A group of students stop for a photograph during their trip to Peru as part of the Martindale Honors Program. Each year, a group of undergraduate students travels as part of the program, which is focused on the study of private enterprise. (Courtesy of Korey Finn)

Martindale Center to pick next cohort for honors program

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The Martindale Student Associates Honors Program gives 12 exceptional students from each class the opportunity to spend 10 to 12 days in a foreign country for free. The program is part of the Martindale Center’s effort to create leaders for a global society.

The program allows students to travel to a different country each year where they will conduct research on any aspect of that particular country. The trip occurs immediately after each spring semester. Next year’s cohort will spend time in Scotland and England. This year’s cohort traveled to Peru, and the cohort prior went to the Czech Republic.

Students are required to receive a faculty nomination or have a high GPA in order to apply.

“We’re looking for students who are passionate about something, willing to ask questions and want to spend a year doing research,” said Todd Watkins, director of the Martindale Center for the Study of Private Enterprise. “We want to know what makes them tick and if they can do well in a high-profile setting.”

There is a two-stage application process, and the first stage is a written application of three short essays. The faculty panel wants applicants with strong writing skills who can make an argument in limited space.

Watkins said there are typically 60-90 applicants depending on how attractive the country of study is to students. Twenty-four students of the total applicant pool are then chosen for an interview. The panel chooses 12 who will become the following year’s cohort.

“Be passionate about whatever you’re doing and let that come across in your interview and paper,” said Korey Finn, ’17, participant in last year’s cohort.

Current juniors and seniors are required to submit their applications by Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. and will receive notification of acceptance into the program by Feb. 17. Applicants must be present for the entirety of the following school year.

The chosen students will spend the rest of the semester in weekly briefings learning about various aspects of the country, such as culture and economy, to prepare for the trip. The trip itself consists of meetings with senior officials and business leaders and includes weekend trips for leisure.

“The days are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m,” Finn said. “You really bond with your cohort and the professors. The trip was amazing.”

Students spend the fall semester after the trip writing a research paper on any aspect of the country they visited. Their research is then published in the Martindale Center’s undergraduate research journal, Perspectives on Business and Economics. The paper is not to exceed 20 pages, and many students become so engrossed in their topic they need to scale back, said David Danko, ’17.

A faculty mentor meets with students to help with revisions, and two alumni readers are assigned to each student to assist with editing.

“Just because the journal is called ‘Perspectives of Business and Economics’ doesn’t mean we don’t want students from other disciplines,” Watkins said. “We want a good batch from all across the university and across disciplines.”

Research topics do not need to relate to a student’s field of study. Danko, for example, is studying industrial engineering and finance, but he focused his paper on Peru’s education system after realizing it was one of the country’s biggest issues.

“It gave me a chance to explore outside of my major,” Danko said.

Finn researched the informal economy in Peru. Seventy-three percent of the labor economy is not registered with the government and therefore does not pay taxes.

The Martindale Student Associates Honors Program has a large alumni network.

“There’s 30 years of alumni and most are still in contact with the center,” Watkins said.

Eighty percent of alumni serve as donors, which allows the program to continue and ensures students do not need to pay to participate.

Danko said the alumni connection is one of his favorite parts of belonging to the Martindale community. He enjoys the chance to meet others at annual events the center holds.

“I didn’t know how big the Martindale community was,” Danko said, “but after becoming part of the program, it’s really awesome to see how many people are part of it.”

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