Rhodes Scholars for 2012

November 21, 2011

On November 19, 2011, the Rhodes Trust announced the 32 winners of Rhodes Scholarships for the United States for 2012.

These young people are among the smartest and most accomplished people of their generation.  Under the will of Cecil Rhodes, the developer of African railroads and colonist, Rhodes Scholars must demonstrate leadership and service, and they must be well-rounded, which usually means they are accomplished athletes in one area in addition to their academic acumen.

One of this year’s winners will have to bail out on the second year of his Teach for America commitment — one hopes TFA will understand.  Joshua Carpenter, a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, taught writing, math and economics in Marion, Alabama.

Past American Rhodes Scholarship winners include former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, musician and actor Kris Kristofferson, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, former President Bill Clinton, late Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, physician and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and author Naomi Wolf.  Here’s the press release from the Trust:

WASHINGTON, DC/November 19, 2011 – Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, today announced the names of the thirty-two American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars representing the United States. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years. Mr. Gerson called the Rhodes Scholarships,” the oldest and best known award for international study, and arguably the most famous academic award available to American college graduates.” They were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; those elected today will enter Oxford in October 2012.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. This year over 2000 students sought their institution’s endorsement; 830 were endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities.

Committees of Selection in each of 16 U.S. districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Gerson said, “applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes’s hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. In Rhodes’ words, his Scholars should ‘esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim.'”

Applicants in the United States may apply either through the state where they are legally resident or where they have attended college for at least two years. The district committees met separately, on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, in cities across the country.  Each district committee made a final selection of two Rhodes Scholars from the candidates of the state or states within the district. Two-hundred ten applicants from 99 different colleges and universities reached the final stage of the competition, including 15 that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship. Gerson also reported, “in most years, we elect a winner from a college that had never before had a Rhodes Scholar, even after more than a century. This year we are pleased to announce first-time winners from Bard College and from California State University, Long Beach.”

The thirty-two Rhodes Scholars chosen from the United States will join an international group of Scholars chosen from fourteen other jurisdictions around the world. In addition to the thirty-two Americans, Scholars are also selected from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (South Africa, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Approximately 80 Scholars are selected worldwide each year, usually including several who have attended American colleges and universities but who ae not U.S. citizens and who have applied through their home country.

With the elections announced today, 3,260 Americans have won Rhodes Scholarships, representing 314 colleges and universities. Since 1976, women have been eligible to apply and 458 American women have now won the coveted scholarship. And for the fourth time since 1976, more women (17) than men (15) were elected. Men constituted 58% of the applicant pool and 60% of those who reached the final stage of the competition. More than 1,800 American Rhodes Scholars are living in all parts of the U.S. and abroad.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree (B.A., master’s, doctoral) chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. Mr. Gerson estimates that the total value of the Scholarship averages approximately US$50,000 per year, and up to as much as US$200,000 for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

The full list of the newly elected United States Rhodes Scholars, with the states from which they were chosen, their home addresses, and their American colleges or universities, follows. Brief profiles follow the list.

Selectees are listed here first by the state from which they competed, and then by the college they attended — note that the college may not be in the state from which the candidate competed.

American Rhodes Scholars-elect for 2012
(Subject to ratification by the Rhodes Trustees after acceptance by one of the colleges of Oxford University)

District 1

New Hampshire, Yale University
Ms. Helen E. Jack
Hanover, New Hampshire

Rhode Island Brown University
Ms. Emma F. LeBlanc
Manchester, New Hampshire

District 2

Massachusetts, Princeton University
Ms. Elizabeth W. Butterworth
Auburn, Massachusetts

Massachusetts, Brown University
Mr. David S. Poritz
Amherst, Massachusetts

District 3

New York, Princeton University
Ms. Miriam Rosenbaum
Bronx, New York

New York, Harvard College
Ms. Brett A. Rosenberg
Chappaqua, New York

District 4

Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College
Ms. Nina R.W. Cohen
Newton, Massachusetts

Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh
Mr. Cory J. Rodgers
Somerset, Pennsylvania

District 5 

Rhodes Scholar Brandon Turner, of Fontana, California, Wake Forest University

Rhodes Scholar Brandon Turner, of Fontana, California, Wake Forest University

Maryland/DC, Yale Law School and Bard College
Mr. Ronan S. Farrow
Washington, D.C.

