Four Elis win Gates scholarships

Four Yale students were awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship this year for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England, the Office of Fellowship Programs announced Monday.

The highly competitive Gates Cambridge Scholarship was founded in 2000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and this year, the scholarship was given to 37 American college students from a pool of 752 applicants. Yale’s four Gates scholars include two current seniors — Rachel Boyd ’09 and Bill Schmidt ’09 — as well as two alumni, Usha Chilukuri ’07 and Vadim Tsipenyuk ’07.

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Yale, along with Northwestern University, had the most American Gates scholars this year. Yale had as many Gates winners this year as all of the other Ivy League schools combined; Columbia had two winners, while Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania had one each.

While the number of scholarships awarded to students from any university is subject to fluctuation, Yale U.K. and Irish Fellowships Associate Director Katherine Dailinger said, this year’s high number of Gates scholars may be a reflection of the University’s emphasis on service, which is a key quality for selecting scholarship winners.

“It’s that dedication to service that matches very well with the tradition of service that Yale has always had,” she said. “In some ways, I think it is not terribly surprising that there should be so many students … at Yale that the Gates is looking for.”

Last year, three Yale students received Gates Scholarships, while nine Yalies won in 2007. Still, this year marked a sharp drop in the total number of Gates scholarships offered compared to last year, when 45 American students received the Gates.

Boyd, a double major in the history of art and Italian language and literature and a Yale Journalism Scholar, is a former editor for the News and currently works as an intern for the Yale University Art Gallery.

At Cambridge, Boyd will seek a master’s of philosophy degree in the history of art and architecture, focusing her studies on the connections between British neoclassical architecture and the artistic heritage of Rome. After having studied in Italy for a semester, Boyd’s research will allow her to explore firsthand the English approach to neoclassical art, said one of her recommenders for the scholarship, history of art professor Edward Cooke.

Schmidt, a double major in psychology and English, is the vice president of the Mock Trial Association, captain of the Ballroom Dance Team and a former staff reporter for the News. His interests lie at the intersections of psychology and law, and his research and job experience have taken him from a criminal court in Argentina to a prison in New Haven to a legal firm in Atlanta. At Cambridge, he intends to pursue an master’s of philosophy in criminology.

Kristi Lockhart, a lecturer in the psychology department who taught Schmidt, said the program at Cambridge is a perfect match for him, since it integrates the various fields in which he has been involved.

Chilukuri — who is currently working at a litigation firm in New York — will pursue an master’s of philosophy in early modern history at Cambridge. Her interests lie in copyright law, which she will study in the context of English history in the 17th century.

A history major at Yale, Chilukuri devoted her time in New Haven to volunteering in the local public schools, serving as editor in chief of the nonprofit magazine Our Education and participating in Ballet Folklórico Méxicano de Yale.

Chilukuri’s ability to scrutinize information and maximize her intellectual potential will serve her well as she moves forward in studying the law, said her senior thesis advisor, history professor Keith Wrightson.

Tsipenyuk will leave his job as an investment banker in New York City for the hallowed halls of Cambridge with plans to obtain a master of philosophy in bioscience enterprise. At Yale, he obtained a double major in biomedical engineering and economics. Outside the classroom, he served as a member of the varsity fencing team and was also involved in the Yale Scientific Magazine. After completing his degree from Cambridge, Tsipenyuk said he plans to work at a private equity firm with the eventual intention of dealing with technology policy in government.

Any international Yalies who receive the Gates scholarship will be announced in April, Dailinger said.

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