Two Yale students win Rhodes Scholarships

After being suitemates freshman year, Sunita Puri ’02 and Shayna Strom ’02 will go to Oxford together next fall — as Rhodes Scholars.

Strom, who also won a Marshall Scholarship, and Puri join 30 other college students from around the country in winning the prestigious award.

Harvard produced five Rhodes Scholars this year, the most of any institution, and Yale tied for third behind Harvard and Duke universities.

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said he was glad to see Yalies winning such honors but that the number of Rhodes Scholarships an institution earns is not the only measure of its quality.

“These people have my highest admiration and I congratulate them most heartily, but it wouldn’t take anything away from the candidates to say that there are many other well-qualified students at Yale and many other kinds of virtue and accomplishment,” Brodhead said.

Still, he said that he does rejoice in the Rhodes Scholarships that Yale has won.

“I’m glad to be at a kind of school that has candidates who compete at this high level,” Brodhead said.

Strom, an ethics, politics and economics major from Penn Valley, Pa., said she plans to study urban geography at Oxford.

Strom was co-coordinator of Dwight Hall in 2000 and is former co-coordinator of the Urban Fellows Program.

Although there is a lengthy application process, Strom said she believed success in the competition is based largely on faculty recommendations and on interaction with judges during a short interview.

Strom said her professors and the International Exchange and Fellowships Programs assisted her during the competition.

“Certainly I think it helped that I have close relationships with faculty members here,” Strom said.

Los Angeles native Puri said she thinks her community service work and leadership positions distinguished her from other applicants.

“They really are looking for people who are aware of the world around them,” Puri said.

Puri has done work with issues including domestic violence and eating disorders in India, the United States and England. She said she believes her activism in the fields of anthropology and medicine may also have played a role in her selection.

At Oxford, anthropology major Puri said she plans to further her study of cultural anthropology. She said she also hopes to do work on development studies.

First awarded in 1903 and created by British statesman Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes scholarship allows recipients to study at Oxford for two to three years.

Eight regional committees selected the winners out of 925 applicants from 319 schools all over the country.

The application for a Rhodes Scholarship consists of a written statement, a list of honors and activities, and five to eight faculty recommendations. Candidates must first clear the state level before moving on to the district level.

Puri said she feels she does not deserve all the credit for winning the scholarship.

“[This award] is not just a reflection of me but a reflection of how my professors and friends have invested in me,” Puri said.

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