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SPRING 1999-00
Volume 43, Number 3


Study in Summer? Almost 12,000 Students Say "Yes"

Listening to Students: President Coleman Finds Them 'Invigorating'

First and Foremost: Ten Standouts Launch Program That Gives High School Seniors an Early Start on College

Your Tuition Payment: Building Our Students' Future

Financial Aid: The Buffer Zone Between Students and Higher Education Costs

Investing in Your Student's Future

Accents: Problem or Opportunity to Learn?

A Challenge From Frank

Parent Times Briefs

University Calendar


Ten standouts launch the University’s premier program that gives high school seniors an early start on collegeIt’s the kind of story that puts a lump in your throat. An exceptional student decides to leave high school a year early and begin college at Iowa. He leaves behind his Gordon, Neb., high school–the friends, the sports, the magic that fills a senior year with memories.

Colman McCarthy

A 12-hour trip by car separates his new home from his old one, yet he makes the trip three times during the first semester, once for homecoming, once for Thanksgiving, and once for the funeral of a classmate killed in a car accident.

Mom and his three brothers are supportive of this first sibling to move so far from home, but they miss him, too. He thinks about home especially at laundry time and meal time, but also when there’s friction with a roommate or indecision about courses or majors.

Meet trailblazer Colman McCarthy, a NAASE kid.

McCarthy is one of ten students pioneering the National Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, the University’s one-of-a-kind program for outstanding students who want to begin their college careers early.

They’re a high-powered group, and McCarthy is no exception. He was first in his class and had ACT scores that were off the chart. The University’s prestigious Dean’s Scholarship and a UI Tuition Scholarship are indicative of the kinds of honors McCarthy and his NAASE cohort have earned as incoming freshmen. And like the others in NAASE, there’s more to McCarthy than high grades and test scores. For him, intramurals, student government, and Honors Program activities go hand in hand with calculus, anthropology, rhetoric, and a course taken on a whim, Cuban-style dance.

Colman McCarthy, at work or relaxing with friends, is no different from other first-year students-and that’s the way he likes it.

"I’d get terribly bored with my high school classes because I’d be done quickly," McCarthy says. "My high school is scarce on extra academic opportunities. We don’t have honors or Advanced Placement courses, so I was with the rest of my class, having to slow down and wait for them. I think my teachers were happy that I had this opportunity and could move on and experience more.

"I look at college differently from high school, where your goal is to get good grades so that you can get into college. Here, I’m more concerned about what I’m learning.

"I think it’s good to experiment, expanding my experience in a number of fields before concentrating on just one. College has changed my outlook a lot on that score."

That kind of thinking led him to back out of a long-term decision to major in physics; he’s now considering psychology, anthropology, or archeology.

As varied a group as the first class of NAASE students is, their common denominator was that last spring each student reached a conclusion with their parents and guidance counselors that the opportunity to get started on college was worth the consequences of skipping that last year of high school.

"My first semester was pretty hectic, and I’ve gone over some rocky bumps," McCarthy says. "It’s been a hard transition, but worth it."

His good sense of humor shines as he jokes about the debates he’s won and lost in rhetoric class and his team’s lousy win-loss record in intramural football.

"There was nothing like rhetoric in high school," he says with a grin, "and nothing like varsity high school football in college."

One month into the fall semester, all ten students said NAASE was the right choice for them. By semester’s end, one had decided to return to high school and another left Iowa to pursue her dream to compete as a cyclist in the Olympics.

McCarthy appreciates that he and his classmates are full-fledged University students, not a sub-group of high school students taking special courses.

"We’re taking University courses just like anyone else. That’s made my transition to freshman year so much easier. I’m friends with a lot of other freshmen and not singled out in this special group."

About the only things that distinguish NAASE students from other first-year students are that they meet regularly with a NAASE adviser, live on the honors floors of Daum Hall, and agree not to pledge a fraternity or sorority for their first year.

The experiences of these first NAASE students inform how the program will operate for future classes, according to Nicholas Colangelo, director of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and head of NAASE.

"This year and for years to come our goal is to choose the types of students who need this kind of experience at this time in their lives," Colangelo says. "Do they have commitment? Are they wanting to continue their education? Will they benefit from a more demanding but less structured environment?"

He knows there are setbacks for any student adjusting to college.

"Under normal circumstances, that’s how freshman year goes: you burn your shirts, your laundry shrinks, you have ups and downs. But because these students are doing their freshman year out of sequence, some of those things get magnified more than they would for traditional-age students."

Even in its own first-year adjustment, NAASE finds firm support in the Belin-Blank Center, according to associate director Susan Assouline.

"Nick [Colangelo] and the center’s other founders, including Connie Belin and Jacqueline Blank, had a phenomenal vision more than 20 years ago," Assouline says. "We’ve become a center committed to creating opportunities for students, parents, and teachers. Through programs like NAASE we’ve expanded nationally and internationally to meet the needs of gifted students, from kindergarten through college years."

The Belin-Blank Center, established in 1988, was made possible by a $1 million endowment from Myron and Jacqueline Blank of Des Moines. It honors the work of Des Moines educator Connie Belin, who championed the cause of gifted education as a teacher and member of a school board, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and the President’s Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Last fall the Blanks pledged $3 million in support of a learning complex to house the University Honors Program along with the Belin-Blank Center and its full complement of programs, including NAASE. The University plans to construct the new building near Daum Residence Hall, which houses honors students, to provide a convenient living/learning center of activities for high-ability students of all ages.

"The new space will give us the kind of room we’re going to need as we expand physically and conceptually," Colangelo says. "We’re going to have a chance to form a model that’s not out there presently–from kindergarten through undergraduate years, supporting the long-term development of the academic and artistic talent of these students."

"Jackie Blank once said that the Belin-Blank founders tossed a small pebble that has created a big wave," Assouline says.

"It is gratifying to be part of that effect."

–by Greg Johnson


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