University of Southern Indiana

Scholar maximizes college experiences

BarnettWhen Sam Barnett says, "It's all about maximizing the college experience," he could be referring to himself, his fraternity brothers or a group of potential USI students he's given a campus tour to as an Amigo. But no matter who the audience is, the intent is the same: to heighten ones' experience and engagement in college and life.

Barnett, who graduated in May as a double major in biophysics and Spanish, is the 2014 Trustees Distinguished Merit Award winner. The award recognizes outstanding achievement not only in the student's major but also in the liberal arts and sciences that form the core curriculum. Each college nominates one student for the honor, which includes a $1,500 award.

While being selected for the award made Barnett proud, it's not surprising given that the Presidential Scholar takes advantage of most opportunities he encounters and makes it part of his mission to provide the same for others. As a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity he's set up a tutoring program within his chapter and conducted workshops to improve his fraternity brothers' study habits and time management skills. "I wanted to join a brotherhood and be with other men committed to higher education and participate in campus philanthropy," he said.

Although Barnett grew up in and around USI (his mother taught biology here), he had a number of offers from other colleges but chose to attend USI because he knew how caring and helpful the faculty is. "I originally thought I might not stay around, but once you come to campus and meet those involved and see how beautiful it is; they're huge selling points," he said. "The faculty go out of their way to give recommendations and help you find scholarships."

Barnett didn't feel he'd have the same opportunities at other universities as he'd have at USI. Larger institutions often are too vast for faculty to provide one-on-one mentorship, and smaller institutions might not offer as many opportunities. USI's biophysics program captured Barnett's interest most. "It is unique because its program is interdisciplinary, something not found at many other schools," he said.

The term "interdisciplinary" speaks to who Barnett is. He grew up listening to National Public Radio, where he got the idea he wanted to learn to play the violin. He entered the Suzuki Violin Program at the University of Evansville when he was 12 years old. Today he still plays in the orchestra but also gives private lessons to seven students. Last summer he studied Spanish abroad for 10 weeks in Granada, Spain, because he was interested in the Arab cultural influences within the city.

This fall, Barnett will start medical school at Indiana University, and while he's unsure where medicine will take him—a research lab or into communities internationally—he is certain to maximize his own experience as well as those around him.

Learn more about student financial aid opportunities and ways to get involved at USI on our website - or call USI Admission at 800-467-1965.

Contact Dr. Zane Mitchell


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