2017 grad heads to top-tier research university as one of only 23 in the U.S. with special scholarship.
During his high school career, VanDieren was a member of the National Honor Society, Philosophy Club and was co-founder of the National Quiz Bowl Team. He played baseball for the Fighting Irish, was awarded AP Scholar with honors, was a lead altar server, and belonged to Notre Dame’s symphonic and marching bands.
Outside of school functions, he has attained Eagle Scout status and was recently honored by the prestigious Cranbrook Institute of Science with an exhibition of a personal research project in entomology, the scientific study of insects.
VanDieren begins classes in the fall at the University of Georgia. He is one of only 23 students in the country to earn a special UGA scholarship that includes four years of fully paid tuition, room and board, and a funded international travel/study/research program at the University of Oxford during the summer of his first year at Georgia. UGA is one of the three oldest and most esteemed public universities in the United States. It is also recognized worldwide as a tier-one research institution.
This week we asked VanDieren a few questions about his career plans, the University of Georgia and his time at Notre Dame:
VanDieren: I am one of 23 Foundation Fellows in the University of Georgia Class of 2021 and just one of 10 from out of state. When I originally applied for the scholarship in late 2016, I did not really think I would have a chance because each year approximately 1,000 high school seniors apply for this. I figured I would give it a shot because UGA is one of about 10 universities in the country to offer an undergraduate entomology degree, which is a strong interest for me. In January, UGA announced 64 finalists for the scholarship, and I could not believe it when I was studying at my dining room table and received the email inviting me to the interview weekend in Athens, Georgia during our winter break. The weekend was intense because so many extremely intelligent and deserving students were brought together. After completing the group and individual interviews, I felt confident I had a shot when I was flying home from Atlanta on the Saturday night. On the following Monday night, I received the highly anticipated email saying "Congratulations Foundation Fellow!" I could not believe it.
Notre Dame: What do you plan to major at UGA and why?
VanDieren: At UGA, I plan to major in entomology and biochemistry. I’ve always loved all things nature ever since I can remember and have no real idea why I developed such an interest in insects, which I find simply fascinating. Notre Dame Prep, through teachers like Mrs. Wiley, Mrs. Mulrenin and Mrs. Yaroch, helped to further nurture my interest in the sciences. I plan to dual major in biochemistry to develop a strong base for the possible next steps in my education and career.
Notre Dame: Speaking of career, do you have any career goals or plans at this point?
VanDieren: While I know my general direction for near-term studies, I am not sure of my career plans at this time. I could see myself becoming a professor, a researcher in an area such as vector-borne insect diseases, or a doctor in epidemiology. With the Foundation Fellowship at UGA, I will have the opportunity to explore several areas through its funded international travel, research and study program. Next summer, I will be studying at the University of Oxford and from there, I need to select my next options, which I think could include Costa Rica, South America and Southeast Asia.
Notre Dame: Can you summarize the work recently (and your interest) in entomology? I heard you exhibited at the prestigious Cranbrook Institute of Science?
VanDieren: Over the years, I have caught or raised a variety of insects including cecropia moths, African burrowing scorpions and southern devil scorpions, plus numerous Eastern Hercules beetles. Last spring, I sought out and earned a summer position with the Cranbrook Institute of Science by cold-calling the museum director, Dr. Michael Stafford, whose son graduated from NDP. It was a fantastic experience that allowed me to pursue my passion in entomology where I conducted research on Michigan insects in four ecosystems and created a public display including specimen mounting, labeling and authored exhibit summaries. At the end, it was extremely satisfying to see my completed work in a place I have visited since before I can remember and being told by the director of the museum that I did an outstanding job.
Notre Dame: Can you briefly describe what Notre Dame Prep has meant to you as a student and person?
VanDieren: Notre Dame exceeded my expectations! Coming from St. Hugo, Mr. Simon sold me on the message that NDP is a place where it's "cool to be smart,” and he was right. The advanced placement program was rigorous, especially in math and science, and I was challenged by so many great teachers and awesome fellow students. I met so many outstanding people at NDP and am grateful for my experience, which has set me up extremely well for the next steps of my journey.
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.