Photos by Brooks Canaday

“Opportunity” is a word that comes up often when you speak to members of the first class of Northeastern University Scholars.

Perhaps one of the biggest opportunities they’ve earned is the invitation to be part of this unique group. Northeastern’s goal is to enroll up to 50 exceptional students from around the globe in the full-tuition scholarship program each year.

Each scholar is immediately assigned a faculty mentor and advising team to help customize a program that aligns with individual academic and career goals.

Like all other Northeastern students, these students have the chance to collaborate with faculty. In addition, University Scholars get to study and work with other leaders at the university—the president, the provost, the deans, and the trustees—as well as with other important figures visiting campus from around the world.

“These students become immediately and deeply immersed in what they care about,” says Jonna Iacono, director of the program. She and William Fowler, Distinguished Professor of History, and Darien Wood, professor of physics, meet regularly with the scholars to guide them in their academic and personal pursuits.

“This is a program that’s designed to help the very brightest students become the best version of themselves,” says Iacono.

Rose Leopold
Political science major with a minor in history, from Santa Cruz, Calif.
/// Attended President Obama’s inauguration in January

Politics was the furthest thing from Rose Leopold’s mind when she accepted the invitation to come to Northeastern. Though her father is an elected official, her own passion and declared major was biology.

That was before a University Scholar dinner with Michael Dukakis—once a presidential candidate and now a distinguished professor at Northeastern—who changed her world with an enthusiastic discussion of the opportunities available in politics.

Then came an internship in Elizabeth Warren’s Massachusetts campaign for the U.S. senate this fall. “After being on the front lines of her campaign, the election became a big deal for me, especially because it was my first time voting. Seeing both Obama and Elizabeth Warren elected? That was a very good day.”

Leopold will aim high when it comes time for co-op, hoping to secure a position working for the Massachusetts governor at the State House. Her ultimate goal is to do a co-op at the White House.

“The University Scholars program has exceeded all my expectations. I came from a small, tight-knit environment in high school and never thought I’d find that in a big university,” Leopold says.

Opportunity knocks: “I’m a research mentor for the Science Club for Girls. The program empowers high-school girls who have an interest in sciences to go into the field. I chose to volunteer because I was one of those girls.”


Vera Lee
International business major with a program track in German, from Almaty, Kazakhstan
/// Speaks three languages and is on a mission to learn two more at Northeastern

In high school, Vera Lee was determined to apply her prodigious math skills and widen her academic experience by entering math competitions. As a junior, she and her best friend researched a project on integral triangles and won first place in her city’s competition, second place in Kazakhstan’s national math project competition, and second place in her section at an Intel-sponsored contest in Moscow.

As wrenching as it was to leave behind her family, friends, and homeland, Lee—who speaks English, Russian, and Kazakh, in addition to the German she’s studying—felt her best educational opportunities lay abroad. She was accepted at several universities in the U.S. and Canada, with one other also offering her a full-tuition scholarship.

Northeastern was the right choice, she says, for two reasons. One was the international business program, which will give her the opportunity to use her math skills in finance, statistics, and supply chain here and in Europe for a semester. The other? “The co-op program—it’s something special.”

“I’d like to do my first co-op somewhere other than Boston. I’ll need to get even further out of my comfort zone—one of the purposes of college.”

 Opportunity knocks: “There weren’t many volunteer opportunities where I come from. Now, I work at The Boys and Girls Club, and I’m learning so much from these kids.”

Daniel Moran
Computer science major, from Minerva, Ohio
/// Takes muay thai, also known as Thai boxing, on campus

Although Daniel Moran compliments his high school in rural Ohio, he acknowledges its limitations for honors students in engineering and science. However, those limitations didn’t stop him from pursuing a science fair project in computer science during his sophomore year.

He bought a book on Erlang, a semi-obscure programming language. “I taught myself enough to put together a software project that would identify the authors of anonymous manuscripts based on the language qualities of known authors,” says Moran. As a junior, he tackled Java for a project in an international competition. “For my senior year, I looked for a language that would have qualities of both Erlang and Java, so I taught myself Scala.” 

Eager for further training in programming and software development, he took college courses during high school. He was hooked.

Now enrolled in the College of Computer and Information Science, Moran is intrigued by the multidisciplinary potential of his major and hopes for a dual minor in Middle East studies and political science. “I want to be at the intersection of political science and computer science—looking at how we should handle Big Data, Facebook, Google, ethics, and censorship,” he says.

Opportunity knocks: “At a recent dinner, I took a seat next to a stranger who turned out to be David Lazer [associate professor of computer and information science]. I found out the tools he uses in his research were the same tools I used in my science project. I asked about positions in his lab, and now I work there.”