Yale. Columbia. EKU. Though one may not seem like the others, all three could be home to prestigious scholarship recipients within the coming month.
Tyler Swafford, an international affairs and globalization double-major with a minor in business—and possibly better known as EKU’s current starting quarterback, will be one of 20 finalists interviewed for the opportunity to be part of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program.
The scholarship, named in honor of former US Senator George Mitchell’s contribution to the peace process of Northern Ireland, is a competitive scholarship sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance that allows up to 12 students the chance to study at universities across Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The scholarship bases its choices on three key components: scholarship, leadership and a commitment to public service. Swafford, in addition to playing for EKU Football and double-majoring, is an Honors student with a 4.0 GPA.
When he was told he was chosen from over 300 applicants as a finalist for the scholarship in early November, Swafford said he was shocked and excited. Swafford said he knew had football obligations, however the team, athletic director and President Michael Benson helped ease his decision-making immensely.
Originally, Swafford was to fly into Washington D.C. Friday, Nov. 18 for a reception at the Ireland Embassy before having his final interview Saturday morning. EKU Football was also scheduled to play OVC competitor Eastern Illinois University in their final game of the season at 1 p.m. the same day.
No commercial flights were available for Swafford to return in time for the game, so Benson, A.D. Steve Lochmueller and others worked to find a way to get Swafford from D.C. to Richmond before kickoff.
While Swafford will take a commercial flight to D.C. on Friday, Chair of the EKU Board of Regents Craig Turner worked with Benson to allow Swafford a chance to fly back to Richmond in time for the game on a private flight.
“We have received all the requisite approvals for this arrangement, given that we would do the same thing for any other student if he or she were in a similar situation,” Benson said about the efforts taken to help Swafford go from D.C. to Richmond.
Additionally, the Mitchell Scholarship changed Swafford’s interview to an earlier hour, while Eastern Illinois agreed to change the kickoff time from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m, giving him enough time to return and prepare for the game.
Head Coach Mark Elder said he is excited for Swafford to have this experience, and plans will be in place if circumstances change and he misses the game.
“It’s going to be a very exciting and eventful weekend for him,” Elder said. “We’ve got everything planned out so that he can go be a true student-athlete.”