Snell, Stoddard secure Marshall Scholarships

Two Yale seniors will continue their education across the pond next year as the University’s latest recipients of the world-renowned Marshall Scholarship.

Sabrina Snell ’08 and Mary “Cassie” Stoddard ’08 were among about 40 American students awarded the Scholarship, which funds two years of study at the graduate, or sometimes undergraduate, level at a college or university in the United Kingdom. Winners can pursue any field of study.

Snell who is pursuing a joint BA/MA degree in anthropology, says she plans to study international development at the University of Sussex. Stoddard is an ecology and evolutionary biology major and a 2007 Goldwater Scholar who says she plans to use her Marshall Scholarship to earn an advanced degree in biological science at the University of Cambridge.

The scholarships offer Snell and Stoddard the unique opportunity to meet other talented American students while taking full advantage of Britain’s finest academic resources, said Kate Dailinger, associate director for U.K. and Irish fellowships at Yale’s Office of International Education Fellowship Programs.

“The Marshall Scholarship is just an absolutely wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It is one of the most competitive scholarships out there. I couldn’t be more delighted that they were selected for this wonderful honor.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Elis typically do well in such scholarship competitions, which he partially credits to the IEFP office for their assistance during the application process.

“I think every year Yale is very competitive when it comes to Marshall and Rhodes scholarships,” he said. “To have multiple Marshalls this year is a difficult achievement, and I know it reflects both the quality of our students and the guidance they get at the IEFP office.”

Through extensive research into bird color, Stoddard developed a computer program for analyzing bird colors as other birds see them. Birds are sensitive to a wider range of light than humans, a feature that has vast evolutionary implications for the physical colors of their feathers, she explained.

“I found out about this phenomenon freshman year and have been hooked ever since,” she said.

Stoddard, who also plays violin in the Yale Symphony Orchestra, said her interest in evolutionary biology and ornithology began in a freshman seminar, but she attributes her early interest in birds to her “grandma and mom, who remain the best backyard birders I know.”

At Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, Stoddard will be among researchers at the cutting-edge of avian color science. She said she hopes to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor of ornithology.

Stoddard’s dean, Joel Silverman of Morse College, said she is one of the most accomplished students he has met in his eight years of teaching.

“Cassie is extremely talented and very well-rounded, yet she is quite modest about her many achievements,” he wrote in an e-mail. “To me, Cassie represents the promise and the fulfillment of the Yale experience.”

Snell, originally from Washington, D.C., speaks fluent Spanish and has traveled throughout Latin America, primarily to conduct cultural anthropological research. She said the gap year she spent in Bolivia between high school and college, during which the country experienced a coup d’etat, inspired her to study anthropology at Yale.

“It raised a lot of questions for me about how different groups of people interact with their society and their government and organize themselves politically,” she said. “My time abroad led me to take things I was learning in the classroom and try to tease them out in those countries and to take the things I learned in those countries and try to tease them out in the classroom.”

Snell said she is excited for the next step in pursuing this interest at Sussex’s Institute for Development Studies — one of the world’s leading centers for the study of economics, history, politics and social anthropology as they apply to globalization and international development.

“She is a kind, considerate, hardworking and talented scholar who has contributed to her local environments at Yale and in Branford, in addition to being deeply involved in scholarship and activism in other locations around the world,” Branford College Dean Daniel Tauss wrote in an e-mail.

The Marshall Scholarships, worth about $60,000 apiece, were established by the British government in 1953 to bring American students to British universities. Past winners include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Thomas Friedman and Daniel Yergin ’68.

Snell and Stoddard will be joined in Britain next year by fellow Elis Ben Eidelson ’08 and Isra Bhatty LAW ’10, who will be studying at the University of Oxford on the Rhodes Scholarships they were awarded last month.

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