Staffer to Help Lead Undergrad Scholars Association
Group Shares Info on Operating Similar Programs at Other Universities
July 23, 2009
Sherry Marek, assistant director of the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program at UT Dallas, was recently elected to an executive leadership role of the Undergraduate Scholars Program Administrators Association (USPAA) at its third annual meeting.
Marek will serve a two-year term as secretary/treasurer for USPAA, an organization that develops best practices for the fast-growing number of undergraduate scholars programs at colleges across the United States.
USPAA began in 2006 as an informal collaboration between colleagues to serve and support higher-education professionals whose primary duties are to recruit, select, advise and develop enhanced learning experiences for students in highly selective scholars and scholarship programs.
The USPAA conferences are held annually, with meeting locations rotating among its member institutions. Clemson hosted the inaugural meeting in 2007. The second conference was held at North Carolina State in 2008. As one of the original members in 2006, Marek was eager to see the third conference hosted at UT Dallas.
“We saw it as a great opportunity to put UT Dallas on the map with other big name schools,” said Marek. “From early on, the McDermott Scholars Program has been very active in the creation of USPAA.”
The benefits of belonging to an organization such as USPAA are clear to Marek. “I saw it as my way to continue giving back, as well as building an organization that could benefit programs like ours,” said Marek, who has been an active member of the UT Dallas community since 1997, when she was a freshman economics and finance major and one of the original McDermott Scholars. “I wanted to find another way to increase the visibility of UT Dallas.”
According to Marek, being secretary/treasurer of the newly formed organization was one way to do that and to give back to the university she considers to be her family. “I see USPAA as a continuation of that family,” said Marek. “It’s a close-knit group of friends and we look forward to seeing each other every year.”
Marek, who earned her MBA from the School of Management in 2004, sees her role within USPAA as a crucial one. “At a time when education costs are on the rise, having more programs like ours benefits families,” said Marek. “If we can get the word out about scholar programs it would help the populations who are researching colleges.”
Of course, spreading the word about USPAA also focuses people’s attention on UT Dallas and its McDermott Scholars program. “It encourages people to give to a favorite institution like Mrs. McDermott did,” said Marek. “If they see what good their gift can do, they will be more likely to donate.”
“USPAA has cemented the idea that there are other people doing this and they are passionate and happy about it,” said Marek. “Yes, there are challenges in dealing with bright, brilliant students, but at the end of the day, when they swim the English Channel, when they go to be a Peace Corps volunteer and give meningitis shots in Sudan, you start thinking, ‘They’re going to change the world.’”