Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 4, Page 15
Summer 1994
University adds Alison Scholars program

     In the fall of 1743, Francis Alison, a highly respected scholar
of the day, founded New London Academy, regarded as the forerunner of
the University of Delaware. In the first term, he taught about a dozen
boys in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, as well as practically all branches
then known of the arts and sciences. These and later students went on
to become governors, congressmen, signers of the Declaration of
Independence and of the Constitution, doctors, merchants and scholars
of reputation.
     Last fall, 17 freshmen carried on that tradition when they
entered the University as the first group of Alison Scholars. Through
the application process for the Honors Program and scholarships,
several students were identified who, like Alison and his students,
showed strong interests and abilities in the arts, humanities and
social sciences. As a way to attract them to the University and show
its commitment to academic excellence, they were invited to
participate in the Alison Scholars Program.
     Alison Scholars benefit from the program in several ways.
Coursework and extracurricular activities are designed specifically to
help them hone their skills in reasoning, analysis, speaking and
debating. In addition, the program increases their awareness of
current issues in literature, the arts, science, politics and
international affairs. The students also receive early exposure to
opportunities that will enrich their education, such as undergraduate
research, study abroad, community service and internships, as well as
early counseling about preparation for graduate or professional
     Alison scholars are allowed greater freedom and flexibility in
fulfilling their general education requirements and designing their
own curricula. To design a more intellectual and challenging course of
study, they receive academic advisement from faculty advisers in their
respective majors, as well as from program adviser Robert F. Brown,
director of the University Honors Program and professor of philosophy.
     Last fall, Brown taught the Alison Scholars Forum, a one-credit
course that met one evening each week. As part of the course, the
group attended a concert, a musical and several plays, interacted with
guest speakers, discussed and debated different topics, met with
upperclass students to learn about the opportunities available to them
at Delaware and had social gatherings. During the spring, they were
involved in similar activities but not in a structured course format.
     The freshmen who accepted this special status had to write a
letter explaining how they hoped to benefit from the opportunity. They
entered the College of Arts and Science with a variety of majors in
the liberal arts, social sciences and sciences, along with some
undeclared. But they all had high ability in the humanities and social
sciences and broad intellectual and cultural interests.
     Sophomore Erin Dorsch, who is undeclared, said the program has
shown her many of the opportunities the University has to offer and
how to take advantage of them. She said the course was good because
she "met new people and made new friends. Everyone has a different way
of looking at things, which makes discussion interesting."
     The scholars are so enthusiastic about the program that they met
in February to critique their experience and offer suggestions for the
new group of Alisons entering the University this fall. They say they
look forward to being friends and mentors to the new group members. In
addition, they have been planning a special three-credit course of
their own, to be offered on an optional basis to themselves, as second-
year Alison Scholars.
     Amy Schiess, a sophomore in international relations, said they
are developing a philosophy course. "We decided to read about Plato
and other people who some of us wouldn't normally read. Some of the
people in the group are science majors and probably wouldn't take a
philosophy course," Schiess explained. She said she looks forward to
the class because of the group's diversity of ideas.
     Because the program is so new, Brown said it is difficult to tell
the students what will happen in coming years. The details are being
created as they go. Brown pointed out that, eventually, there will be
Alisons in all four class years at the University. Scholars from
different classes will be able to interact with each other, and the
group will be large enough to sustain a variety of special Alison
courses and enrichment opportunities every year.
     Brown said the program has two purposes: To attract promising,
high-ability students in the humanities and social sciences and to
prepare students for graduate scholarships, awards and other
     By making the students aware of their resources and challenging
their personal development, he said, the University hopes to help them
become more articulate speakers, better readers and writers and more
analytical thinkers. The goal is to groom future Rhodes, Marshall,
Truman, Mellon and Fulbright scholars.
     The full effects of the new program will not be seen for a few
more years, when the Alisons reach the graduate level. However,
according to Brown, judging by the enthusiasm of the first group, the
program has already had an impact.
     The program "makes you question the purpose of an education and
how to get the most out of it," Dorsch said.
                                           -Gina Poltrok, Delaware '94