Compare yourself with the All-USA academic team

Justin Runquist

So you think you’re a big shot?

You may be at the top of your field, but how are you making a difference to others? To Villanova? To the world?

The 20 members of the USA Today 2002 All-USA College Academic Team sought out opportunities opportunities for success in academics and community service, but also created new ones for themselves. Their collective efforts have improved scholarly communities, influenced political figures and touched the lives of thousands of people.

The USA Today recognized these students’ social responsibility, leadership and academic success, which are all valuable qualities for the business world. Whether you study economics, ethics or ecology, the accomplishments of the 10 featured people – our peers across the country – will inspire you.

While working in Kenya as a nurse’s assistant, David Kovara, 24, of the University of Delaware, wondered what he could do to prevent child abuse. This inspired him to co-found the Children’s Legal Action Network and spread the program to Uganda. The philosophy major also started a foundation to award grants to students in third-world countries and is currently co-creating a wheelchair athletics club. “While the rest of us complain about the world and occasionally talk about improving it,” said his history professor, “David Kovara again and again does something about it.”

Dana Hork, 21, of the University of Pennsylvania, is a social entrepreneur who raised over $25,000 for Sept. 11 causes after founding Change for Change, which collects spare change for charity. She is a member of Sigma Delta Tau, a leader for Appalachian hikes for first-year students and the chair of the Undergraduate Assembly at Penn. Hork majors in economics and communications, and has a 3.8 GPA.

After her friend committed suicide, Mindy Baccus, 22, of William Jewell College, decided to start a Peer Assistance Network to provide 24-hour crisis hotlines and initiate awareness campaigns. She is active with various debate teams, study-abroad initiatives and independent research projects. “While some of us merely wish things were different,” said her communications professor, “Mindy is an activist who creates positive change.”

In his six years at the University of Pennsylvania, Paul Bergman, 22, is on track to complete six majors for two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. His five study-abroad experiences and extensive research on business in developing countries is part of his plan to promote small-business development across the globe. Bergman is also a mentor for inner-city children, a teaching assistant and the founding board member and president of a non-profit organization dedicated to entrepreneurial development.

By launching Healthy Families insurance drives, Donald Matsuda, 21, of Stanford University, has provided low-cost health insurance to immigrant children. He also researched infant immunization in Nepal, served as director of the Asian Health Access Project and served as director of Volunteers in Health. On top of his 3.9 GPA, Matsuda is also founder and editor-in-chief of “The Undergraduate Journal” and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook.

Through his biology and business major, Kyle Eash, 21, of Illinois Wesleyan University, has been the first or second author on four published research papers on environmentally friendly organic synthesis methods. Eash is also team captain and quarterback of the football team, a sprinter on the track team and the student-athlete advisory board president. His impressive 3.98 GPA is complimented by the social and leadership abilities he has gained from Sigma Chi, Phi Beta Kappa and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Brian Lutz, 22, of Arizona State, co-created an inquiry-based science program for kids in Panama. He also co-developed an online newsletter for an environmental studies center. On top of his marching and concert band activities, Lutz serves as an elementary school volunteer and student senator. Lutz is a Truman, Goldwater and Udall Scholar who carries a 4.0 GPA while majoring in Spanish, biology and finance. “Wherever he finds himself,” said his religion professor, “Brian proceeds with characteristic energy and discipline: listening carefully, learning precisely, communicating responsively … and giving back.”

While working with the Denver Police Department, Robby Shelton, 23, of the University of Denver, developed a cancer mutation detection instrument for use as a cheaper, more effective method of forensic DNA analysis. Shelton, a student with a 3.07 GPA, volunteers at a children’s hospital, serves as an emergency medical technician and co-chairs student orientation. He is also a handicapped athlete who is active with a disabled ski team.

As the first in his immediate family to attend college, Michael Wood, 22, of West Virginia University, has double-majored, won the Truman scholarship and maintained a 3.7 GPA. Wood has worked to clean mine-polluted Appalachian streams, co-written a government publication sent to over 250 watershed groups and helped develop a national pilot project. He is also editor of the school newspaper and campus tour guide.

Cheri Blauwet, 21, of the University of Arizona, is a four-time medalist at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney and a member of a college wheelchair racing team. She has lobbied to turn handicapped sports into varsity athletic programs and worked to start a non-profit organization that would bring disabled Argentinean children to the United States to study the disability rights movement. Blauwet is a molecular/cellular biology major with a 4.0 and is a talented pianist and clarinetist. “She, better than anyone,” says a biochemistry professor, “understands the significance of the combination of science in medicine with an understanding of social issues for making human lives a success.”