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Marriott Scholar Society Inaugural Meeting

March 7, 2016

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Provost Madison Sowell and Dr. Debra Sowell recently hosted a “Family Home Evening” for Marriott Scholars to announce the formation of a new Marriott Scholar Society.

The Sowells opened their home to Marriott Scholars (and spouses!) for fancy cheeses (the fig chèvre was my favorite), sparkling white grape juice, and a spiritual thought based on the speech “And with All Thy Mind” by John W. Welch. In his speech, Welch discussed the meaning of the biblical commandment to love God with all your mind. One of the points that stood out the most to me was that “[w]e break this commandment when we think contrary to the degree of knowledge we have received, when we know better.” This idea is consistent with the principle of academic integrity, and is not a new concept. However, Welch expanded the responsibility of knowledge beyond the academic realm, adding that “[w]e break this commandment when we promote ideas that injure other people, for with knowledge comes … duty and accountability.” The responsibilities of scholarship therefore extend to the social realm, to examine the impact of applied theories on real people in real circumstances. Knowledge is not just the promotion of ideas, but the protection of people.

The leadership-service implied by this responsibility is not only the primary tenet of Southern Virginia’s mission statement, but its amplification is an expected outcome of the Marriott Scholar Society’s formation.

“The fruits of this new association of Marriott Scholars will include the expansion of opportunities for cultural exchanges, intellectual and spiritual experiences, and meaningful chances to serve the rest of the student body and the community,” Provost Sowell explained. ”We believe that higher retention will follow as a consequence of more significant involvement of our Marriott Scholars in enriched and meaningful activities.”

The Marriott Scholarship itself is not new, but scholarship recipients were organized into a society because of an idea proposed in response to a challenge from Provost Sowell at last semester’s University Conference to “come up with ideas for how [the university] could retain more of [its] very best students.”

“Ideas were submitted to a committee, and one suggestion that was approved was the creation of the Marriott Scholars Society,” Provost Sowell said.

Marriott Scholars are students who have applied for and received the Marriott Scholarship, the largest and most prestigious scholarship awarded by Southern Virginia University, courtesy of Richard E. Marriott, Nancy P. Marriott and the Marriott Family. The scholarship is awarded based on demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and service. The application is available for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

(Post by Lauren Hafen ’16.)

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