North Carolina, Wake Forest University
Mr. Brandon E. Turner
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

District 6

Georgia, Stanford University
Mr. Ishan Nath
Atlanta, Georgia

Virginia, Brown University
Mr. Nabeel N. Gillani
Glen Allen, Virginia

District 7

Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Mr. Joshua D. Carpenter
Florence, Alabama

Tennessee, Sewanee: The University of the South
Ms. Carrie H. Ryan
Sewanee, Tennessee

District 8

Texas, Stanford University
Ms. Aysha N. Bagchi
Austin, Texas

Texas, Stanford University
Mr. Anand R. Habib
Houston, Texas

District 9

Indiana, Princeton University
Mr. Mohit Agrawal
West Lafayette, Indiana

Rhodes Scholar Victor Yang, of Lexington, Kentucky (Harvard University)

Victor Yang, from Lexington, Kentucky (Harvard University)

Kentucky, Harvard College
Mr. Victor Yang
Lexington, Kentucky

District 10

Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak, Northwestern University - Chicago Tribune photo

Chicago Tribune photo - Northwestern University student and new Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak speaks with the media on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston today. (StaceyWescott / Chicago Tribune / November 20, 2011)

Illinois, Northwestern University
Ms. Sarah N. Smierciak
Lemont, Illinois

Michigan, Harvard College
Mr. Spencer B.L. Lenfield
Paw Paw, Michigan

District 11

New Rhodes Scholar Alexis Brown, University of Wisconsin

New Rhodes Scholar Alexis Brown, University of Wisconsin

Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ms. Alexis K. Brown
Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin, Princeton University
Ms. Astrid E. M. L. Stuth
Hubertus, Wisconsin

District 12

Kansas, University of Kansas
Ms. Kelsey R. Murrell
Kearney, Missouri

South Carolina, Stanford University
Ms. Katherine Niehaus
Columbia, South Carolina

District 13

Colorado, United States Air Force Academy
Mr. Zachary A. Crippen
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

USAFA Rhodes Scholar Zachary Crippen at Aspen Institute with Brent Scowcroft and others - USAFA photo

Aspen Institute Left to right; Cadet 1st Class Zachary Crippen (Rhodes Scholar), Cadet Squadron 12; retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, co-chairman of the Aspen Strategy Group; Dr. Schuyler Foerster, the Academy’s Brent Scowcroft professor for national security studies; Cadet 1st Class Peter Lind, CS15; and Cadet 1st Class Nathan Betcher, CS25, pose for a photo at the Aspen Institute Saturday (date not designated) (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Colorado, Harvard College
Mr. Samuel M. Galler
Boulder, Colorado

District 14

Washington, University of Washington
Mr. Byron D. Gray
Post Falls, Idaho

Washington, University of Washington
Mr. Cameron W. Turtle
Pullman, Washington

District 15

California, Brown University
Ms. Brianna R. Doherty
Carmichael, California

California, Stanford University
Ms. Tenzin Seldon
Albany, California

District 16

California, California State University, Long Beach
Ms. Stephanie Bryson
San Diego, California

California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ms. Stephanie Lin
Irvine, California

More details may be available at the Rhodes Trust website for the American group.

Profiles of Rhodes 2012 winners below the fold.

News coverage:

Why isn’t this a bigger deal in American news outlets?

Read the rest of this entry »

High school juniors: Consider a college that will change your life

October 27, 2010

Here’s what I told my U.S. history students on the class blog; a few other people may find my views informative:

Okay, juniors!  You should be thinking hard about what you want to do, what you should do, and what you can do, after you graduate.


Choosing a college can bring on all sorts of angst.

You worry about choosing the right college — the one that will advance you toward your dreams, the one where you’ll fit in (yeah, we all worry about that), the one that you and your family can afford, the one where you can cut it, and the one where you can shine.

I urge you to consider a group of colleges known collectively as Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL).

Several years an education guru, Loren Pope, wrote a book profiling 40 colleges that have reputations of making much better people out of the already good students they take in.  You’ve probably heard of some of these schools:  Reed College, in Portland, Oregon; St. Olaf’s College, especially for choir-minded people who don’t mind Minnesota weather; Austin College, in Sherman, Texas; Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; and a lot of others.  The book was titled Colleges That Change Lives.

The colleges had the good sense to see that they were in league with each other, as well as in competition with each other — and so they banded together to create a one-application process (though each has slightly different essay requirements).

Go to their website and take a look.  See especially whether they are having an open-house sort of get-together somewhere in Texas (we had to drive to Austin for our younger son — it was a great trip, and it helped him pick a school he hadn’t thought of before — we urged them to come back to Dallas).  (Oh — I checked.   They held these events in August — plan to be there next August; note that these events were before school started, so you’ll have to keep your own calendar over the summer to get there on time.)

These colleges mostly present just great places to get a good education, regardless the field you want to pursue (our son, James, did end up in one of the nation’s top physics programs, something he had previously thought he’d have to go to a giant university to get; there are happy endings, you know).  Which one is right for you?

I’ll wager that you’d be happy at more than a dozen of these schools. By the time you graduate from one, you’ll be convinced that you could not have made a better choice anywhere.

You’re not too late to start the process of college consideration; but you do need to get going soon.  College application deadlines for early decision come quickly when you’re a senior, and the schools want your apps before December 1 (or November, or October!).  Plus, next summer would be a great time to visit some of these schools.

I did not attend any of these schools, though I was heavily recruited by Lawrence University (then College), in Appleton, Wisconsin, where our younger son is now (they offered me a chance to play football, in a Division II school, which was awfully attractive).  I also would be happy to discuss my undergraduate school, the University of Utah, with you, or my graduate schools and their undergraduate programs, the University of Arizona and George Washington University.

