Only one student from Yale received a Rhodes scholarship for two years of study at Oxford University this fall, marking a five-year low in Rhodes recipients for Yale.
Jarrad Aguirre ’09, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major in Davenport College, was named a Rhodes scholar last week. In comparison, three Princeton University students and two Harvard University students, in addition to one Harvard graduate student, received the Rhodes scholarship, which is considered the world’s most prestigious postgraduate academic scholarship.
But Yale’s decline in winners is not a cause for concern, said Katherine Dailinger, director of United Kingdom and Irish fellowships.
“It is the case that every finalist deserves that scholarship, and unfortunately, in any given district, only two will win it,” she said. “There are Ivy League schools that didn’t have any Rhodes scholars this year; that says nothing about the quality of their students or their institutions.”
“It’s just, unfortunately, the luck of the draw,” she added.
Dailinger noted that in 2006, five Yale students received the Rhodes scholarship, an “extraordinary” phenomenon that will be hard to replicate in future years.
Despite the dip in Yale’s Rhodes winners, Aguirre’s talents, in the words of his academic advisor, “exceed the criteria set for this prestigious award.”
Aguirre, who was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year, is among 32 winners of the Rhodes chosen from 769 applicants nationwide.
During his sophomore year, Aguirre founded Math and Science Familia, a mentorship program that pairs Latino undergraduate students interested in math and science with upperclassmen peers.
Colorado native Aguirre has concentrated his research thus far on disparities in global health care. During the summer before his junior year, he lived in indigenous communities in Peru and researched traditional medicine.
Aguirre said his time in Peru and in Buenos Aires this summer showed him that different communities grapple with the same inequalities in health care access and the same illnesses.
“It speaks to the commonalities between communities that are at a disadvantage,” he said. “It convinced me that health initiatives that are pioneered in one community can be scaled up and be used widely in a variety of different communities, whether they’re indigenous or in the United States.”
Aguirre plans to pursue a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford, with the hopes of one day working as a doctor in underserved communities in South America and the United States, he said.
As a Rhodes Scholar, Aguirre will be admired by his peers and considered a benchmark for future applicants, said Joseph Wolenski, Aguirre’s academic advisor since sophomore year.
“Mr. Aguirre is, without a doubt, among the top five students I have had the opportunity to teach during the past 16 years here at Yale,” he wrote in an e-mail to the News.
“He is a very well-rounded individual with the ability to seamlessly meld politics, biological research, Mexican folk art and ice hockey in a single conversation,” Wolenski said.
Aguirre is the captain of the Davenport College intramural hockey team and a past member of Yale’s club hockey team.
In 2007, two Yale students won Rhodes scholarships; in 2005, three won.