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Robertsons will add new first-years

“We see ourselves as a leadership development program, and we want to share our program’s resources with the undergraduate student community,” said Tony Brown, president of the Robertson Scholars program.
“We see ourselves as a leadership development program, and we want to share our program’s resources with the undergraduate student community,” said Tony Brown, president of the Robertson Scholars program.

Two more Duke students may soon have a better reason to board the two-tone blue Robertson bus.

The Robertson Scholars Program will admit four first-year students–two from Duke and two from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill–in Spring 2010, program officials announced Tuesday. The leadership initiative program, established in 2000 by Julian and Josie Robertson, currently grants about 35 high school seniors full four-year merit scholarships for study at both universities.

“We see ourselves as a leadership development program, and we want to share our program’s resources with the undergraduate student community,” said Tony Brown, president of the Robertson Scholars program.

The two-year pilot initiative to admit freshmen reflects feedback from administrators and faculty at both universities, said Margi Strickland, the program’s assistant director for external relations. Strickland said freshmen who have already settled into college will bring unique insights to the program.

“We know that Duke has a great population of students already here on campus,” she said. “Coming after one year in college, freshmen are going to really help infuse our current program with different perspectives and help engage and challenge the current scholars.”

Inviting first-year students to become Robertson Scholars has advantages over both earlier and later points of entry, Brown noted.

Unlike high school seniors, freshmen will have demonstrated an ability to adapt to and thrive in college. But freshmen will also be able to experience the program in its entirety, he said.

“We believe we can bring in first-year students and have them be fully integrated in the program,” Brown said. “We don’t think we can bring in sophomores without disrupting the program model. “

Brown said the first summer, during which scholars engage in community building, is a key feature of the program. He also said the campus switch, which allows students to study at the other university during the second semester of their sophomore year, is a formative cross-campus learning experience for scholars.

“If they miss out on [these features], they haven’t had the full Robertson experience,” he said.

Strickland said that although the program may expand in the future, the initiative is just a pilot program for the time being.

“We could expand, but we’re not going to speculate on the ways,” she said. “We’ll evaluate what works and doesn’t work with this program.”

Brown said the addition of first-years is the latest change since the program’s expansion in 2007 to offer more scholarships to students.

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