This spring, the U.P. Scholars Program at the University of Michigan celebrated its first nine graduates. The program was established to attract and support incoming students from Michigan's Upper Peninsula by providing substantial scholarship aid, distinct opportunities, and individualized support from staff who understand and value the unique experiences of students from the U.P.–all to ensure that they thrive at the university. It welcomed its inaugural cohort of eleven students to campus in fall 2020.

"The U.P. Scholars Program graduating Class of 2024 started college during a global pandemic. Amidst all the uncertainty, they adapted and persevered to reach out and connect with one another. As they graduate, they leave behind an incredible legacy as they were truly instrumental in shaping the U.P. Scholars Program into the supportive and uplifting community that it is today," said U.P. Scholars Program Manager Megan Roberts. 

The U.P. Scholars Program has steadily grown over the last four years. This fall, the program will serve more than 60 active undergraduates, and boast nine alumni. Geographically, U.P. Scholars come from 12 of the 15 U.P. counties and 20 unique high schools throughout the U.P. Students are studying in a wide range of academic disciplines across the university, including the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; the College of Engineering; the School of Nursing; the School of Kinesiology; the Marsal Family School of Education; the Ross School of Business; and the School of Information. 

Tim McKay, associate dean for undergraduate education in U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), which houses the U.P. Scholars Program, spoke to the graduates and their families at a dinner in their honor this spring. "Both the Upper Peninsula and University of Michigan were born at the same time in February 1837—at the Washtenaw County Courthouse in Ann Arbor—at the Frostbitten Convention," he noted. "Where things come from is really important to know. You can't understand why things are the way they are unless you know how they came to be the way they are."

"The University of Michigan has been from its beginning both a public university and a global university. And we're like this, first and foremost, to serve the state," McKay continued. "We want to connect the state of Michigan to the entire planet. When we're working with students who come here to our university, we want them to mix with faculty and students and staff from all over the state and all over the world. Students from the U.P. have significant and distinctive experiences, insights, and a shared regional cultural identity. It's a fact that growing up above the bridge is a thing that matters, a thing that you will continue to identify with your whole life, something you will always share."

Each of the 2024 graduates has fully embraced their time at the University of Michigan. They brought their unique perspectives from growing up in the U.P. to the academic departments and campus communities in which they participated. Their individuality, creativity, and dedication shine through in their involvement, accomplishments, and plans for the future. 

"They have grown into remarkable leaders on our campus, in many student clubs and organizations, and in our program by serving as student advisory board members and peer mentors to the incoming first-year students," said Roberts. "This is the impact that this cohort has had. They have invested in the next generation of students and cultivated such a great culture of support for each other within our community."

A recent $8 Million gift ensures that the U.P. Scholars Program will be able to support students from the U.P. at the University of Michigan permanently. Read about it here.

Michigan News highlighted graduate Shaylee Menhennick's journey from Negaunee to Ann Arbor in a video and story.

The U.P. Scholars Program Class of 2024

Name: Mia Brodeur

Hometown: Chassell, Michigan

Majors/Minors: A.B. German and Linguistics; minor, Translation Studies

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: Treasurer of Animation Club; Courier for Hatcher Library Document Delivery; Research Assistant for the "CLOSE UP on the U.P." project  at The Ford School of Public Policy; Research Assistant in Linguistics

Future Plans: Mia plans to move to Marquette to work for the State of Michigan.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: Studying abroad in Berlin in the summer of '23 Mia's capstone project, "Translating Underrepresented Queer Histories in Berlin's Die Freundin" (for which she translated a German Magazine from the 1920s and 1930s) won the 2024 Senior Prize in Literary Translation and she was honored with the opportunity to read an excerpt of her piece at the Comparative Literature Graduation Ceremony.

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "Skating at Yost with friends!"

Advice you'd give to U.P. high school students: "You absolutely belong here! It's different from the U.P., but it's a fun new experience for you to make the most of."

Name:  Molly Helminen

Hometown: Laurium, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Psychology; minor, Community Action and Social Change

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: Health Science Scholars Program (HSSP) Peer Mentor; Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) Peer Educator; President of Stockwell Hall; Residence Hall Association (RHA) Rep for Mosher-Jordan Hall; Public Service Internship Program Participant; Federal Intern in DC with the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM);  Research Assistant at Michigan Technological University where she co-authored a paper on Design Thinking and Innovation; U.P. Scholars Peer Mentor; U.P. Scholars Advisory Board Member; Volunteer at Gretchen's House Child Development Centers

Future Plans: Molly has an internship with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., this summer, then will return to U-M in Fall 2024 to pursue a Master of Social Work.

Undergraduate Highlights at U-M: A semester studying and interning in Washington D.C. with Michigan in Washington 

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "Being so supported and uplifted by [former program manager] Cheyenne and then [current program manager] Megan. We have had great coordinators :)"

Advice you'd give to U.P. high school students: "U of M has given me so many opportunities that I would not have gotten if I had stayed in the U.P. It's a big change, but so so worth it."

Name: Ethan Holroyd

Hometown: Iron Mountain, MI

Majors/Minors: B.S. Computer Science (Fall 2024)

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: Cybersecurity Club, eSports Club  

Future Plans: Ethan's goal is to work as a software engineer in video game development. 

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: This past year, Ethan completed a capstone project in which he and his group created a 2D Platform Puzzle that tied for First Place.

