Each year, after a rigorous and selective process, 35 Syracuse University seniors are chosen to serve as Remembrance Scholars. I am fortunate enough to call myself one of them, along with my fellow iSchoolers Clayton Baker (B.S. Information Management and Technology & International Relations, Spanish minor) and Emily Dang (B.S. Information Management and Technology & International Relations, Chinese minor). The three of us sat down and reflected on our experiences, as well as the significance of Remembrance Week to both prospective applicants and the community as a whole.
The Remembrance Scholarship, one of the highest honors a Syracuse University student can receive, was established to commemorate 35 students studying with SU who were among the 270 people killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Every year, each of the 35 chosen students not only receive a $5000 scholarship towards their final year of undergraduate study, but are granted the unique opportunity to personally represent one of the 35 victims that they may feel a close connection to. In addition, 2 students from Lockerbie, Scotland are selected annually to study at SU for a year in honor of the 11 Lockerbie citizens who perished in the attack.
In order to be considered, applicants must write three essays, submit two letters of recommendation, and be chosen for an interview by a four-person panel. For Clayton, this lengthy process made him more motivated. “It only further developed my passion to become a Remembrance Scholar and my increasingly personal connection to one of the victims who was actually from my hometown,” he says. “I knew nothing about the victims before applying and it has been an extremely enlightening experience – learning about who my victim, Cynthia Smith, was and researching more and more about the attack and the events leading up to it.”
Emily suggests reflecting on your SU journey when thinking about asking professors or faculty to write recommendation letters. “The application process made me reflect a lot on my own SU experience. It made me think about the people who have been part of my SU journey so far and how much they have helped me grow as a human being,” she explained.
If you’re a prospective applicant, the best way to start preparing is to research and internalize the attack. Go to the disaster archives in Bird Library and learn about the students who passed away – it’s likely that you will find more similarities and connections to the students than you would have imagined! Due to the competitiveness of the scholarship, it’s also important for applicants to have experiences that reflect their commitment to the SU community.
As Information Management & Technology majors, we are in unique positions to serve as Remembrance Scholars. I asked Clayton and Emily how they, as iSchoolers, intend to exemplify the Remembrance motto of ‘look back, act forward.’
Clayton: “As an iSchool Remembrance Scholar, information is central to the way in which I am acting forward. Learning how to turn raw information into intelligence is something very important to national security and preventing attacks like the Lockerbie bombing. For me, I couldn’t ask for a better way to achieve this by doing a semester in Washington, DC where I’m taking classes on foreign policy and doing an internship where I have had the opportunity to observe how cybersecurity and social media interact as it pertains to national security. I have learned how to analyze social media for potential nefarious actors by performing a sentiment analysis of tweets, for example, in order to determine supporters of the Islamic State, for instance, utilizing natural language processing.”
Emily: “Studying how humans interact with computers is a very interesting and important subject. Everyone has a story that can affect the way they use technology. The location of a person in the world can limit the type of information they have access to. The disabilities of someone who is handicapped can affect how they interact with a website and access information. I want to dedicate the next chapter of my life to further understanding how I can contribute to these stories through technology. I want to reach people, hear stories and make something great using design empowered by technology.”
It’s the responsibility of the Remembrance Scholars and Lockerbie Scholars to plan Remembrance Week each fall. In addition to serving on several committees, Emily spearheaded the publicity team’s graphic design work, Clayton will be participating in the 28th Annual Remembrance Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and I redesigned the official website. For those interested in showing support this Remembrance Week, a full list of our events can be found here.
“Whether you want to become a Remembrance Scholar or not, I feel as though every Syracuse student should learn about Pan Am 103, visit the Archives, give back to the campus community, and gain a greater appreciation for life. Appreciate those around you — the student you sit next to in class every day — because one day, they might be gone,” advises Clayton.