Cranberry native lands prestigious merit-based scholarship

| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

Simon Brown not only has a passion for studying the history of education, he wants to be part of its future.

Brown, 21, a Cranberry native and junior at the University of Pittsburgh, would be happy as a professor fostering a love of history in his students or as an administrator improving students' access to universities.

He will get a better chance to pursue that future thanks to a more than $30,000 merit-based scholarship.

Brown was one of 20 students chosen nationally to receive the Beinecke Scholarship, given to students in the arts, humanities and social sciences for graduate education.

A 2011 Seneca Valley graduate, Brown is a junior with three majors: history, philosophy and history and philosophy of science.

Brown has devoted his time at Pitt to studying the history of education in England from the 15th through 18th centuries. Though his work is not entirely political, he hopes that his research can help inform discussions about modern university issues.

It is the interplay between the past and the present that fascinates Brown.

“I have always thought that if you want to solve social problems, the best way to do it is to look at how people have tried to do it in the past and to see the consequences of those attempts,” Brown said.

The scholarship will provide Brown with $4,000 after he graduates from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as $30,000 toward a graduate school of his choosing.

Students studying the arts, humanities and social sciences often have to finance their graduate education out-of-pocket, and while awards are not rare, Brown's award is certainly “unusual” in its amount, according to Pitt Honors College Dean Edward Stricker.

“Among the folks in the humanities and social sciences, this is a big-deal scholarship,” Stricker said.

Stricker has worked with Brown for two years as part of his student advisory committee, a group of hand-chosen students whose opinions Stricker values. Brown's articulate way of speaking about his goals along with his sensibility toward achieving them makes him stand apart, according to Stricker.

Other professors at the university value Brown as well, according to Stricker, who said that three influential professors nominated him for the award.

Brown cited great professors for his success.

“I would not have gotten anything like this or any of the awards or great opportunities that I've gotten if it wasn't for really fantastic professors. The reason I really kind of want to be a professor is because of the example they've set for me,” Brown said.

Brown, who is a teaching assistant, said he loves being in front of the classroom and stressed the importance of fostering the humanities in schools.

“His intellect, his great intelligence, combined with that kindness, makes him a star as a historian and researcher, and of course in the classroom, too,” said Dr. Janelle Greenberg, professor of history, who met Brown his freshman year. Brown is a teaching assistant in Greenberg's class, and she is one of the professors who nominated him for the scholarship. “I was delighted to see him in front of a class. He really has a gift for teaching and for reaching students where they are.”

When he applies for graduate schools in December, Brown said he would like to go to Great Britain for his master's degree and work on his doctorate in the United States, but ultimately he is unsure where he is headed.

Akasha Chamberlain is a freelance writer.

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