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From Yale and Utah: Two Montgomery Scholars Share Transfer Experiences

Viola Clune
Viola Clune ’22 in the Ezra Stiles Courtyard at Yale (New Haven, CT). Clune is the first Montgomery Scholar to transfer directly to Yale University, where she is majoring in history (Photo courtesy of V. Clune).

Life after community college can be different for everyone. But being part of a supportive and academically rigorous honors program, in which to create connections with faculty and peers during those first two years, can positively impact the next step of the student’s journey. One such program is the Montgomery Scholars program, a selective-admission, two-year interdisciplinary honors program designed for high school graduates as the first step in completing a four-year degree.

Two Montgomery Scholars alumni who graduate in 2022 credit the program for setting the foundation for their current successes at their transfer schools.  

Anna Chacon ’22 was the first Montgomery Scholar to earn the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. She transferred to University of Maryland that year and currently attends the University of Utah. Viola Clune ’22 is the first Montgomery Scholar to transfer directly to Yale University, where she is majoring in history.  

Clune started at Montgomery College after high school because she did not feel ready to move away from Montgomery County. When she learned about the Montgomery Scholars program, which would allow her to explore the humanities and take core classes that included music, history, and literature–especially classic literature, she decided to try it. 

My growth as a student and scholar, and as somebody who is now interested in academia, definitely began with Scholars,” Clune said. “It made me more confident in who I was as a student, what my interests were, what I was good at, and what I needed to work on.” 

Clune applied to eight transfer institutions, mostly liberal arts colleges where she could replicate the Scholars experience at a four-year school. She chose to attend Yale, based on the Ivy League school’s resources, size, and location.  

Academically, she made the transition from MC to Yale easily. “The rigor of Scholars courses is very equally paired with this school. It wasn’t anything shocking in terms of workload,” she said. She is taking some graduate-level courses at Yale and considering an option to get a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history at the same time. While she misses the degree of support she had at Montgomery College, Clune has been able to make friends by becoming a member of Yale’s Latin dance team and writing for The New Journal newspaper.  

The road for transfer student Anna Chacon has been less direct but also enriching. Chacon struggled with mental health issues during high school and delayed attending college for a semester. She applied to the Montgomery Scholars program and was initially overwhelmed by the academic rigor. With support from professors and fellow scholars, she persevered: “All the faculty had my back, and that was the first time I felt supported in an academic sense… I genuinely felt connected with everybody, whether it was faculty or my peers. In those moments when even I didn’t even realize I needed support, everyone was there for me.” 

Anna Chacon
Anna Chacon ’22 in La Sirena, Chile, on her family’s ancestral farmlands. She traveled to Chile during time off from school to explore her family roots. Chacon was the first Montgomery Scholar to have earned the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. She currently attends the University of Utah (photo courtesy of A. Chacon).

Struggling to pay for housing, Chacon took the advice of a faculty member who suggested she apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship. She was shocked to receive the prestigious and highly competitive award, which granted $55,000 a year to complete a bachelor’s degree. 

I felt so invigorated because I was thinking that I’ve tried for so long to not give up on myself and to have hope,” Chacon said.  

In fall 2022, Chacon graduated MC and transferred to University of Maryland, where she excelled academically, but was unable to find a community. Feeling stuck, she decided to travel. She visited friends in Denver and Utah, and family in Chile. She took two semesters off and worked as a ski lift operator in Park City, Utah.  

During that time, she met a community of people from different backgrounds and walks of life and felt happy there. Chacon decided to apply to the University of Utah and, after clearing it with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and receiving its support, she enrolled there. Outside of class, she volunteers with a homeless foundation and is now considering focusing on social work as she progresses in her academic and professional path.  

“Viola and Anna are just two of our most recent success stories,” said Dr. John W. Wang, Montgomery Scholarsnew window director.Every year we see scholars go on to do amazing things, and we are immensely proud of the accomplishments of all our students. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!” 

Both Clune and Chacon agree that the sense of community, support, and academic rigor of Montgomery Scholars have opened doors for them. “Scholars really gave me support and a sense of hope in a moment when I didn’t have that,” said Chacon.  

Clune also highlighted the importance of that support: “Having a small cohort of people, with professors who are keenly focused on you, is very unique. What makes Montgomery Scholars different is that you are taking on advanced and challenging coursework but with a tremendous support system.” 

Note from the editorial team: Thank you to Dr. John W. Wang, Montgomery Scholars director, for conducting the interviews.