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Chemical engineering student wins prestigious scholarship

Jonathan Witt ’15 has kept himself busy during his time at Lehigh. The chemical engineering student has studied abroad in Barcelona, researched solar panels in Malaysia with the Iacocca International Internship Program, and represented the World Corrosion Organization at the United Nations as part of Lehigh’s UN NGO Youth Representative Program. Witt has also participated in LeaderShape and Engineers without Borders, is a member of Psi Upsilon, and serves as a ropes course facilitator on the Mountaintop Campus.

Witt’s latest accomplishment, however, is particularly impressive. He’s been named one of 100 recipients of the Buick Achievers Scholarship, a renewable scholarship awarded annually by Buick and funded by the GM Foundation. Award recipients can apply the award toward the total cost of tuition, fees, books, supplies, required equipment, room and board, and other allowable expenses.

“It was one of the most exciting feelings,” says Witt of receiving his notification last spring.

In its first four years, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has awarded over $28 million to 3,400 high school students and college undergraduates who have achieved success both in and out of the classroom. The program seeks committed student leaders who plan to major in a specified course of study that focuses on engineering and technology or select design and business-related programs. Selection is based on the applicant’s academic achievement, financial need, participation in campus and community activities, work experience, and interest in a career in or related to the automotive industry.

Witt’s credentials certainly qualified him, as his award totaled $25,000 – the highest possible value.

Witt started his search for potential scholarship opportunities last year on Lehigh’s Office of Fellowship Advising (OFA) website. OFA provides assistance to Lehigh students as they apply for competitive national fellowships and scholarships. OFA’s site offers a comprehensive list of scholarships and their application details, as well as other helpful resources. Witt also used search engines like, which filter scholarship opportunities based on student interests and achievements. Seeking opportunities for which he qualified, Witt invested a significant amount of time and effort into applications for fifteen different scholarships. His persistence paid off. Of those fifteen, he won two: the Buick Achievers Scholarship and a $2,500 award from the loan service used by his family.

“Prestigious scholarships and awards, such as the Buick Achievers Scholarship, open doors,” says Maria Figueroa-Armijos, director of the Office of Fellowship Advising. “They support outstanding scholarly achievement while inspiring the next generations to break paradigms and innovate, both in themselves and in their communities.”

Figueroa-Armijos advised Witt in his search, encouraging him to apply for scholarships like Buick Achievers, which should give Witt a competitive advantage as he applies to graduate schools. Witt hopes to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He’d like to research electrochemical processes, specifically energy storage.

“I know we have all the technology – wind turbines, solar panels, and things like that,” says Witt. “The big problem is how to store [that energy] when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining… I want to be in the forefront of that, there in the lab making the better batteries, the better storage units, so we can power our society.”

“Since the beginning, Jon demonstrated a strong commitment to science and entrepreneurship,” says Figueroa-Armijos. “Prestigious scholarships are very competitive and require a high degree of dedication and leadership. Jonathan excelled at both.”

Witt recognizes the considerable time commitment of the application process but believes the credibility boost an award can bring is worth it. He encourages his peers to work with OFA and Lehigh’s Office of Financial Aid to determine their best course of action. If a student can successfully balance the effort required to complete scholarship applications with current coursework, he says, the payoff can be significant.

“I thought Buick was going to be a longshot,” says Witt. “You never know.”

Story by Kelly Hochbein


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Jonathan Witt '15 received the Buick Achievers Scholarship's top award.