The Presidential Scholarship is among the top awards an incoming Georgia State student can receive. In addition to covering full tuition, fees and on-campus housing for four years, it provides stipends for living expenses and study-abroad programs. It also includes automatic acceptance to Georgia State’s Honors College, which offers smaller classes, specialized advising and unique research opportunities. As you read about each of this year’s 10 recipients — the largest class ever — you will see that they earned the Presidential Scholarship with more than just good grades and test scores. Their diverse interests, independent ideas and dedication to service are great assets with the potential to make a real impact — not only on Georgia State’s campus but throughout the Atlanta community.
A double-major in neuroscience and computer science might make for a heavy workload, but Georgia State freshman Noah Yasarturk says the two fields aren’t nearly as far apart as people might think.
“I don’t think that computer science and neuroscience are, at their core, two fundamentally different fields,” he says. “I think we can model computers after the brain, and I think we can understand the brain by way of how we understand computers.” The choice to study both, he explains, was “based on me trying to apply an objective mind and evidence to solving something that I see as the most complex computer, which is the human mind.”
As a Presidential Scholar, Yasarturk will be studying those complex fields under the auspices of the Honors College, where he expects to have both his abilities and his beliefs put to the test — and is looking forward to it.
“I was a pretty smart kid, and I always thought I had things figured out. Now I live by the philosophy that I can always be wrong,” he says. “It’s always good to be challenged and to try to grow through those challenges. Georgia State provides diversity in its students and faculty members not just in terms of race but in terms of viewpoints and actually being challenged in what I think.”
Questions Too Complex for Simple Answers
Wrestling with complex philosophical questions was something Yasarturk found himself doing at a relatively early age. Many of those questions came about from witnessing some of his family members struggle with addiction or mental illness. “It was very troubling to see members of my family doing things that society might have deemed immoral, hurtful, or just wrong. But at the same time, I was struggling with that question of how much of it was an act of their will, and how much of it was their disease?”
Yasarturk’s search for insight led him to research religions and historic philosophers alike. He also looked to science for answers, yet the dilemmas only seemed to get thornier. “As I delved more and more into it, I found that we look for ‘miracle pills’ that can very quickly treat significant personality disorders that really require behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, more love, more compassion,” he says.
Those issues had become very personal to him by his junior year of high school, as his parents’ separation added to the existing stresses of high school and applying to college. Yasarturk went to see a therapist for anxiety and depression — and remembers being handed two prescriptions after a visit that lasted only 30 minutes.
“I learned more and more about how we treat people whom we describe as deviant and label as outsiders, and then try to apply very simple solutions to elements that are themselves as complex and multifaceted as people are,” he says. “It’s the human mind, you can’t just administer a chemical into it and then expect somebody to completely do a 180. It requires something that can’t be explained that easily — it requires more compassion, it requires actual care, and it requires more testing before we start handing out these personality-altering medications.”
‘I Never Felt as If I Was Just a Number’
Through all of this, one of Yasarturk’s heavy questions did manage to receive a definitive answer — the question of where he would go to school. Georgia State, he found, “is an institution that seems to care a little bit more about the students and not so much about the numbers,” he says. “The scholarship that I was given was clear evidence of that.”
An endorsement from a former classmate helped, he adds. “He talked about all the opportunities he had — he got accepted to Emory, and he could’ve gone, but he said he chose to go to Georgia State because they just gave him so many more opportunities outside of a prestigious name.”
A first-generation college student, Yasarturk talks about higher education in the same tone he talks about medicine and philosophy — which is to say, the tone of someone who’s given it a great deal of deep thought. “We’re at a time here in America when we’re outsourcing more and more jobs overseas, economic prospects are becoming more and more disheartening for millennials, and the U.S. is becoming a nation where it’s harder to get any job without a degree. So the value that we put on colleges has increased exponentially,” he explains. “Georgia State has managed to meet those challenges while still staying, at its core, a place where kids can thrive. It’s a place where I never felt as if I was just a number or something like that.”
The environment of downtown Atlanta, too, is something Yasarturk says he’s excited about. “Another thing that appealed to me about Georgia State was that it’s not in a stereotypical ‘college town,’” he says. “I didn’t want to get into the mindset that this was all there is and restrict myself to clubs and activities on campus. I wanted to have a part-time job in the city, I still wanted to be in the real world while I was attending college.”
Though Yasarturk is fascinated by computers, he admits that his experience with them is limited. He does enjoy video games, though, and even there he says he’s found a bit of inspiration for his career path.
“I like video games just because they provide an escape. They’re a universe in and of themselves, which has a very definitive goal, something that you have to conquer and your character grows as you put effort into it. Every person I play in a video game feels like a hero, feels like they’re the savior of the world. I think that we should all live with a video-game-protagonist mentality — that we can save the world.”