I’ll be happy to tell you what I know about other schools I know a little about, too — the University of Texas-Dallas, where our older son graduated, or Georgetown, or American,  or Howard, in Washington, D.C., or what little I know of the ivies, or California schools like the Claremont Colleges — all excellent places to study, and get a great life from.

Take a look at the CTCL program.

It’s time you started thinking about what’s out there in the world, and how you’re going to prepare to live a great life.

Calculus as fun

October 1, 2009

I used to love math tests.  And math homework. When I knew the stuff, I’d start hearing Bach in my head and get into a rhythm of solving the problems (though I didn’t know it was Bach until much later — “Aha!  That’s the math solving music!”).

But eventually my brain ossified, before I got calculus into it.  I believe (this is belief, not science) that at some point rather early in life our brains lose the ability to pick up new math ideas.  If you don’t have most of the stuff you need already in there, you won’t get it.  I frittered my math ability away in the library and traveling with the debate squad, not knowing that I’d never be able to get it back.  In my dual degree program, I ran into that wall where I had five years worth of credits, but was still a year away from the biology degree with a tiny handful of core courses for which calculus was a prerequisite.  Worse, I was close to completing a third major.

And I’d failed at calculus four times.

So I graduated instead, didn’t go to grad school in biology.

Earlier this last evening I sat with a couple of new teachers in math at a parents’ night function for seniors.  They commiserated over trying to make math relevant for students.  One said he couldn’t figure out how history teachers survive at all with no mass of problems to solve at the end of each chapter (that was refreshing).

It’s a constant problem.

Then I ran into this story by Jennifer Ouellette at Cocktail Party Physics:


Students need to feel inspired, particularly when it comes to a difficult subject. While I was at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics last year as journalist in residence, I got to know UC-Santa Barbara mathematician Bisi Agboola, who generously shared his own story with me. Bisi was educated in the UK and failed most of his math classes through their equivalent of high school. “I found it dull, confusing and difficult.” As a child, he was determined to find a career where he wouldn’t need any math, finally announcing to his skeptical parents that he would be a woodcutter. He was crushed when they pointed out that he would need to measure the wood.

But one summer he encountered a Time-Life book on mathematics –- Mathematics by David Bergamini -– that offered “an account of the history of some of the main ideas of mathematics, from the Babylonians up until the 1960s, and it captured my imagination and made the subject come alive to me for the very first time.” It changed his mind about this seemingly dry subject. He realized there was beauty in it. He wound up teaching himself calculus, and told me he is convinced most physicists also do this. Today he is a PhD mathematician specializing in number theory, and exotic multidimensional topologies. Ironically, he still doesn’t much like basic arithmetic: “I find it boring.”

Jennifer is writing a book on calculus, how it’s real-life stuff.  I hope it’s a great success.  I hope it works.  I hope some student is inspired to get calculus before her or his brain gets ossified.

More information:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Decrepit Old Fool.

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Heads up on student loans

June 20, 2009

Short note from Di Mortui Sunt:

Got student loans?  Did you know that the Federal government is changing the rules on the direct loans they give to students?  The two big changes are debt forgiveness, for those who meet certain guidelines, and new income based repayment plans.  If you’re about to get loans, you might want to wait til after July 10, when the new rules go into effect as the interest rate will be dropping and the size of the Pell Grant will increase.  Overview here and the official site here.

Official information from the U.S. Department of Education here.  You may want to check with the financial aid office at your college, too.  Gather ye lots of information while the gathering is good.

Looking for a great college to launch your life?

August 19, 2008

High school seniors should be firming up their choices for colleges to apply to in the next couple of months — early decision applications will be due in November for some schools.

Students looking for a great college should consider looking at one or more of the 40 outstanding small colleges and universities that have banded together in a group known as Colleges that Change Lives. Each is an outstanding institution that has a reputation for taking good kids and helping them transform into great people.

There are more than a dozen events planned around the nation where a score or more of the colleges will show up in one location to talk to high school students and their parents. You really should consider attending one of these events if one is close by.

We attended an event in Houston last year. Our younger son, James, eventually chose Lawrence University, a school he knew almost nothing about before that afternoon.  (It appears Lawrence recovered its sanity after recruiting me to play football back in, uh, a few years ago.  I didn’t attend Lawrence, and I’m greatly amused that my son will.)

Here, stolen directly from CTCL’s website, is the list of cities where events are scheduled this fall, and an interactive map. Clicking on the hot links will take you to CTCL’s site with details about the meet ups.

Colleges That Change Lives, 2008 events


Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL [2]
Columbus, OH
Denver, CO
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Kansas City, KS
Latin America
Los Angeles, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Nashville, TN
New York, NY [2]
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, OR
Raleigh-Durham, NC
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA [2]
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO
Tulsa, OK
Washington, D.C. [2]

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