Bloomington native Laura Lienhop has entered the history books at Eastern Illinois University by becoming the first Presidential Scholar to receive a degree.
Lienhop, a 2004 graduate of Bloomington High School, entered EIU in August 2004 as one of 19 freshmen accepted into the EIU Honors College's prestigious new Presidential Scholars Program. The program provides four-year scholarships to students demonstrating academic excellence.
Now, in less than four years, Lienhop has earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics, while also amassing an impressive resume. She will participate in commencement exercises on Saturday, Dec. 15.
"We designed the Presidential Scholars Program to allow talented students to fulfill their potential," said Bonnie Irwin, dean of the EIU Honors College. "Laura has certainly taken full advantage of all the opportunities available to her at EIU, and we are proud of her many accomplishments."
Lienhop started her extracurricular academic work as a freshman, researching a fat substitute as part of a grant-funded project. She later also performed bio-chemistry research on the stability of proteins.
In the summer of 2006, Lienhop participated in the Study Abroad program by spending a month in Italy. This past summer, she completed an internship as a dietary technician at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington.
She has also held leadership roles in several campus organizations, including president of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority; secretary of the Organization for Peer Education on Nutrition; editor for Kappa Omicron Nu, the Family and Consumer Sciences' honor fraternity; and dietetics representative for the Student Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
This past spring, Lienhop presented EIU's then-president, Lou Hencken, with a medal from the Honors College in recognition of his work in establishing the Presidential Scholar program.
Two days after graduation, Lienhop will begin her new job as a receptionist at Gold's Gym in Bloomington, allowing her to gain entry-level experience in the wellness field.
She plans to return to EIU in August to begin work on her master's degree to become a registered dietician.
"I love Eastern," Lienhop said. "I felt like there were a lot of opportunities for me to get involved in organizations and to also get involved outside of the university. Everybody's nice, and I like the campus. Overall, I had a great experience."
Her career plans include working in nutrition education with either outpatients at a hospital or clients at a wellness center. Eventually, she would like to work in the wellness field for a large food company, helping to educate the public about healthy eating practices.
Lienhop is the daughter of Steve and Sandra Lienhop of Bloomington.
For more information on EIU's Presidential Scholars program, please contact the Honors College at 217-581-2017.