Dolphin Highlight: JU’s 2017 Presidential Fellows


Stefanie Keeler

Left to right, 2017 Presidential Fellows Jack Burns and Luke Myhree.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If you are enrolled at Jacksonville University, then there is one man you are sure to know: President Tim Cost.

Whether your encounters with President Cost have been him asking you how your day is going, or giving you a lift to class in his presidential golf cart, everyone wonders the same thing. “How can he make time to talk to me when he is always doing so much on campus?”

It is a well-known fact that he was the one responsible for settling the great Chick-Fil-A milkshake debacle of 2014, refusing to re-sign without ensuring it was included in our contract. This alone could have been enough to leave his mark on campus, but then he went and stole our hearts by graciously procuring a Starbucks on campus.

These are only two examples of the projects President Cost has undertaken in his time at JU so far, some others being the JU Riverhouse, revitalizing the Frances Bartlett Kinne Center, both freshmen residence halls and plenty of other endeavors.

Who would have thought it possible that a student could have the opportunity to work for such a man directly after graduation?

The JU Presidential Fellowship is designed to give a few selected undergraduate students a position directly after graduation to improve themselves and perfect professional skills. This also provides a buffer year where they can better position themselves for their next job. Likewise, Diana Donovan, Director, Office of the President, sees the role as advantageous.

“The Presidential Fellowship is a highly competitive, highly regarded, and innovative experience in professionalism, leadership, and service,” Donovan says.

Donovan comes with many accolades herself. Although the fellowship was not unveiled until she had already left JU, she still managed to procure a prestigious role right after graduation, working directly in the mayor’s office under Mayor Alvin Brown. Donovan is the overseer of the presidential fellow program.

“After multiple interviews and nominations, this year’s selected fellows show strong character and resiliency with an unmatched passion for Jacksonville University,” said Donovan. “I’m proud they are a part of our JU family.”

The two current Presidential Fellows, Luke Myhree and Jack Burns, both graduated with their undergraduate degrees in the spring of 2017. Burns was completely unaware this was a possibility until his final semester of his senior year.

“Initially, it was never on my radar; I was in the midst of applying for grad school and looking for graduate assistantships when the news came,” Burns said.

In order to apply for the Presidential Fellowship, you must first be nominated by senior faculty and staff. If the nominee accepts, then they must pass each rigorous stage of the application process.

“To begin I was just humbled to be nominated, but each stage that passed I became more and more intrigued at the opportunity,” Burns said. “I soon became aware of the challenge, and after speaking to my friends, family, girlfriend, and mentors, it was a challenge too good to turn down.”

Myhree saw the fellowship as a chance to give back to JU.

“It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a year and serve the community that served me for four years, while also getting my MBA and having a first job to transition into the real world,” Myhree said.

Just four months in, Myhree is pleased with his experience so far, reflecting on all the constructive elements he has already gained during his short time.

“It’s been an awesome experience to be able work under President Cost and Diana Donovan,” Myhree said. “To meet the people I’m able to meet in this position, work the events I’m able to work, and learn life-experiences that a lot of people don’t learn until later on down the road, at such an early age, is one of the key benefits that the fellowship has to offer.”

Burns also believes he has acquired useful skills due to the roles the fellowship has forced him to take on in the past few months.

“It’s been what I needed, a challenge,” Burns said. “Some ups and downs, a few small victories, and more than enough mistakes. Each of those mistakes have allowed me to grow and improve.”

Both Myhree and Burns highly recommend any students who are lucky enough to be nominated by faculty to go through the process, agreeing that the benefits provided are unleveled to any other they could have hoped for post-graduation.

“The biggest take-away for me has been professionalism,” Burns said. “As I finished my undergrad I thought I knew what the working world was like, but reflecting now, I had no idea. To be ‘on it’ every minute of the day is only something you can learn by experience. Although there are never enough hours in the day during the fellowship, it makes you realize how many hours of the day are available if you have the right motivation and intention.”

Myhree plans to take advantage of the fellowship and all it provides, hoping his successors do so as well.

“You have to understand that your duties can be moving flowers off a table, or shaking the hand of Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic and is currently one of the most well-known deep sea archeologists in the world,” Myhree said.  “No matter the task, I plan to capitalize on every opportunity given to me.”