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For Immediate Release (00-33)
Date: July 5, 2000
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567-7952 (pager: 301-930-2880)

Montgomery College Alumna Claudia Rice Named Gates Millennium Scholar
Coveted Scholarship for Minority Students Opens Door to
Ivy League for Germantown Resident

Germantown, Maryland -- Montgomery College alumna Claudia Rice recently received some eagerly anticipated news—admission to Columbia University’s undergraduate art history program, recognized as the top art history program in the nation. But with an astronomical price tag, Rice couldn’t consider the offer, even with Columbia’s financial aid package.

One day last month, however, all that changed. Rice received a letter she had been dreaming about—she had joined the prestigious ranks of Gates Millennium Scholars. As such, Rice will receive about $36,000 a year—enough to cover tuition, books, fees, room, board, and living expenses at Columbia’s School of General Studies.

"I must have checked the mail at least 12 times that day," said Rice. An art history major, Rice didn’t think she had a shot at the scholarship because she had not taken math and science courses.

According to Skip Bailey, director of educational financing for Columbia’s School of General Studies, Rice has made history—this is the first time a School of General Studies student has received 100 percent funding from an outside source. "There are very few scholarships out there that fully fund students, except for athletic scholarships, and the Ivy Leagues don’t offer those," said Bailey. "We are absolutely delighted that Claudia will be joining us this fall."

The 28-year-old Germantown resident was an honors student at the College’s Rockville Campus, where she completed 33 credits in honors courses. She served as a Smithsonian intern at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, through the College’s Paul Peck Humanities Institute, an honor reserved for the College’s most outstanding students.

Rice was president of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for community college students, and named this year to the All-Maryland Community College Academic First Team. She was recently honored at the College’s first annual Hispanic Student Academic Awards ceremony, and also founded a support group for non-traditional women students at the College. She’s keeping her career options open, and thinking about teaching, becoming a museum curator, or going to law school for art law

Rice’s mentor, Professor Dedee Aleccia, who teaches English and art history, and also coordinates the Rockville Campus honors program, praised her as "an absolute dream to work with…an incredible researcher, scholar and writer whose talents will serve her well at Columbia."

When it came time to apply to Columbia and to be nominated for the Gates Millennium Scholars program, Aleccia was the only professor Rice approached for recommendations. Rice credits her mentor for the notice she received from both organizations.

"We try to give honors students the type of personal attention they’d get at a private school. Claudia is a wonderful example of what a public education can do," she said.

For Rice, the road to Columbia University was an uncertain one—only seven percent of incoming freshman are accepted into the undergraduate art history program, and only two percent of transfer students are accepted. "If I had known about the second statistic before I applied, I don’t think I would have bothered," said Rice.

Rice was surprised when Columbia’s director of admissions called her. She recalls thinking, "Oh my goodness, they call to reject you." On the contrary, the director told her he had never seen a more impressive application or transcript of a transfer student.

He was also impressed with the requirements of the honors courses at Montgomery College—students must write a significant number of papers—and told her she’d be well ahead of her fellow students. "At that point," said Rice, "I knew I had been accepted."

Rice is one of about 4,000 students named a Gates Millennium Scholar from a pool of more than 62,000 applicants. The program, which was created last fall with a grant of private money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is targeted to high-achieving minority students.

The scholarship covers tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. To be eligible for nomination, undergraduates must have maintained at least a 3.3 grade point average; be accepted into or enrolled full-time in a four-year program; demonstrate leadership skills and community involvement; and show significant financial need.

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