Martine Lunis, one of this year’s 800 National Achievement Scholars, had her pick of some of the country’s other prominent colleges. The 18-year-old Orlando native opted to attend Florida A&M University.
“I was accepted to Princeton, Emory, and UF…those are the major ones,” Lunis said. “I chose to go FAMU because it was a valuable and unique experience and it was a nurturing environment. I also thought the academic level was still prestigious.”
Lunis, an occupational therapy student, is one of six National Achievement Scholars among the current FAMU freshman class, twice as many as last year. FAMU also recruited 14 finalists and 10 semi-finalists.
The National Achievement Scholarship Program, run by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, is open to black American high school students while the National Merit Scholarship Program is open to all high school students regardless of race.
According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s web site, selection is based on PSAT/NMSQT and SAT scores.
Lunis said high school grades, extracurricular activities and a personal essay were a part of the qualifying process.
The increased number of top freshmen choosing FAMU implies the university is doing some things right despite negative headlines, suggested Andrew Collins, 2008-2009 Student Government Association President and University Trustee.
Collins said “innovative recruitment techniques” employed by the university over the past year, the resolution of accreditation issues, as well as the financial and operational stability the university under the leadership of President James H. Ammons played a role in attracting top students. As FAMU corrects many of its internal problems, Collins said, prospective students becomes more aware of the other good things on campus.
“FAMU rectified its operational, financial, and leadership issues, thus eliminating the bad press encircling the institution,” said Collins, 22, a graduate business administration student from Atlanta. “The dark clouds over the highest of seven hills have dissipated, and the academic community can now see the light of FAMU and her excellence.”
All the bad press almost deterred Lunis.
At first, she was skeptical about attending FAMU because of the negative media attention, but in the end, realized that the issues the university faced didn’t affect academics.
“I was a bit nervous when I heard of the problems (FAMU) were having,” Lunis said. “But then I found out the problems had nothing to do with the level of academics.”
Lunis also said others helped confirm her decision.
“I received many recommendations from alumni from FAMU and others who know of the school and their good reputation over the years,” Lunis said.
The list of scholars also include New Orleans native Justin Daranda, a management student, Alicia Payne, a broadcast journalism student from Louisville, Ky., Matthew Rodney, a pharmacy student from Tamarac, Fla., Danielle Jones, a biology student from Anderson, Ind., and Ulyssa Hester, a biology pre-med student from Stone Mountain, Ga.
Hester is glad she chose FAMU and appreciates the classroom environment.
“I really like the atmosphere on campus,” said Hester, 18. “I felt like more than just a number in the classroom and the teachers are a lot more personal than the other schools I visited.”
Omari Crawford, 22, a graduate public administration student from Atlanta and current Mr. FAMU, said FAMU’s reputation and stories of students success helps when recruiting students such as national achievement scholars.
“If you have a school as good as FAMU, only thing you have to do is talk about the accomplishments of past and currents students,” Crawford said.
Collins said future enrollment of NAS and other prospective students is bound to rise.
“Coupled with a firm and consistent recruitment effort, as well as a reinvigorated morale and Rattler Spirit, its only logical that the recruitment of NAS and overall enrollment would continue to increase,” Collins said. “FAMU offers an experience like none other.”