Name:  George Manson

Hometown: Baraga, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity; minor, Complex Systems

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: Robert J. Delonis Center Homeless Shelter - Volunteer; Huron River Watershed Council - Volunteer

Future Plans: George will be studying abroad this summer in Turks and Caicos, doing a program in Marine Biology. In the future, George hopes to explore graduate school or work in Environmental Law.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: George participated in the Complex Systems Advanced Workshop on campus, where he presented his research on mapping ecosystems of bacteria that he stimulated with Python and the implications that has for biodiversity. George also spent a summer studying in the field at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan. 

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "Annual 906 Day Celebrations!"

Advice you’d give to U.P. high school students: "I couldn't have asked for a better college experience than the one I received from Umich. Go Blue!"

Name:  Kian Mcdonough

Hometown: Skandia, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Program in the Environment, with specializations in Terrestrial Ecology and Botany

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: President of the Society of Les Voyageurs; Vice President and founding member of the Ecological Restoration Club; co-President of Mindful Michigan; Awarded the U.P. Scholars 2024 "Leaders and Best" award for demonstrating exemplary leadership and service. 

Future Plans: Kian plans to work with the Bureau of Land Management and the University of Montana as a crew lead for a backcountry vegetation and soil monitoring effort.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: Studying abroad in Iceland, and spending a summer studying in the field at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "Working with everyone in the first cohort to help develop the program."

Advice you’d give to U.P. high school students:  "Do it! There are opportunities for everyone at U-M and the U.P. The Scholars Program makes these opportunities accessible."

Name:  Shaylee Menhennick

Hometown: Negaunee, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Movement Science; minor, Sociology of Health and Medicine

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: U.P. Scholars Peer Mentor; U.P. Scholars Student Advisory Board member; NMU Hockey Athletic Training Extern; Adapted Physical Education Aide at a local high school

Future Plans: Shaylee plans to take a gap year at home in Negaunee while applying for graduate programs in Athletic Training. During this gap year, she will work as a Medical Assistant at a local podiatrist's office, volunteer as a coach for her high school softball team, and shadow the Athletic Trainer of the NMU Hockey Team.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: "Some highlights of my undergraduate experience include winning the football national championship, and meeting lifelong best friends along the way."

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "The beginning of the year kickoff at the Adventure Education Center was one of my favorite experiences where I made so many fun memories."

Advice you’d give to U.P. high school students:  "Attending the University of Michigan was the best decision I've ever made. Being from the U.P., it can be such a scary thing moving so far away from home and away from the small and safe community that we come from. But I have never regretted taking that step out of my comfort zone, and it has been worth every moment. Even though you're away from home, you already have a built-in community of fellow Yoopers here in Ann Arbor. Be proud of where you are from, step out of your comfort zone, and Go Blue!"

Name:  Zaida Pearson

Hometown: Gwinn, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Psychology with Honors; minor, Education for Empowerment

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: U.P. Scholars Peer Mentor; YMCA Gymnastics Coordinator & Lead Coach; Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP); research data specialist at Youth Enrichment Services; research assistant for the Sandy Hook Promise & UM Research Collaborative; research assistant at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention; Student Lead at Storytelling for Social Change initiative at the Ginsberg Center; volunteer tutor at multiple Ann Arbor Public Schools and 826 Michigan; volunteer for Washtenaw Circles Literacy program.

Future Plans: Zaida plans to work as a lab manager for a year or two, and then apply to Ph.D. programs in Educational Psychology. Her goal is to be a professor and researcher, and create, implement, and evaluate mentorship programs/school-based programs.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: Studying abroad in both Italy and Thailand, and building the gymnastics program at the YMCA

Name:  Ren Thorne

Hometown: Norway, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.B.A. Ross; minor, Music

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: U.P. Scholars Peer Mentor; Michigan Marching Band rank leader candidate; Michigan Basketball Band member; Scandinavian Club vice president; Ren was awarded the U.P. Scholars 2024 "Heart of Gold" award for participating in the most service events this year with the U.P. Scholars Program.

Future Plans: This summer Ren will intern with CVS in a Retail Management Internship. Ren will return to U-M this fall to pursue a Master's Degree in Accounting at U-M's Ross School of Business; he is the inaugural recipient of the new graduate scholarship for U.P. Scholars who are pursuing a one-year master's degree through the Ross School of Business.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: Studying abroad at the Copenhagen Business School, and participating in the New England Literature Program (NELP) to study literature and writing in the rural countryside of New Hampshire for six weeks

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "Meeting with my peer mentee on Zoom for the first time, feeling an immediate 'click' & an excitement to help her find belonging on campus."

Advice you’d give to U.P. high school students: "Whatever your passion is, you will find a community for it here."

Name:  Taylar Uimari

Hometown: Marquette, Michigan

Majors/Minors: B.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity; minor Oceanography (Fall 2024)

Clubs/Organizations/Affiliations: U.P. Scholars Peer Mentor; Michigan Marching Band; Michigan Basketball Band member; President of Kappa Kappa Psi professional band fraternity; Research Assistant in the Duda Laboratory

Future Plans: Taylar plans to apply for Marine or Aquatic Ecology jobs on the West Coast with the intention of going to graduate school for Marine Ecology in the future.

Undergraduate highlights at U-M: "I would consider one the highlights of my undergraduate experience to be taking classes at the University of Michigan Biological Station! Studying there cemented my passion for ecology and was one of the best decisions I've ever made."

Fondest memory of your experience in U.P. Scholars: "I've loved being able to get to know people and participate in the seminars."