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EKU's first Mitchell Scholar

Dear Colonel family,
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful to share some great news with the University community. It is both an honor and pleasure to recognize a student who is contributing to Eastern Kentucky University in multiple ways. As you might have seen in recent media coverage, student Tyler Swafford took on incredible responsibility this week. Earlier this month Tyler was notified that he was a finalist for the prestigious Mitchell Scholarship, a competitive award among the ranks of the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, recognizing academic achievement, leadership and community service. From more than 300 applicants, 80 were selected as Mitchell semifinalists and of those, Tyler was one of only 20 students nationwide chosen as finalists.  Late Saturday night, the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program announced Tyler was chosen as a Mitchell Scholar.  The list of recipients can be found here:
Congratulations, Tyler, on this incredible honor! I want to share a little more about his story as it relates to the broader mission of student success at EKU. Tyler is an EKU Honors student with a 4.0 grade-point-average, majoring in globalization and international affairs and minoring in business. He has managed to maintain this academic success, while also recently filling the important position of starting quarterback with EKU’s football team — a quality which the Alliance highlighted in the first paragraph of its award announcement. I know the Colonel family joins me in congratulating Tyler for his outstanding achievements.
There is a reason we refer to students who participate in athletics as student-athletes— because they are first and foremost students. If they are not succeeding in the classroom, then students who are also athletes are not positioned to play on their respective field, court or track of competition. I do not believe there has ever been a student-athlete at EKU who has shown such vigor in both academics and athletics in a single day. Saturday, Tyler attended the mandatory finalists’ interviews with the Mitchell scholarship selection committee at 8:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and immediately headed back to Richmond to take the field with his teammates as the Colonels’ starting quarterback in their final game of the season at 2 p.m. 
When Tyler was faced with the dilemma of choosing between being in D.C. to participate in the Mitchell Scholarship finalists’ events Friday-Saturday and playing with his team Saturday, his EKU Honors advisors, football coaches, and EKU’s administration immediately began working together to allow this student-athlete to pursue both the academic and athletic opportunities in front of him. While his coach advised his academic responsibility was paramount to any role he filled on the football field, Tyler did not want to leave a void for his team. With the cooperation of the Mitchell Scholarship selection committee, the NCAA, Eastern Illinois University, and the Chair of our EKU Board of Regents, schedule adjustments and travel arrangements were authorized and secured that allowed Tyler to attend his interview Saturday morning and be back in time to take the field at Roy Kidd Stadium Saturday afternoon. I personally want to thank Honors Program Director David Coleman, Associate Director and Scholarships Coordinator Minh Nguyen, Coach Mark Elder, and Chairman Craig Turner for being the quintessential “village” it took to position Tyler to embark on this well-deserved opportunity.
Some have questioned how academics and athletics can support each other, and this is a perfect example of the important role each of these divisions play in the overall success of EKU and our students. You will find a more detailed analysis of the value of EKU Athletics to support the overall mission and vision of EKU in accordance with our strategic plan for 2020 here. This shared vision for success is certainly true for Tyler Swafford, who had a dream of playing NCAA Division I football. That athletic opportunity brought him to Eastern: and his commitment to academic achievement, along with the full support of the EKU Honors Program, led to another dream fulfilled— one of an opportunity for post-graduate international academic study. These paths to success were inherently linked at EKU. This recognition is a win not only for Tyler, but the University as a whole, as he is the first EKU student to ever be awarded a Mitchell Scholarship and only the second recipient at any Kentucky university in the history of the program. Tyler himself has said, “More than anything, I’m really excited for EKU and to be able to represent the University through this process.”  Congratulations, Tyler.  You certainly represented EKU well, and we are very proud of you.
The Colonel family celebrates personal success of every student, and victories of all varieties. We regularly honor student achievement with weekly accolades you will see chronicled through EKU Stories. Our students have certainly demonstrated EKU can and will compete with the best of the best!  It is another great day to be a Colonel. I am thankful for all of you who make EKU such a special place and am beaming with pride for student achievement today. Enjoy the break, and see you next week. Go Colonels!  
Yours sincerely,
Michael Benson

Published on November 21, 2016

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