Updated: Dec. 2, 1:22 p.m.
Eleven Yale students were recognized with Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships this year, two of the most prestigious academic awards for study in England.
Last week, Yale students received four of the 32 Rhodes Scholarships awarded to Americans this year — more than any other college in the country. Jordan Konell ’15, Jane Darby Menton ’15, Matthew Townsend ’15 and Gabriel Zucker ’12 were chosen from a pool of 877 American students to attend the University of Oxford for two to four years of fully funded postgraduate study. Additionally, six Yalies were awarded Marshall Scholarships this year — the highest number of Yale winners in over 30 years. Benjamin Daus-Haberle ’12, Edmund Downie ’14, Katherine McDaniel ’14, Sarah Norvell ’15, Miranda Rizzolo ’15 and Rahul Singh ’15 will receive full funding from the British government to study at the U.K. institution of their choice for two to three years, in any field of study. On Dec. 1, Canadian alumnus Benjamin Mappin-Kasirer ’14 was also named to the Rhodes Scholars class of 2015, which is made up of 83 students from across the globe.
While Yale students were especially successful in winning the awards this year, winners interviewed said they experienced shock and disbelief upon finding out they had been selected.
“I don’t know why I got picked, and I think anyone I interviewed with could have gotten picked,” Konell said. “It was an incredibly accomplished, impressive group of people who are all really down-to-earth and doing amazing things.”
Administrators interviewed said Yale students typically make a good showing in national fellowship competitions.
Katherine Dailinger, director for national fellowships at the Yale Center for International and Professional Experience, noted that Yale students have a strong commitment to service. The Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships emphasize service, Dailinger said, attracting many Yale students to apply.
“There are always a great many applicants here for scholarships such as [the Rhodes and Marshall] and this, without taking anything away from those who win, does make a difference to the odds of there being a winner at Yale in any given year,” she said.
However, many winners attributed Yale’s success in these competitions to the comprehensive guidance provided to them by the University.
Rizzolo said the support she received from Dailinger and CIPE was “unbelievably helpful.” Downie echoed this sentiment, saying he could not imagine going through the Marshall or Rhodes application process without Dailinger’s guidance.
Both the Rhodes and the Marshall application processes are known for being particularly strenuous. The initial applications are due in August and interviews continue through the end of November, with several written and interview components. However, recipients interviewed said they were still surprised by aspects of the process.
“The [Rhodes] interview process was not like anything I had experienced before,” Townsend said. “A cocktail party on Friday, followed by a full day of interviews and deliberations from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.”
During the Rhodes interview process, Konell said interviewers were not directly interested in his accomplishments and studies, but instead challenged him to better understand his understanding of race, racial politics, cities and his life experiences.
“It wasn’t so much to see what I’ve done, but to see how I think about what I’ve done, and to see how I think about the things that I care about,” said Konell, who plans to study comparative social policy at Oxford.
Singh, a marksman in the state of Connecticut, said the first four questions of his Marshall interview were not about his field of study, economics, but about pistols. The interviewers were interested in whether he had thought through the ethical implications of his actions beyond his course of study, he said.
Rizzolo, who will study classical acting for the professional theater at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, said Marshall interviewers stressed the ambassadorial component of her application, questioning how funded study in England would allow her to strengthen U.K. –U.S. relations.
“As someone in the arts, I had to approach that question from a different angle than someone studying public policy or the sciences — fields with really pragmatic results,” she said. “I had to justify why I think theater and storytelling are important.”
Although the five Rhodes winners from Yale all received the same scholarship, their intended fields of study differ dramatically.
Townsend, a member of the Yale men’s varsity basketball team, said he has always been interested in food policy and nutrition-related diseases, which is why he plans to study medical anthropology next year.
Konell said he wanted to study in Oxford’s comparative social policy program, which will provide him with a qualitative and quantitative research-based background for understanding the things he cares about.
Following Zucker’s graduation, he conducted fieldwork in Pakistan and Indonesia at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and intends to study social intervention and policy at Oxford before pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, according to the Rhodes Trust website.
Because Oxford’s Modern Middle Eastern Studies program has a strong language component, Menton, a former managing editor for the News, said she preferred it to other similar programs that she looked at the in the U.S. and U.K. She said that because she did not take Arabic at Yale, she wanted a program with intensive Arabic, and most graduate programs either require knowledge of the language in advance, or do not have a strong language component to the degree.
Mappin-Kasirer, a medical student at McGill University, graduated from Yale with a degree in French Literature. According to the Rhodes Trust website, he is interested in humanities as a setting to think about health policy and medical ethics.
While recipients of the Marshall will receive funding to study and live at any British university of their choosing, the majority of this year’s winners from Yale will join the Rhodes scholars studying at Oxford next year.
Rizzolo, who is double-majoring in English and Theater Studies, recently produced the faculty-staged reading of Euripedes’ “Iphigeneia at Aulis.” She will attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art next year to study classical acting for the professional theater. Rizzolo said she spent the summer studying classical theater at another school in the U.K. and really liked the British acting technique.
Singh, an economics and mathematics double-major, will pursue a Master of Science in econometrics and mathematical economics at the London School of Economics before pursuing the MSc in computational statistics and machine learning at University College London.
“Because of this scholarship, I have the opportunity to study something that people in my field don’t usually focus on. I think it will enrich the work I do later on,” he said.
Last year, three Yale students were awarded Rhodes Scholarships, and four Yale graduates received Marshall Scholarships.