Proud UA Honors College Student says Capstone is Ivy League ‘Elite’

For someone who didn’t want to maintain the family tradition of attending The University of Alabama, 21-year-old senior honors college student Sam Ostrow has surely made a deeply imprinted mark at the Capstone.

Samuel Ostrow with his research presentation

“With my dad and both of my sisters attending here, I was initially incredibly apprehensive because I didn’t want to follow their path,” Ostrow said. “I visited 15 to 20 schools, but from the first second of my visit to UA’s honors college and political science department, it felt like home.”

Ostrow, a Memphis native, is majoring in political science with two minors in history and computer-based honors. He’s also simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in public administration. His academic path at UA was customized just for him. He’s scheduled to complete his bachelor’s degree in May and his master’s in August.

“I study political science to learn how government should work, and I study public administration to know how government actually works,” he said.

In his time at UA, Ostrow has been a part of the Randall Research Scholars Program and a member of the mock trial team; created a peer resource organization for the Randall Research Scholars Program; ran SGA campaigns; was a founding member of UA’s first campus political party (Capstone Coalition); interned for two Alabama senators; served in various roles with the Alabama Action Program, an experiential learning project for incoming freshman that helps them feel like Tuscaloosa is home; was an honors college ambassador for three years; volunteered at about 150 events; and was highly involved with the Chabad Jewish Center on campus.

Ostrow came to UA on a National Merit Scholarship earned from graduating with a 33 ACT score and a 3.79 unweighted GPA from Memphis University School, a college preparatory school.

One of the major draws to UA for Ostrow was the Randall Research Scholars Program, which is the nation’s oldest interdisciplinary research program.

“If you get into the program, come to Alabama,” he said. “Randall Research Scholars has been my home away from home. It’s where I found most of my friends. My involvement in other things like student government, mock trial and my internship have all stemmed from RRSP.”

Jane Batson, program manager for UA’s Randall Research Scholars Program, said when she met Ostrow he was a typical undergraduate, but he also was unique.

“He had ideas about what he wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it,” she said. “What he did was find out who he needed to talk to because he is a go-getter, and that is what he did.

“He is unique because he came in with a research idea and went to Dr. Stephen Borrelli to develop his topic. That sets Sam apart.”

The research Ostrow conducted in the Randall Research Scholars Programs is titled “The Relative Impact of Party, Money and Experience on Open Seats.” He is the first author and Borelli is the second. Their research, which looks at the niche field of congressional races without incumbents present, is up for publication.

Ostrow has presented his research at two national conferences: the American Political Science Association Conference in April 2017 and the Southern Political Science Association Conference in January. He also has presented on campus eight times, at The University of Alabama at Birmingham and The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Samuel Ostrow with Dr. Shane Sharpe, dean and director of the Randall Research Scholars Program

Borrelli said what amazes him about Ostrow is that he’s intrinsically motivated to do research, which is rare for undergraduates.

“He is open-minded about hearing other peoples political viewpoints, but at the same time he wants to mix it up in the real world politically and deal with the ugly and difficult problems Americans are dealing with,” Borrelli said.

“He’s one of those young people who actually gives me hope for his generation.”

Ostrow said without the Capstone he could not have blossomed into who he’s become.

“Through the mentorship of Dr. Shane Sharpe, Mrs. Jane Batson and Dr. Borrelli, the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve been blessed to have here, I would do anything to give back to this University.”

“It’s why I’ve gotten involved in recruiting students. Alabama invested in me. I want to share my story with prospective students. I want people to think of Alabama the same way they think of Harvard and Yale because my time here has been elite and to say anything otherwise would not be a true reflection of the Capstone.” Samuel Ostrow

After graduation, Ostrow plans to enter law school, and then get a job with the Federal Election Commission where he wants to learn how federal elections are regulated.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.