We started with a boom. Wow. What a region.
8 candidates, split into 3 clearly non-qualified and 5 stellar, make-you-cheer candidates. How good were they? Someone who won the Udall last year was 5th best in the region. We only had one scholarship to award, and one to name for a second read.
Of the remaining four, there was one candidate that we both just loved as a person, but wasn't quite at the level as the other three. That candidate is also a sophomore, so we enthusiastically checked the "should reapply next year" box and left lots of comments.
Two of the three who were left were from the same university, and one had a letter of rec from the facrep that clearly said "this one is the best we have this year." We followed that facrep's advice, and named that candidate as our scholar. The discussion of the remaining two was relatively quick -- they were close, but one had just accomplished more, while the other had done a lot of things like serve on committees and planned meetings that didn't have clear, change-oriented outcomes. I love change-oriented outcomes.
The good news, though, is that when we took the folders in to Mia and Jane, we told them what a stellar pool it is -- and two of the other committees had not used an honorable mention spot and an at-large spot, from weaker regions! So there is a chance that our top four may all get at least honorable mentions, which makes us very happy -- they are richly deserving.
This still leaves the issue of last year's Udaller who is getting shut out this year. Make no mistake about it -- this is an excellent candidate. But in the context of this year's region, the file doesn't stand up to the others. This will be, I imagine, painful to the candidate when the news comes through -- "why did I get it last year, but not this year? Doesn't the Udall family like me anymore?" My first Udaller had exactly this same experience, and it's a hard one -- moving backwards in the Udall ranking while moving forwards in time and experiences.
So, since I haven't given any "loving criticism" (Mo's words!) to the foundation yet, I think this is one area where we need to see change made. I think I would recommend (and will recommend at tomorrow's debrief) that the Udall should be a one-and-done scholarship. That will 1) keep situations like this from happening, and 2) spread the wealth and honors to more of the richly deserving students we are reading about this week.
(Kudos to Jane and Mia for not asking me to edit this last part out. Not everyone would be so committed to transparency and open dialogue that they would allow constructive commentary of the foundation on a Udall-approved blog.)