors that have influenced your academic career? 

Chineme Obiefune (Q25) and his mentors at the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Event

Sarina: In fifth grade, Miss Stuart nurtured my joy of reading and writing. I recall wandering around the media center and leaving with a bundle of books (Magic Tree House and the Alice series were some of my favorite reads!). I also remember reading The Phantom Tollbooth and writing my first “research paper” on grizzly bears in her class. Last year in SIF, Dr. Kirsch encouraged me to explore how business can create social and environmental impact. I loved engaging in SIF class discussions and learning new concepts that challenge my perspectives. Dr. Kirsch also provided my SIF team the opportunity to present our social enterprise ecosystems paper at a research conference in Italy.

Miriam: The K-12 mentor I chose to honor was my Calculus teacher from high school. She was an engineer for a few years and then switched career paths to become a high school teacher. She managed to make Calculus fun for me which stopped me from hating math. She encouraged me to pursue independent study Calculus 3, which helped prepare me for college, as well as showed me that women can go into engineering. She also provided the insight into the possibility of becoming a high school teacher or college lecturer in order to give back to the community in the same way.

Chineme: Life can be challenging, but I’m blessed to have mentors that I can look up to and consult for advice when it comes to making big decisions. Ms. Irene Bademosi was one of my strongest supporters in high school. When people underestimated my potential, she made sure I never undervalued myself. She taught me to hustle for what is mine and to be grateful for all the blessings that I receive. Here at Maryland, Dr. Pamela Armstrong helped to give my career some direction. I came to college not knowing where I fit in the world of business, but after joining the QUEST program and working with Dr. Armstrong, my path became much clearer. She exposed me to design thinking and the importance of empathy in business and modeled these behaviors in all aspects of her life. Both Ms. Bademosi and Dr. Armstrong have made valuable contributions to my life. I’m still figuring a lot of things out, but with their guidance, I am confident that I will be able to navigate the multitude of decisions awaiting me in the years to come.

How has this award influenced you academically, professionally, personally, etc.?

Miriam Silton (Q26) and her mentors at the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars Event

Sarina: This award has made me realize and better appreciate the role of educators in my life. All too often people focus on the result rather than the process. For example, college students can be obsessed with grades. I value academic excellence and am interested in graduate school, so of course, I strive to do well in my classes. However, exploring things out of curiosity and intrinsic motivation is so much more fulfilling than “checking the box” for required classes.

Learning and sharing knowledge outside of the classroom goes a long way. My mentors have inspired me to embrace lifelong learning and explore a different kind of supply chain, “the education supply chain.”

Miriam: It was nice to be recognized in a way that gave credit to those mentors who’ve helped me get to where I am today. It made me stop and think and really look back and think who I want to pick out and honor. So by looking back and thinking of all the teachers that I’ve had and how much I’ve grown since first grade walking into public school for the first time, it really made me appreciate things, especially at this point in my college career as I’m getting ready to graduate and move forward and provide mentorship to other people.

Chineme: This award has been most influential personally. It’s forced me to reevaluate myself and figure out how to improve all aspects of my life. The people that spoke at the luncheon were smart, poised, and passionate. Listening to them speak and receiving this award was another reminder of how much more I need to learn and experience in life to truly call myself successful.


Congratulations to these QUEST seniors for being selected for the award. A comprehensive list of the awardees from each college can be found here.

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