2022 Bezos Scholar Selection Committee Spotlight
Before the start of 2022 Scholar selection this year, we engaged a consultant to audit and evaluate our entire application and selection process. Our goal was to assess our process to better understand what was working well and where there were areas of growth to ensure it is clear, consistent, fair and equitable in identifying and selecting strong and diverse Bezos Scholar candidates.
It was a valuable learning experience. Based on recommendations from the audit, examples of changes we made include a boost point system we now use that provides a slight bump to candidates in areas/from families with less access to economic resources and opportunities and/or that represent identities that were not reflected over the last two years of Scholar selection. We also now provide more training materials to selection committee members to increase their shared understanding of selection criteria and shifted from summary scoring (members piecing out and evaluating selection criteria from several parts of the application) to aligning selection criteria scoring based on specific, pre-identified components of the application.
Each year, we invite up to 50 volunteers to participate on our selection committee which takes on the challenging task of helping us select incoming Scholars from an incredible pool of students from across the U.S. The committee includes some program alumni as well as leaders in the fields of education, youth leadership and development, science and the arts. One thing all members have in common is that they are passionate champions for youth leadership.
This year, a total of 25 committee members participated in the first round of scholar selection which reviews, and scores completed applications. In our second round, we team up with alumni who also review applications and help us conduct interviews with semifinalist candidates. Below is a summary of round one selection committee demographics:
As a program, we understand the importance of our selection committee being as diverse and representative as the student candidates we attract to apply. In analyzing our selection committee data from last year to this year, we set the intent and were able to increase the number of BIPOC, female and immigrant-identifying members on our committee.
To learn more about who our amazing selection committee members are, why they volunteered, and advice they have for prospective Bezos Scholars applicants, read below.
BSP Selection Committee Member Spotlights
Gregory C. Paul - Greg is an advisor in the New York office of Bernstein Private Wealth Management where he partners with leaders to help them invest with intention. He focuses on working with mission-driven nonprofits, foundations and entrepreneurs who are increasingly interested in more than just their financial returns.
New and challenging pursuits that might scare others energize him. His passions include equity and inclusion, mentorship, golf, and the arts. As a dance enthusiast, Greg serves as a Steering Committee Member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and is a Trustee at his alma mater, Belmont Hill School, an all-boys school located in Belmont, Massachusetts. One of the initiatives he is most proud of is co-creating and leading a student alumni mentorship program for the junior and senior students of color at his high school to help improve their experience while engaging and leveraging alumni in a meaningful way.
Greg was introduced to the Bezos Scholars Program by his business partner, Joe Versace, who asked him to co-lead a financial literacy webinar for Bezos Scholar alumni. The invitation to present and be a part of the Scholars community, coupled with his own values around providing access and opportunity to others, inspired Greg to serve for his first time on the selection committee. As a new member, his favorite part of the selection committee was, “reading the recommendation letters from teachers because it reminded me how important it is to develop relationships with people in your corner who are rooting you on and want to see you succeed.”
After serving on the committee, Greg was reminded about the power of collaboration and relationships and how important it is to continue to work with others no matter what stage or place you are in life.
AnnMarie Thomas - AnnMarie lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband, two daughters, and a pet snake. She is an amateur aerialist, specializing in static and flying trapeze. On weekends she takes painting and drawing lessons and usually carries a novel in her backpack.
AnnMarie is a Professor in the School of Engineering and the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas and co-founded and co-directs their Center for Engineering Education (CEE). CEE offers engineering courses for P-12 educators and conducts research on engineering at the pre-collegiate level. AnnMarie is also the proud founder and director of the Playful Learning Lab, which explores ways to encourage children of all ages to embrace playful learning and is the author of “Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation.” With the band OK Go, AnnMarie co-founded OK Go Sandbox, which uses the band’s music videos to teach engineering, math, art, and teamwork.
AnnMarie has served on the selection committee for three years and finds joy in reading about the incredible students who apply for the program. It gives her hope to read about the talents and passions today’s high school students bring to our global community. Reflecting on her experience as a selection committee member she shared, “Every person has a story. One of the most rewarding things you can do is to take the time to listen to these stories and learn from them.”
AnnMarie’s advice to future applicants and to high school students in general is to not worry too much about defining who you are. “Many students are told they are a ‘science person,’ an ‘art person,’ or a ‘sports person,’ however the most rewarding and impactful work happens at the intersection of fields and interests.” She is a strong believer in reminding students that they do not have to do everything on their own and encourages them to reach out and find mentors, whether they be teachers, relatives, or community members, who can help them achieve their goals.
Corey Winchester - Originally from Philadelphia, Corey’s career as an educator stems from a supportive village of family and friends. With meaningful relationships at the core of his work, he focuses on developing, creating and sustaining more humanizing and liberating learning environments. He enjoys spending time with his partner, Jon, being outdoors, reading, traveling and cooking.
With more then a decade of teaching experience, ranging from middle to graduate school, Corey has taught history and social science courses at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) in Evanston, IL for the last 12 years. He is the staff coordinator for Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR), received the Golden Apple for Excellence in Teaching in 2019, and was honored as Gilder Lehrman Illinois History Teacher of the Year in 2020.
Corey is also a current PhD student in Learning Sciences and instructor in the Teacher Education program. While he held a consultancy with the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship, he was introduced to the Bezos Scholars Program and facilitated a workshop for Scholar educators on how to support student leaders to be creative problem solvers. This, coupled with his own experience being interviewed by selection committees, influenced his decision to volunteer on the committee, understanding the importance of diverse committee members who contribute to equitable selection processes.
Corey believes learning environments should incorporate individual and collective thriving that does not come at the expense of one another, and he is particularly dedicated to supporting BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities, and the vast intersection of other salient identities in ways that do not reduce lived experiences and existences to mere survival. He encourages other adults to, “cultivate spaces for young people to imagine. Young people have ideas that are transforming the world and programs like BSP facilitate this transformation into something that allows all of us to be more fully human.” When asked what advice he has for prospective candidates, Corey recommended, “do not be afraid to tell your full story. Though it can be hard to share authentically, be unapologetic in who you are.”
The Bezos Scholars Program is grateful for each of our selection committee members, their diverse experiences and worldviews, and willingness to commit the time and energy to selecting Scholars each year. If you are interested in serving on our selection committee or have a recommendation for someone who would be a great fit, please contact Program Manager, Molly Pencke.