Earlier this fall, administration made significant changes to the Richmond Scholars program, which is considered to be the most prestigious merit-based award given by the University of Richmond.

“Going forward, we will be recruiting 25 Richmond Scholars each year, reduced from our current number of 45," an email sent to current scholars read. "This smaller size will allow for a closer community and enhanced opportunities (such as cohort travel and increased advising) which is difficult with larger numbers.”

The email also said that all future Richmond Scholar recipients would be presented with the same award, full tuition, room and board in order to support scholars as one family, one award and one cohort.

Current Richmond Scholar recipients do not all receive the same scholarship. Some are provided with full tuition, room and board. Other scholars are only give full tuition, Diego Rayas, a first-year and a current Richmond Scholar and Oliver Hill Scholar, said.

Some of the Richmond Scholars felt as if they hadn’t been as big of winners if they hadn’t received full tuition, room and board, Stephanie DuPaul, vice president for enrollment management, said.

DuPaul said that current Richmond Scholars would continue to receive their same award, but would benefit from new programming that they had planned for scholars.

DuPaul and Jennifer Cable, the faculty director of the Richmond Scholars Program, worked to ensure that all Richmond Scholars felt equal in the process and within the Richmond Scholars community.

One of the first things that DuPaul and Cable noticed when they began their analysis of the current program was the difference in the selection processes for UR's full-tuition scholarship programs compared with UR's peer institutions. The processes differed in ways that rationally caused students not to come to the university, DuPaul said.

“I do remember when I applied to Richmond, I thought that it was a big program,” Rayas said. “Other schools around the country have much smaller programs like that. Schools like UVA and William & Mary are much larger than us, but have smaller programs than ours.”

When Rayas came for scholars weekend, he said that there had been about 60 scholars here, but only around 40 had decided to come because they had received better offers from other universities.

“That keeps us from being able to get the students that we want,” Rayas said. “These changes will help us bring in the students who are the best of the best.”

Benjamin Pomerantz, junior, current Richmond Scholar, also praised the idea of changing the number of scholars to reflect a stronger program.

“The changes also make the scholarship process more competitive and exclusive, which looks good for UR as a whole," Pomerantz said.

Rayas also said that he thought that the idea of a smaller community would be a positive change to the program because he had only come to know two or three fellow scholars.

“As far as the Richmond Scholars are concerned, we really don’t communicate with each other much,” Rayas said. “So unless we have similar classes or live by each other, we don’t have much of an opportunity to get together in a group.”

DuPaul was also interested in creating a more tight-knit community for the Richmond Scholars Program after hearing about scholars’ experiences.

“We started getting worried that the 45 freshmen coming in weren’t really able to get to know each other really well,” DuPaul said. “The cohort was just a little too large.”

Pomerantz agreed that lowering the number of scholars could encourage a closer community.

“Lowering the number of students who receive the scholarship does allow for more opportunities, including group travel and career development programming,” Pomerantz said.

DuPaul is optimistic about the effects that a smaller group size could bring.

“In a perfect world, I want our Richmond Scholars who are artists hanging out with our Richmond Scholars who are scientists and hanging out with our Richmond Scholars who are historians,” DuPaul said. “When you put all different academic interests like that together, you can create really creative conversations and really creative solutions to problems. It makes life a lot more interesting.”

Contact features writer Sydney Lake at sydney.lake@richmond.edu.