Double-degree grad earns national fellowship

  • Monday, June 13, 2016

    Liz Ranger V.JPGUMES alumna Liz Ranger is among a select group from across the country in the Class of 2016 who will receive a prestigious post-graduate fellowship award from The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

    The society of scholars named Ranger one of 51 winners of a $5,000 stipend, which she will use when she enrolls in the Duquesne University School of Law this fall. This is the second consecutive year a University of Maryland Eastern Shore graduate has been awarded one of the national society's fellowships. 

    Ranger, who is from Greenbackville, Va., finished her undergraduate studies in 3½ years, earning two bachelor's degrees simultaneously - in history and English. Long-time UMES officials said they could find no evidence an undergraduate had achieved that distinction in recent memory.

    She was a member of UMES' Richard A. Henson Honors Program and graduated with highest honors Dec. 18, 2015. Her only “B” letter grade came in a sociology class her first semester.

    “I was used to being a 4.0 student (at Arcadia High School),” she said, “So that was my introduction to what life in college would be like.”

    This past spring, Ranger continued coming to campus to work as assistant director of the university's Writing Center while awaiting word on applications to 14 law schools.

    Three, including Duquesne, offered her a full academic scholarship; the others were Drexel in Philadelphia and Creighton in Nebraska. She weighed the economics and chose the Catholic institution in Pittsburgh.

    “The Phi Kappa Phi award will be a big help in defraying things like room and board,” said Ranger, who has researched taking out loans to pay for housing and incidental expenses for the next three years. As a member of UMES' Henson honors program, she received a full-ride scholarship throughout her undergraduate days.

    Faculty with whom she had frequent contact extol her intellect and drive.

    English professor Terry Smith said, “Liz exemplifies the beliefs of Phi Kappa Phi. She is very deserving of this award, and I know it will benefit her as she attends law school in the fall.”

    History professor Timothy Baughman described Ranger as “exceptionally bright. She is an old-style student. She has a real capacity for learning, a passion for excelling. I've not met many people her age with her work ethic.”

    He marveled at her time management skills and an ability to juggle multiple tasks at one time.

    “Whether she was doing intensive research, or canning 120 jars of pickles or baking cupcakes for her classmates, she set a very high bar of what you can do if you set your mind to it,” Baughman said.

    Ranger thought teaching might be in her future, but Baughman encouraged her to broaden her thinking. She called Baughman “a big influence on me. He thought I would do better, and make more money, if I went into business or law.”

    Ranger plans to practice on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where currently there are fewer than a dozen law firms.

    “That's a huge burden,” she said. “It's a very poor area and I'd like to do what I can to help people who need legal assistance.”

    Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's “oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Membership is by invitation … to the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students and 7.5 percent of juniors.”  

    Phi Kappa Phi's graduate Fellowship Program is one of its most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, “allocating $345,000 annually to deserving students for first-year graduate or professional study.”

    The honor society weighs “the applicants' evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance at an approved graduate or professional program.”

    UMES' chapter was chartered in 2010. Noman Choudhry of Delmar, now a medical school student, became the first UMES student to receive the national organization's honor. Having Phi Kappa Phi honorees in consecutive years is an accomplishment that should be celebrated, Smith said.

    “By winning (a 2016) Phi Kappa Phi fellowship,” Smith said, “Liz has brought honor to herself and our campus chapter.”

    Ranger credits Smith with having an influential role in her undergraduate life, yet she struggled to put it into words. “She inspired me,” Ranger said.

    This summer, Ranger is working at a resort amusement park, where earnings also will be banked to pay living expenses for graduate school. Soon, she'll bid her three cats a temporary farewell and put on hold her quest to set foot in the six states she has yet to visit to focus on graduate school.