Veterinary Medicine Stamps Scholars Attend 2015 National Convention

When the college’s contingent of Stamps Leadership Scholars piled into their rented vehicles in April, their sights were set on Atlanta and the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention. The excitement of the nine graduate students and program leader Dr. Roger Avery was evident as they headed down Interstate 81.

The scholars each receive support from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation (SFCF), a program started by E. Roe and Penny Stamps in 2006 to aid talented students in their education and career aspirations. The Stamps Scholars network now makes up one of the largest merit-based scholarship programs in the country.

Stamps Scholars at the National Convention
Stamps Leadership Scholars (l-r) Xiaofeng Liao, Kelly Freudenberger, Anne Nichols, Qian Cao, Dr. Miranda Vieson, Dr. Marigold Ernst, Tracee Popielarczyk, Kaylyn Williams, Dr. Jeff Alexander, and program leader Dr. Roger Avery gather for a group picture before the Stamps Convention banquet at the McCamish Pavilion with keynote speaker Coach Bill Curry.

The relationship between Stamps and Virginia Tech is unique in several ways. Not only were Tech students the first graduate students chosen to enter the Stamps program, but the Blacksburg-based group continues to serve a special role as the only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduate students to be included as Stamps Scholars.

Dr. Miranda Vieson presents a poster at the exposition
Stamps Leadership Scholar Dr. Miranda Vieson, anatomic pathology resident and PhD candidate, shared her current research with other Stamps Scholars during the Stamps Convention exposition.

It all began in 2011 with the selection of small group of graduate students in the college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences (BMVS) graduate program. Since then, the number of Stamps Scholars supported has doubled to include 10 BMVS graduate students. The latest class includes Jeff Alexander, Qian Cao, Cat Cowan, Marigold Ernst, Kelly Freudenberger, Xiaofeng Liao, Anne Nichols, Tracee Popielarczyk, Miranda Vieson, and Kaylyn Williams. Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Roger Avery, serves as the program leader.

Inclusion into this prestigious group is different from other programs in that students are selected based not only on their scholarship and merit, but also on their leadership skills and commitment to serving the community.

On the weekend of April 10th, the Stamps Scholars (minus SCVAMA president Cat Cowan who stayed behind due to Vet School Open House responsibilites) traveled to Georgia Tech to attend the 2015 Stamps National Convention. According to graduate student Miranda Vieson, the convention is held every other year and provides an opportunity for scholars from over 40 partner schools across the U.S. to network, listen to inspiring leaders in their respective disciplines of study, and brainstorm ways to tackle challenging and multifaceted questions facing society today.

Student Ted-talks at the Stamps Convention
Stamps Leadership Scholars (l-r) Kelly Freudenberger, Kaylyn Williams, Qian Cao, Anne Nichols, and Dr. Marigold Ernst enjoyed some student TED-like talks at the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention.

“Every time I attend the National Stamps Convention, I leave inspired and highly impressed with the breadth of knowledge and infectious optimism from my fellow scholars,” said Vieson. “The great thing about being a Stamps Scholar is knowing that I'm an active part of a community that is enthusiastic and energetic about higher education and using it to improve the world in innovative and efficient ways.”

The convention offered numerous activities over the weekend including round-table discussions with industry leaders, keynote speakers (including Super Bowl Champion and former football coach Bill Curry and Harvard Business School professor Bill George), TED-like talks given by Stamps Scholars, an exposition to showcase ongoing research by Stamps Scholars, tours of important landmarks located in Atlanta, and a Stamps Scholar talent show.

Vieson explained that the scholars were sorted into various topic threads in order to provide convention attendees with the chance to learn about and discuss issues of particular interest to them. Many of the VMCVM scholars took part in the Health, Research, and Science thread where they learned the ins and outs of small biotech startup companies and discussed the future of national healthcare. Graduate student Marigold Ernst participated in the Social Courage, Change, and Equality thread, which fostered discussion about past and current human rights issues and featured a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Dr. Miranda Vieson presents a poster at the exposition
Stamps Leadership Scholars (l-r) Tracee Popielarczyk, Kaylyn Williams, Kelly Freudenberger, and Dr. Marigold Ernst enjoyed the soiree with mock-tails and casino games at the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention.

The convention also engaged the collective brainpower of its Scholars by having all convention attendees review a case study about the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. The scholars then met in small groups to analyze the case study and suggest ideas for how the foundation should change and grow in the future.

“Attending the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention allowed me to be inspired by the wisdom of the invited speakers and the enthusiasm of the other scholars,” said Anne Nichols. “Being a part of a community like the Stamps Scholars that is so supportive of its members’ ambitions has been a great experience.”

With Stamps Foundation support, the Virginia-Maryland Vet Med Stamps Scholars have been able to present their work and research at important scientific conventions and symposia, network with important contacts in their respective research fields, and travel to attend specialized courses in their fields of interest. The college’s Stamps Scholars are currently working to organize a professional development series for other college graduate students in biomedical sciences.

Information and photos courtesy of Miranda Vieson.