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Making the World a Better Place Davis United World College Scholars at UF

They dream big. They achieve bigger. They leave their homes and comfort zones, mostly at the age of 16, to pursue a better education and develop their skills. Known for the inexhaustible sources of passion and drive, they strive for lifechanging goals. Five words: Davis United World College Scholars. A proud and growing international portion of the Honors Program at the University of Florida is a group of young, global citizens from different United World Colleges (UWCs), funded by a full scholarship by Davis family philanthropy. Their presence and hard work provide needed diversity and enrichment, international perspectives and world-changing ideas. In return, the Davis UWC Scholars receive a great amount of resources, knowledge and practical skills. The history of the UWC program goes far past UF. The program dates back to the Cold War, when German educator Kurt Hahn envisioned a solution for the global conflict caused by all kinds of racial, religious and cultural bigotry. His idea was to bring together 16 to 18-year-olds from all around the world to live and study together in order to overcome the misunderstanding and tension. In 1962, the first UWC opened in South Wales. This cross-continental educational environment brings more than 40,000 students from 180 countries to UWC. Today, there are 15 colleges around the world, including one in the United States – Montezuma, New Mexico. So how did these students end up at the University of Florida? A big transition came in 2000, when Shelby M.C. Davis and Philip O. Geier launched a pilot project with five partner colleges and universities to bring UWC graduates to the U.S. “When I was president of UWC-USA, I had the privilege

of introducing Mr. Davis to the UWC and he quickly became a believer and a major supporter,” wrote Geier, co- founder and executive director of the Davis United World College Scholars Program in an email interview. “Together we were brainstorming about the advent of the new 21st century and asking ourselves what we could do – both for UWC graduates, as well as for American colleges and universities that we felt needed to become more globally diverse to the advantage of all.” The small seed of an idea soon grew into a vast project. Davis family philanthropy contributes tens of millions of dollars every year through need-based scholarship to UWC graduates who gain admission to selected U.S. colleges or universities. More than 2,700 scholars at 94 partner colleges and universities are currently supported by the Davis Foundation. “We are so proud of our scholars and remain believers that each of them will go on to reach their greatest potential as individuals and as lifelong members of the UWC movement,” Geier concluded. “We certainly need an ever-growing cohort of young people around the world to engage with the problems and strive to find solutions. It all starts with getting to know and appreciate one another.” Despite UWC’s size and growth, not many American students have heard about this program. Dr. Sheila K. Dickison was the Honors Program Director at UF at the time the first generation of UWCers came in 2003 with five students admitted. Over the years of her close work with these students, Dickison noticed that the quality of the students and the participation in the Honors program has remained the same. Only the numbers have grown. “They [UWC students] have that zeal. I guess it’s just like a

Profile for UF Prism

Fall 2016  

Fall 2016