New Emory Scholars bring diverse talents to campus

Emory Report | Aug. 26, 2016

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This year's new Emory Scholars include (left to right) Adric Tenuta, a debater from Kansas interested in languages and biochemistry; Kira Tucker, a spoken-word poet from Tennessee who mastered Russian and studied in Poland; and Ankita Moss, a weight lifter from Mississippi who founded a nonprofit program for children.

One is a committed debater from Kansas, whose research in policy debates prompted him to start the Young Democratic Socialists group in his hometown.

Another is a Tennessee spoken-word artist whose knack for language led her to fluency in Russian and study of Polish.

A third is a competitive weight lifter from Mississippi who launched her nonprofit to show younger students the link between their interests and education.

These students and a diverse mix of 25 other bright minds from across the globe converge on Emory College’s campus this fall as the Emory Scholars Class of 2020. They were selected for what they have already accomplished and, more importantly, what more they might achieve, says program director Lydia Soleil.

“How they choose to realize their potential will be as varied as the new Scholars themselves, as they all bring different values, passions, skills and experiences,” Soleil says. “We are excited to support these new Scholars as they grow and give of their skills and talents in ways that make a positive impact on the Emory community and beyond."

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The Emory Scholars program has sought the most talented students with the most potential since 1981, the first year of the Robert W. Woodruff scholarships.

Woodruff, the former president of the Coca-Cola Company, made news with a $105 million gift to Emory in 1979. Part of the donation was his signature scholarship, designed to draw Ivy League-bound students to Emory instead, as it began its march to national recognition.

The Emory Scholars program has since grown to include several other scholarships based on academic merit, achievement and community engagement.

As a group, they are already leaders. As Emory Scholars, the expectation is they will energize a campus full of high achievers whose spirits likewise are drawn to varied pursuits.

“Biomedical research, the Carter Center, debate … Emory honestly has everything I wanted,” says Adric Tenuta, whose debate competitions influenced his interest in democratic socialism, even before U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont jumped into the Democratic presidential contest.

Tenuta, a Woodruff Scholar, has since tried to tackle voter apathy while also juggling forensic debate – more like performative spoken word to him – and writing short prose and poetry. He wants to use those skills to study languages, from Arabic to Javanese, and possibly major in biochemistry.

Other top-tier colleges in his sights didn’t seem to see the connections there that he does.

Other scholars in the cohort also sense those links. Kira Tucker, also a Woodruff Scholar, has learned most by following her interests, receiving national recognition for her painting, mastering Russian and traveling to Warsaw, Poland, on a student exchange program.

She is thinking of majoring in international studies as an efficient way to combine her interests in language, political science, law and economics.

But, then again, her campus visit including sitting in on an anthropology class that seemed to connect several areas, too. And a student recommended the creative writing department for more structured classes to back up her success in spoken-word poetry.