Asya Hristova ’18 has always been a hard worker, eager to try new things and to challenge herself. So when she enrolled at Stephens College and learned about Stephens Scholars, the College’s honors program, she didn’t hesitate to join the select group of students.

The decision changed her life.

“The program has provided me with a built-in support system, network opportunities and academic challenges,” said Hristova, who was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, but grew up in Baton Rouge, La. “It has been a bonus to attending Stephens College.”

She is among 29 students who are part of the honors program at Stephens that dates back to the 1960s, when it was created as a pilot program. Stephens Scholars has evolved since then, but its core mission remains the same: to inspire and challenge honor students.

Today, the program involves rigorous coursework as well as experiential learning opportunities that take students off campus to explore art, history, sustainability and career options around the community. To qualify for the program, students must have at least a 3.5 GPA and an ACT composite of 25 or higher or SAT composite of 1,700 or higher.

This fall, the students visited the Columbia Farmers Market, the Columbia Art League, the University of Missouri Research Reactor and the Missouri Theatre. They also watched a demonstration by volunteers with the Raptor Rehabilitation Project at MU. In October, the newest members of the group were recognized during a special pinning ceremony in the Historic Senior Hall Recital Hall.

“We want to make sure our high-achieving students are challenged,” said Stephens Associate Professor Jim Terry, who is the coordinator of the program. 

During many program activities, the students meet an influential woman leader who is often a Stephens alumna such as Liz Kroeker Wells ’79, a volunteer with the Raptor Rehabilitation Project at MU. She recently visited with the honor students. (She is pictured above holding Fester, an American kestrel.)

So influenced was Hristova by the people she meant through the honors program that she added a second major to her academic experience at Stephens. Now, she’ll graduate in May with B.S. degrees in Strategic Communication: Integrated Marketing and Health Science.

“Personally, I like to be challenged and to explore my limits,” she said.

Fiona Bolte-Bradhurst ’20, who is studying musical theatre, said the opportunity to join Stephens Scholars was part of the reason she chose to attend Stephens.

“I have enjoyed the opportunities we have had in this program,” she said. “Rather than just being a boost to add to my resume or application, the Stephens Scholars program provides a variety of group activities and community outings that enrich our lives.”

The students are also eligible for special endowed scholarships covering their sophomore, junior and senior years. Hristova recently received a James Shirky Scholarship and is grateful for the opportunities it has provided her at Stephens. The scholarship is named after a beloved Stephens professor who retired in 2000. 

“Many students, such as myself, feel hopeless because they can’t afford college, so they may never start or just drop out,” she said. “I am thankful that the scholars program has given me this opportunity. It makes me believe that if I am willing to work hard and challenge myself, then financial matters won’t hold me back. I am thankful that the scholars program was willing to invest in my future and believe that my hard work was worthy to honor this amazing professor.”

Tags : Student Success

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