PITTSBURGH—Sophomore Nolen Keeys, a biomedical engineering major, is the first Robert Morris University student to be named an Institute Scholar by the highly selective Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
From hundreds of applicants each year, the Institute chooses only 12 of the most talented African American male college students from across the United States to participate in its intensive Washington Program, which takes place over two consecutive summers.
The program includes internships in each scholar’s field of study; a seminar in constitutional and economic principles; private meetings with government and corporate leaders; and the opportunity to be mentors to high school students enrolled in the institute’s Youth Scholars Academy. This summer’s session runs from May 29 to July 23.
“When I applied, I didn’t realize that only 12 people were going to be selected. I am ecstatic. I’ve put a lot of hard work into studying, making sure I maintain a high GPA and building a strong resume. I can now see my career and my future starting to take shape,” said Keeys, a native of Temple Hills, Md., and a graduate of Bishop McNamara High School.
Among the other institutions represented in the institute’s Class of 2017 are Princeton University, the University of Chicago, the University of Southern California, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alumni of the institute for Responsible Citizenship include seven graduates of Harvard Law School, two Rhodes Scholars, two Fulbright Schools, six graduates of Yale Divinity School, two Ph.D.’s, and a U.S. Army captain, to name just a few.
“Nolen is about to embark on a miraculous journey, and we could not be prouder of him at Robert Morris University. This is an extraordinary achievement for Nolen and it speaks highly of RMU. We are breathing rarified air,” said RMU President Chris Howard.
Keeys’ distinction is particularly gratifying for Howard, who has now sent four students to the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, including from the previous schools where he served—first at the University of Oklahoma, where he was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives, and then at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he was president.
The Institute for Responsible Citizenship aims to inspire and prepare the nation’s best and brightest African American men to use their talents to serve others. Founded in 2003, the Institute now claims more than 150 scholars and alumni.
“Nolen appears to be exactly the kind of young man that the Institute was created to serve. He is brilliant yet humble. And he is driven to be successful for reasons that are noble. He will gain a great deal from his participation in the Institute and he will contribute a great deal as well,” said William A. Keyes, founder and president of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship.
Keyes added, “I am thrilled to have our first student from Robert Morris, especially now that RMU has Chris Howard at the helm. There is no college president I admire more than Dr. Howard.”
Howard took office at RMU on Feb. 1, and he soon asked his new colleagues to seek out students to apply to be an Institute scholar. It was RMU Provost David Jamison who encouraged Keeys to apply, having met him in October when Keeys was inducted into the National Society for Collegiate Scholars and Jamison was serving as interim president.
“Nolen has an exceptional academic record and a thoughtful, determined approach to meeting his goals. He already has a dignified, professional demeanor that will mark him as the best sort of representative for Robert Morris University,” said Jamison.
Keeys has a 3.9 GPA and plans to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and a peer tutor at RMU, and he also has played intramural basketball and football. Keeys volunteers at the Veterans Administration hospital near his hometown. He is the son of Christopher and Sabrina Keeys.
Keeys said that among his many mentors at RMU he has been closest to Chet Thompson, an academic advisor and co-director of the Black Male Leadership Development Institute.
“One of the things that really strikes me about Nolen is that he is very ambitious. He knows what he wants. He’s very direct and purposeful. He’s very knowledgeable about his career path and what it takes. I’m very honored that he named me as one of his mentors,” said Thompson.
Keeys’ achievements demonstrate RMU’s commitment to providing opportunity and excellence to students of all backgrounds, said Yasmin Purohit, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Robert Morris.
“Nolen Keeys’ selection as an Institute scholar by the Institute for Responsible Citizenship is yet another example of RMU’s current upward trajectory and momentum. Nolen’s extraordinary skills and dedication, coupled with RMU’s support, is testimony that RMU is ready to make its mark at organizations of excellence such as the Institute for Responsible Citizenship,” said Purohit.
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