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Three from MIT Named Rhodes, Marshall Scholars


Courtesy of Pardis C. Sabeti, Helen Lin--The Tech, Courtesy of Martin J. Gilkes
Pardis C. Sabeti '97, Ramy A. Arnaout '97, Martin J. Gilkes '97

By Carina Fung
Staff Reporter

MIT garnered one Rhodes and two Marshall Scholars this year. Pardis C. Sabeti '97 was among 32 Rhodes Scholars named this year, and Ramy A. Arnaout '97 and Martin J. Gilkes '97 were awarded two of the 40 Marshall Scholarships.

"The Rhodes Scholarship offers its recipients the opportunity [to spend] a fully-funded two or three years at Oxford University," said Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Lawrence J. Vale, who advises MIT students applying for Rhodes Scholarships.

"I'm really excited," Sabeti said. "It still hasn't sunk in yet." Sabeti said that she plans to spend her years at Oxford studying human studies, which incorporates elements of psychology, medicine, anthropology, and sociology, among other fields.

"I'm going to medical school afterwards. I think I might be going into medical education or possibly a combination of policy and medicine," Sabeti said.

While at MIT, Sabeti started the Freshman Leadership Program after her work with race relations. Sabeti, a biology major originally from Orlando, Florida, is Class of 1997 president and a teaching assistant. She also plays on the varsity tennis team.

"Wherever Pardis Sabeti goes, good things happen. Bureaucracy seems to melt away in her presence. Hers is a gentle confidence that never seems to cross into arrogance," said Vale, who has known Sabeti since her sophomore year.

Arnaout, Gilkes win Marshall

The Marshall differs from the Rhodes in that "there is a strict 4.7 grade point average cut-off, since the Marshall more strongly emphasizes scholarship than the Rhodes," said Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs, who organizes the application process for the Marshall Scholarship for MIT students.

Marshall Scholars can study at any of the universities in England, not just at Oxford, Hobbs said. Some scholars use the opportunity to complete a second bachelor's degree in a subject largely unrelated to their undergraduate major, while others use it as a chance to undertake a graduate school degree, Vale said.

Arnaout, a biology major from Chestnut Hill, is a former editor in chief of The Tech and a current senior editor. "I've never been on the receiving end of the press before," Arnaout said.

Arnaout also has done research with Nobel laureate and Professor of Biology Philip A. Sharp.

Arnaout will study politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford for a second bachelor's degree before going on to medical school. He is interested in the politics of health care and plans a career in medicine and government.

"To quote a friend of mine, you can either put something like this on the shelf, or you can use it," Arnaout said. "I plan to use it."

"The Marshall [Scholarship] is a great honor. I look forward to the chance to live and study in England, and I hope to make as much use of it as I can," Arnaout said.

Gilkes, a materials science major from Plano, Texas, plans to study for a master's degree in materials, economics, and management at Oxford. Gilkes has played varsity basketball for MIT, served as class treasurer, and was the undergraduate representative to the Committee on Academic Performance.

"The Marshall award carries with it a great deal of opportunity to succeed both professionally and personally," Gilkes said.

England also has a long tradition of excellence in music, theater, and the arts as well as education, he said. "London should be a great place to live and study for a couple of years," he said.

Professionally, Gilkes would like to work as a consultant in Western Europe, America, and Japan. He would eventually like to either be self-employed or work as a technology strategy manager for a high technology company.

"Personally, I would like to start programs such as the MIT Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science program at other universities across the country to increase minority representation in post-secondary engineering and science programs," Gilkes said.

Scholarship competition intense

The decisions for both scholarships come after intense review, since there are several levels to the application process, Vale said.

A complete application describing the student's academic and extracurricular lives and interests is reviewed by first by an MIT selection committee, he said. Students selected by this committee go on to further interviews at either a state or regional level, Hobbs said.

The interviews were "very intense because when you get to that level, there are a lot of qualified people," Sabeti said.

Questions posed during the Rhodes interview covered topics ranging from history to ethics to literature, Sabeti said. The interviewers seemed interested in "knowledge of the world and our convictions," she said.

The interviews are "very much an attempt to make sure that you're just not going through the motions of education - that you're actually thinking about what you're doing," she added.

"The interview process was a lot of fun," Arnaout said. "It was a chance to meet some very exciting, searingly brilliant, and very impressive people I would never have met otherwise. I was impressed," he said.

MIT sends many on to awards

This year, MIT endorsed the applications of eight students for the Rhodes Scholarship, of whom six were selected to move beyond the first round of interviews in their home states, Vale said. "The 75 percent interview rate is quite remarkable and seems a clear signal that more MIT students should take the initiative to apply," he said.

Seven students were endorsed for the Marshall scholarship, Hobbs said. "Four of MIT's seven applicants were interviewed this year, which is an incredible percentage," he said. Of these, two were recommended to the Ambassador's Advisory Council in Washington, which makes the final selection of about 40 scholars, he said.

Both Rhodes and Marshall candidates are from the same pool, since nearly everyone who applies for a Marshall also applies for a Rhodes and vice versa, Hobbs said. "It is surprising how orthogonal the selections for the two programs are, with usually only a couple of overlaps a year," he added.

"The applicant pool for both scholarships was very diverse in terms of backgrounds, interests, and personalities, but all share outstanding academic records coupled with evidence of extracurricular energy," Vale said.

The judges for the Marshall Scholars seek depth of scholarship, distinction of intellect and character, and leadership potential, Hobbs said. Since the Marshall Scholarship program is a degree program, candidates are expected to earn a degree in the United Kingdom. The expectation is that scholars will return to the United States and "become prominent in their professions and undertakings," he said.

"As a group, this year's MIT applicants to both scholarships were the strongest I have seen in several years. Many of our candidates proved themselves nationally competitive for the award. I can only wish that more would think to apply," Vale said.

Dan McGuire contributed to the reporting in this story.