Four seniors win Marshall Scholarship

Four Yale students — Rachel Denison ’06, Alexander Nemser ’06, Sarah Stillman ’06 and Daniel Weeks ’06 — will travel to Oxford University next year as recipients of the 2006 Marshall Scholarship.

The only other school sending as many Marshall Scholars to Great Britain this year is Stanford University. The seniors, who will head to Oxford along with three of their Yale classmates who were named Rhodes Scholars, were among 43 national Marshall Scholars announced last Monday.

The scholarships, which are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, extracurricular accomplishments and interviews, fully fund at least two years of postgraduate study at universities in the United Kingdom.

The winning students plan to pursue studies in fields as diverse as neuroscience and Russian poetry.

Denison, a cognitive science major and member of Phi Beta Kappa, said she plans to study neuroscience at Oxford, focusing on the study of attention, awareness and perception.

“It’s such a great opportunity to study in England among a great group of people,” Denison said. “The program is perfect for my interests. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Denison said she hopes to pursue a career in neuroscience research.

At Yale, Denison has served as executive producer of YTV News and as co-coordinator of Mind Matters, an organization dedicated to mental health awareness. She is also the recipient of the Bates Summer Traveling Fellowship, the Wendy Blanning Memorial Fellowship and the Yale Club of St. Louis scholarship.

Morse College Master Frank Keil, Denison’s longtime advisor, said he is confident that Denison will excel in her studies at Oxford.

“She’s a great student, outstanding in all respects,” Keil said. “She’s been such a success in the cognitive science program, and I’m certain that she’ll be a great success wherever she goes.”

Nemser, a literature major whose poetry has been published in The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly, said he plans to study European Literature at Oxford. Nemser placed first in last year’s Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest, and one of his poems will appear in a movie directed by Robert DeNiro next year.

The Cambridge resident, whose primary academic interest is early 20th century Russian poetry, said he is looking forward to his studies at Oxford.

“It’s like somebody giving you a free ride to a great library for a couple of years,” he said.

Nemser said he hopes to continue writing poetry and perhaps pursue a Ph.D. in literature from an American university after Oxford.

English professor Leslie Brisman said Nemser is one of the most motivated students he has taught.

“Alexander is a wonderful student and poet,” he said. “He has shown a mastery that ordinarily only comes with decades of deep brooding over the texts he deals with.”

Stillman, who is pursuing joint bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Yale, will travel to Oxford to study social and cultural anthropology with an emphasis on globalization and its effects on women. At the moment, she hopes to focus on South China and the phenomenon of young women factory workers.

“I’m particularly interested in the gender impacts of corporate globalization,” Stillman said.

Stillman, a native of Washington, D.C., is editor of MANIFESTA, Yale’s interdisciplinary feminist journal, and serves as co-head of the Student Legal Action Movement. Her off-campus activities include work with migrant factory laborers in South China and with returned refugees in rural Guatemala. Stillman is also the author of the book “Soul Searching: A Girl’s Guide to Finding Herself,” which has sold over 40,000 copies across the globe.

In the long run, Stillman said she hopes to combine her dedication to civil rights with her passion for writing.

“I’d love to pursue a career in human rights journalism,” Stillman said.

Weeks, a political science and international studies major, plans to study political theory at Oxford. He currently serves as a board member of Americans for Campaign Reform, a group he helped to start in 2003, and as director of the DemocracyFund Political Action Committee. Weeks also founded the nonprofit group Students for Clean Elections.

“I have been very invested in practical political advocacy here in the U.S.,” he said. “My plan is to focus on modern political theory and hopefully to apply that to politics in the U.S.”

Weeks, who is also a member of the Baker’s Dozen singing group, said he plans to pursue political advocacy and perhaps run for elected office once he leaves Oxford.

John Rauh, director of Americans for Campaign Reform, which is based out of Weeks’ home state of New Hampshire, said he thinks Weeks shows great promise.

“Dan is going to make quite a contribution in the public arena,” he said. “He is very modest and blessed with many intellectual talents.”

The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most selective distinctions for U.S. students. While application statistics for this year were unavailable, 871 students applied for the 43 scholarships that were awarded last year.

This year, one student at Harvard University and two at Princeton University were awarded the scholarship. Since the Marshall Scholarship was first offered in 1954, Yale has produced 101 Marshall Scholars, the third highest number of any university. Harvard and Princeton have graduated 239 and 112 Marshall Scholars, respectively.

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