Newest Presidential Scholar is a trailblazer

Photo of Virginia Hall, 2012-13 Presidential Scholar at Wright State UniversityVirginia K. (Ginny) Hall is just beginning her senior year at Wright State, but she is already becoming a trailblazer.

Named last week as the university’s Presidential Scholar for 2012–13, Hall leaves Thursday for Africa as part of a new study abroad program for students in the Department of Biomedical, Industrial and Human Factors Engineering.

In the Uganda/Rwanda Ambassador Program, the biomedical engineering major will join a small group of students for one week in each country to experience international teamwork while practicing innovative problem solving to install or repair various kinds of electrical equipment. Hall said they would service medical equipment and computers and install solar power generating equipment.

“I’ve got 50 pounds of x-ray film in my checked baggage,” she said with a laugh.

Hall said she is excited to be in the program’s first group. “It’s definitely a trailblazing experience,” she said. “We’ll be ambassadors for the program, because it will be the first time we’ve sent students there.”

Science and service seem to be equal forces propelling the 2009 Grove City High School graduate through college. She has served the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Recruitment and Retention Team as an ambassador to new students, co-founded the Pre-Pharmacy Society and supported the college’s Peer Mentor program, among other activities.

As Wright State’s Presidential Scholar, Hall will spend her senior year working on a special project in collaboration with President David R. Hopkins as a condition of the scholarship. Hopkins and Hall will develop the project through conversations they will hold in the weeks ahead.

The Presidential Scholarship recognizes one outstanding Wright State student with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.8. Each college recommends one applicant to the president, who makes the final selection.

The scholarship will help Hall save money for an eventual Pharm.D. or Ph.D. degree.  “I really like neurological and pharmacological medicine,” she said.

The scholarship-related project will mean more work, but Hall said she welcomes it. She said she wants to make it something that will support efforts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. “This is a project I’m passionate about. It’s an awesome opportunity to work on something that’s going to help the university,” she said.

Science and learning might run in Hall’s blood. Her mother is an English teacher, her father a chemical engineer and her brother an electrical engineer. But her family also has experienced illnesses, most acutely Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. She wants to do work that will lead to better treatments or, just possibly, eventual cures for these debilitating diseases.

In the meantime, the former marching band clarinetist is jazzed about her Wright State education, especially the way she is able to combine her interests in engineering and medicine. Traveling abroad and getting involved in international service projects, she said, are beyond anything she imagined doing when she enrolled at Wright State.

“I had no idea I would have all the opportunities I’ve had here,” she said.

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