Four students have been selected by the University of Michigan to be official nominees for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, which provide full funding for graduate study in the United Kingdom.
This years nominees include Public Policy senior Nadine Jawad, recent LSA alum Jonathan Williams, University alum Yiran Liu and University alum Lauren Shepard.
According to the LSA Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships the Rhodes Scholarship, which was established in 1902, covers 2 to 3 years of post-bachelor’s education at the University of Oxford. Thirty-two scholars from the United States are selected each year, and 25 University of Michigan alumni have received the scholarship since its conception, including Abdul El-Sayed, current 2018 gubernatorial candidate for Michigan.
The Marshall Scholarship, on the other hand, covers one to two years of graduate study at a wide variety of U.K. academic institutions including Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and others. Up to 40 scholars are selected each year based on academic merit, leadership and ambassadorial potential, Marshall’s main three criteria for recipients.
ONSF Director Henry Dyson, who worked very closely with the four nominees during the application and selection process, said these two scholarships represent the pinnacle of academic funding in the U.K.
“As I always say, (Rhodes and Marshall) are like the Rose Bowl of (U.K. scholarships),” Dyson said. “There’s an emphasis on leadership and cosmopolitanism and well-roundedness and service that’s built into the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.”
For Jawad, vice president of Central Student Government, the nomination for both Rhodes and Marshall scholarships reinforces her commitment to migrant and refugee studies from an international health viewpoint. A first-generation student and the daughter of a Lebanese refugee, Jawad said she heard a lot from her family growing up about what life is like as a refugee. However, she said she wanted to look at the issue in a more academic setting through graduate work.
Jawad was also named the 27th University student to win the Truman Scholarship, a public service award for third-year students last year. She said while the rigor and intensity of the application process for Rhodes and Marshall was similar to Truman, being awarded the nomination for Rhodes and Marshall after Truman was a great honor.
“I was still very shocked that they chose to nominate me for both (Rhodes and Marshall), but it was a little bit different because this time around, I felt so much emotion and appreciation for the people who believed in me because a lot of people are like ‘Oh you already have one. Why would you want to apply for another?’ but I think that people who nominated me recognize that they’re two very different opportunities so I’m just very humbled and honestly grateful for the people who chose to nominate me,” Jawad said.
Williams, while at the University, dedicated himself to student ministries, leading small Bible study groups and cancer research. When he found out he was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship, he planned to pursue a Ph.D. in oncology at Oxford, with the hopes of becoming a physician scientist and completing his M.D. in the United States when he comes back. He said being selected by the University alone is humbling, and he’s excited to move forward in the competition.
“It was really quite an honor when I found out, considering that I know only so many students applying within the University of Michigan have the opportunity to be nominated so I was pretty excited to be honored with that opportunity and going forward, I’m excited to be able to represent the University of Michigan in the competition,” Williams said. “It’s really quite a privilege to get to this point and I’m quite happy to make it this far.”
Also in the field of science, Liu graduated from the University last April with a degree in cellular and molecular biology. While at the University, she participated in years of biological research, co-authored publications and conducted summer research at the Mayo Clinic. She was also a peer mentor at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center throughout her undergraduate career. After applying last year for the scholarships and not being nominated, she said this year was an amazing and humbling surprise.
Liu said she hopes to bridge the gap between natural science and social justice to examine how medicine has impacted disadvantaged members of society.
“Science and medicine have historically been deeply harmful to marginalized communities, they’ve often upheld injustice and oppression and so coming from both sides … I hope to really be pursuing a synthesis of those two disciplines and of those two communities,” Liu said.
Shepard, the fourth nominee for Rhodes and Marshall, dedicated her time at the University to studying civil rights law. She contributed to civil rights litigation documents for the online Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse at the University of Michigan Law School, was an associate justice for CSG judiciary and served on the Office of Student Conflict Student Advisory Board. She echoed Liu’s sentiments about synthesizing disciplines and, like Williams, plans on pursuing another degree after graduate study if she were to be awarded a scholarship.
“My goals are to combine the certain social science theories that I get through Rhodes or Marshall with a J.D. and then litigate prison reform or criminal justice reform cases,” Shepard said.
The application processes for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships are long and require a certain amount of concentration that demonstrates commitment to the candidates’ future goals. After inquiry emails about information sessions are sent out to students across campus, about 150 students came to the sessions this year. Students then met with Dyson and other members of the nominating committee to figure out if their resumes and goals were aligned with the scholarships. After submitting written applications, which include multiple letters of recommendation and a personal statement, the nominees are chosen by the University.
After the nominations are submitted by the University, a paper cut is made and the remaining nominees from all over the country go to regional selection committees for final interviews. Each scholarship will receive about 1000 nominations, according to Dyson.
Both Jawad and Shepard said the application experience allowed them to explore their future opportunities and make some decisions as to what their goals are.
“No matter the outcome, it’s always a good experience to be able to soul search and think through your future and yourself and your identity while you’re going through these applications so no matter the outcome, it’s already been a great experience so I’m thankful for it,” Jawad said.
Dyson said this year’s nominees represent the highest ideals of academic institutions and are outstanding students in terms of their academics, their leadership skills and their character.
“These scholarships provide a fabulous opportunity for individuals who are committed to … ‘fighting the world’s fight’ … (and) improving the lives of others,” Dyson said. “They are interested, not only, in pursuing their own careers but pursuing paths that will make the world a better place and I think that’s a set of ideals that really represent higher education at its finest.”