LU News Archive

Two students named 2012 David J. Beck Fellows

Chelsea Barnard of Port Neches and Elisabeth Maxwell of Beaumont have been chosen as the 2012 recipients of Lamar University’s most prestigious undergraduate award, the David J. Beck Fellowship.David J. Beck Fellows Chelsea Barnard and Elisabeth Maxwell with LU President James Simmons

This is the first time in the four-year history of the fellowship that two David J. Beck Fellows have been chosen in a single year and the first time that a student has been selected twice. Maxwell also is the 2011 David J. Beck Fellow.

LU President James Simmons announced the selection of Barnard and Maxwell in a ceremony Monday in the University Reception Center on the eighth floor of the Mary and John Gray Library, during which four finalists for the honor also were recognized.

Simmons presented Barnard and Maxwell with engraved medallions and certificates. Each student also will receive a full scholarship for one year – including tuition, fees, books and on-campus room and board – and funding to pursue a summer project proposed as part of her application packet.

Barnard, 20, a junior English major, plans to revisit the pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral in its contemporary setting to explore Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” as a living work while documenting her journey with a blog, video and book.

Maxwell, 21, a junior biology major, plans to complete a research project on two species of manta rays in Mozambique in conjunction with the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Mega-fauna. As the 2011 David J. Beck Fellow, she completed an internship with the South African Shark Conservancy this past summer to further her interest in marine biology and conservation. Monday’s ceremony also included a presentation by Maxwell about her 2011 summer project.

“The summer project proposals by both were innovative and creative, and the committee believed the projects would greatly add to each fellow’s undergraduate educational experience,” said Kevin Smith, senior associate provost and selection committee chair. “Both projects complement the students’ academic interests very well and will prepare them for their careers and for further education.”

Barnard said she was “beyond ecstatic” when notified that she was chosen as a Beck Fellow. Through the Lamar University Honors Program, she learned about the fellowship early in her college career, but initially did not think it was attainable for her.

“At Lamar, my professors have pushed me to do different things, and I’ve become a lot more confident in myself,” Barnard said. “This opportunity is wonderful. It allows people to go somewhere they normally wouldn’t be able to go financially, especially in college, and create a research project that relates particularly to them.”

She credits her English professors at Lamar with nurturing her love of British literature and expects her summer project to help her toward her goal of becoming a professor of British literature at the college level. Her mentor for the project is Steve Zani, associate professor and chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages.

Along with the Honors Program, Barnard is involved on campus as executive vice president of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, as service chair of Circle K service organization and as a twirler in the marching band. She works on campus as community assistant for the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities and in the Department of English and Modern Languages.

Maxwell said she was excited to learn that two fellowships would be awarded this year and would not have reapplied otherwise. She tried to choose a research project that would require more than she would have been able to achieve this year and would utilize the knowledge she gained through her internship at the South African Shark Conservancy.

“This is only possible because of my experience this past year. I wanted to make sure I was building on what I’ve already accomplished. I wanted to keep the momentum I’ve built over this past year and see just how much I can achieve,” Maxwell said.

She plans to conduct genetic analysis and testing on the two species of manta rays to determine their population structure. To prepare for her research, she will work in the lab of her project mentor, Ana Christensen, associate professor of biology, this spring.

Maxwell is involved on campus as president of Rotaract service club, as historian of the Honors Student Association and as a Lamar Ambassador. She works as a student biologist at Grayburg Fish Farm and on campus in the JoAnne Gay Dishman Department of Nursing.

A unique undergraduate fellowship program, the David J. Beck Fellowship was made possible by a generous gift to the Lamar University Foundation from David J. Beck, a 1961 LU graduate and founding partner of Beck, Redden & Secrest, LLP, a boutique litigation firm in Houston. A distinguished alumnus, Beck created the fellowship to reward academic excellence and to allow top students to further challenge themselves.

The David J. Beck Fellowship is open to full-time undergraduates of any major with a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher and may be repeated upon successful reapplication. Based on application packets, the Beck Fellowship committee selected six students for finalist interviews and recommended Barnard and Maxwell to receive the fellowship.

Beck Fellowship finalists John Knapp, Ashanti Mayes, Gwendolyn Mumford and Anastasia Cotton with LU President James SimmonsFour finalists were honored at Monday’s ceremony with certificates and cash awards of $750.

Anastasia Cotton, a nursing major from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, proposed traveling to South Africa for a global health study program and to Nepal for a clinical internship at a hospital through the Institute of Field Research and Expedition Volunteers Abroad. She was also a finalist for the 2011 fellowship.

John Knapp, a music major from Baytown, proposed building a violin.

Ashanti Mayes, a Spanish/pre-pharmacy major from Beaumont, proposed volunteering in a pharmacy in Cusco, Peru, for two months through Experimental Learning Abroad Experiences. She was also a finalist for the 2011 fellowship.

Gwendolyn Mumford, a studio art major from Vidor, proposed working at an orphanage in either Kenya or Nepal through Outreach International to assist children with school lessons and creative arts activities.

For more information on the David J. Beck Fellowship, visit or call (409) 880-8400.