McMullan Scholars organize Independent Study Expo

Gidgie Bass ’24, Eli Galentino ’24, Kate Vaughn ’24, and Nick Venable ’24 designed the expo to showcase the academic work of their peers.
By Ian Dinkins, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications 

On Thursday, May 9, the 2023 McMullan Scholars — Gidgie Bass ’24, Eli Galentino ’24, Kate Vaughn ’24, and Nick Venable ’24 — saw months of hard work come to fruition when they held USN’s inaugural Independent Study Expo.

“The event's purpose was to showcase the work done this year through independent study. The hope is that this year’s expo will lay the groundwork for this to become a standard part of the independent study program,” Assistant Head of HS for Academic Affairs Jeff Edmonds said via email. 

“USN’s Independent Study program is one of the richest and most exciting parts of the High School. There are 25 to 30 independent study projects carried out each semester by juniors and seniors,” said Gidgie. “When discussing what parts of the school deserve more attention, we thought the independent study program stood out immediately, as students often work by themselves through the semester and deserve a platform to showcase the fruits of their labors.”

"The independent study program offers highly-motivated students, whose interest in a subject goes beyond our normal course offerings, the chance to design a program of study with a faculty sponsor," said Edmonds.

Some of the independent study projects highlighted during this year’s expo were Advanced Programming: Binary Exploitation, Films Directed by Women, History of the War on Terror, Exploring America Through Printmaking, Middle Egyptian: Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, Dental Internship, and History Pedagogy. 

Kylee Ambramson ’24 shared her work with the Korean School of Nashville.

“I had an interest in learning Korean in Middle School, and it’s grown into a role as a teaching assistant at the Korean School of Nashville,” said Kylee. “I’m glad I get to show off the work I’ve been doing with the rest of the school.”

According to the group, one of the main goals of the group was to give students like Kylee the platform to share their passions with the school.

“Plenty of projects involve students taking the initiative to learn a new skill, language, or craft. By displaying their hard work, we hope more students feel excited to push beyond their comfort zone and try something the school does not necessarily offer,” the group said via email. 

Mark Venrick '48 and his classmates established the Lois McMullan Scholarship in 2002 to honor their Peabody Demonstration School English Teacher and enhance opportunities for all University School of Nashville students by recognizing student leaders. Since 2003, several students have been chosen at the end of their eleventh-grade year. 

When asked what being a McMullan Scholar means to them, each 2023 honoree mentioned how the program isn’t just for their benefit but for the benefit of the whole school.

“Being a McMullan Scholar, I get to work with ambitious peers to create something that we think adds value to the school as a whole. Being a member of this community since kindergarten, I feel I can draw on my experience to affect strong change, “ said Nick Venable ’24.

“Being a McMullan Scholar means setting an example for leaders throughout the school. No leadership style is better than another, and I think our group of McMullan Scholars represents a wide variety of effective leadership skills,” according to Eli Galentino ’24.

“Being a McMullan Scholar means working alongside student-leaders and faculty to enhance our USN community. Our group has roles in all areas of student life from arts to athletics to organizations allowing diverse perspectives and experiences. I have loved collaborating with my peers to strengthen our school,” said Kate Vaughn ’24.
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University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.