Winegard was hand-picked by the world renowned cognitive developmental and evolutionary psychologist David C. Geary for the fellowship that awards a guaranteed $13,500 for a five year period.
As a junior at Grand Valley, Winegard also received the McNair scholarship, which is created to help talented undergraduates pursue doctoral degrees. McNair scholarships and fellowships seek to help high-achieving students who are from low-income and/or first generation backgrounds and students who are usually underrepresented in graduate programs. For Winegard, the most important aspect of receiving the fellowship, besides the financial help, is that hard work is rewarded.
“It took me three years of working extremely hard to get where I am. It shows that if you are talented and hard working, it doesn't really matter where you come from,” Winegard said.
After attending Michigan State University for a year and taking a year off, Winegard finally found his place at Grand Valley.
“It's nice that Grand Valley is large enough to attract talented faculty, but at the same time be small enough to allow a certain sense of having a social safety net, never feeling like I was on my own,” Winegard said. “At MSU, you were just a number, but at Grand Valley the professors actually wanted to work with you and get to know you.”
Although Winegard graduated from Grand Valley with a bachelor's in sociology, he plans on earning his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Missouri. Eventually, he wants to be a professor and conduct research. The basic idea of psychology - understanding people's behavior - is what first drew Winegard to study the subject.
“It fascinates me, what drives humans and the tools that we can use to discover and analyze human behavior,” Winegard said.
Winegard's mentor, Robert Deaner, assistant professor of psychology at Grand Valley, said he feels fortunate that he had the opportunity to work with Winegard. They worked together on two research projects that may lead to eventual publication.
“Ben was a fantastic student in the classroom, but he's even better out of it. His intellectual curiosity, creativity and perseverance are all tremendous,” Deaner said.