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Nima Sekhadia in Florence.

By Nima Sekhadia, Psychology and Molecular & Cellular Biology Major

As college scholarships go, the Dorrance is one of a kind.  It awards 10,000 dollars a year for four years to first-generation students like myself, students whose parents did not have the chance to get a college education.  To receive the Dorrance, we must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average, attend monthly meetings during the academic semesters, and complete 8 hours of community service a year.

But this is not what makes the Dorrance unique.  The true value of the Dorrance Scholarship comes from the opportunities it offers to us.  In the summer before freshman year, incoming Dorrance scholars participate in the New Start Summer Orientation Program.   In six weeks, we get a little taste of the college experience – sharing bathrooms in the residence halls, rushing to class at 8 in the morning and trying out all the restaurants on University Boulevard.  We come out of it having made valuable contacts and new friends, as well as developing the confidence and vision to succeed in college.

In the summer after sophomore year, Dorrance begins the first half of its Entrepreneurship Program with a six-week traveling classroom in Italy.  In my year, we began in Naples and made our way north, learning about innovation through the lens of Italian history.  With the aid of some of the quirkiest and smartest guides in Italy, we explored the purpose of the stepping stones of Pompeii, the hidden history of the catacombs under Rome and the ancient roots of the architecture of the Fascist regime.  By the time we reached Bolzano in the north, we had discovered a rich mosaic of creativity that spanned from the beginning of Italian history to modern times.

The knowledge we receive in Italy then transfers over the next summer to a practical application in the Entrepreneurship Program.  Over the course of three weeks, we identify and refine an innovative solution to a problem in the field of our choice, and present the solution to an audience of professionals.  This past summer when I went through the program, we had projects ranging from microfinance loans for South African students to concussion-awareness campaigns.  In addition, we also had the chance to see innovation at work here in Tucson by making field studies to places such as the Biopshere II and Professor Dan Asia’s music studio.  It is a demanding program, undoubtedly, but it’s all worth it at the final presentation, in that single exulting moment at the very end where you feel like you can do the impossible.

In addition to all of the group programs Dorrance provides, it also gives the chance for individual study abroad.  This past summer, I had the opportunity to go to Denmark and the Netherlands for three weeks.  I took a class on the HIV/AIDS policy of Denmark and of Northern Europe, and was able to get an in-depth look at the successes and pitfalls of Northern European HIV/AIDS strategies as opposed to those in America.  But more importantly, I was able to experience the Danish and Dutch cultures, and gain a new appreciation for the differences between people, and an even greater appreciation for the things that tie us all together.

All of these programs directly feed into the core values of the Dorrance program – passion, community and entrepreneurship.   In the spirit of these values, the Dorrance program is constantly reinventing and adding to itself – this summer, the rising sophomore class embarked on a conservation mission along the rim of the Grand Canyon, while the rising juniors added Greece and Switzerland to their Italy agenda.  The Dorrance Scholarship’s ultimate goal in its summer programs is to create individuals with a specific set of traits – confidence from New Start, curiosity from Italy, drive and passion from the Entrepreneurship Program, and independence and community-mindedness from study abroad.  This is what makes the Dorrance Scholarship unique.