When Benjamin Finch ’18 graduates from Centre College in two years, he will immediately begin working for the U.S. government, thanks to a scholarship he was recently awarded by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Finch, a double major in mathematics and Spanish, was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship. The award package includes full tuition, summer research and internship experiences, and gainful employment upon graduation from college.
The SMART scholarship program, aimed at students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), was established to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers employed at DoD laboratories.
Finch applied for the SMART Scholarship because of the appeal of doing mathematical research for the government. He says he was “ecstatic” upon receiving the scholarship, adding, “I felt so humbled and honored.”
John Wilson, H.W. Stodghill, Jr., and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Mathematics, recommended Finch to apply for the scholarship.
“As Ben’s advisor and professor, I knew he was interested in mathematics,” Wilson says. “I thought his intellectual curiosity about many different subjects and his willingness to do the work required to excel in his classes would make him a strong candidate.”
Finch’s skill in a variety of fields likely appealed to the Department of Defense.
“Though more than half of those earning the scholarship are engineering students, there seems to be a desire to have students with majors in STEM fields who offer a broad education in other areas,” Wilson says. “Ben fits that profile perfectly.”
The SMART scholarship includes several phases, some lasting years. After Finch graduates from Centre in 2018, he will complete an internship on a designated government base for at least two years—potentially more.
“Phase three lasts for 10 years, in which the program asks for reports of basic details of my life in order to develop statistics for their program,” Finch continues. “In this phase, I can continue to work for my assigned base in addition to pursuing higher education.”
Finch appreciates the long-term plan provided by the SMART scholarship, not to mention a guaranteed future working in the field of mathematics.
“Whereas before, the idea of a mathematical future was an immaterial idea, now there is something to be working for and toward,” he says.
Finch acknowledges that Centre has prepared him well for this opportunity—in ways both conventional and unexpected.
“Centre pushes me to accomplish, but to accomplish for the love of learning rather than accomplishing for the confinements of a classroom. I think this helps to generate positive futures,” he says. “As a student, not only do I gain knowledge but I learn how to learn, and I am taught to expand my thinking.
“In general,” Finch adds, “I think being at Centre has taught me about how to lead a good life.”
by Elizabeth Trollinger
May 12, 2016