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Douglas, Poyneer Named 1998 Rhodes Scholars

Janet Hsieh
After demanding final interviews, Lisa A. Poyneer '98 and Christopher Douglas '99 were named Rhodes Scholars, earning the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University.
By Susan Buchman

Christopher Douglas '99 and Lisa A. Poyneer '98 join the list of MITstudents selected as Rhodes scholars, the oldest study abroad grant for American students.

According to Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Lawrence Vale, advisor to MITRhodes candidates, the Rhodes scholarship is "an opportunity for 32 Americans and groups from elsewhere to spend two to three years at Oxford."

The scholarship covers tuition, room, and board and also provides a living stipend.

Scholars face intensive process

After their Rhodes applications were approved by MIT, the two candidates' applications were submitted to their respective home states. After being selected as a state candidate, Poyneer and Douglas advanced to the district selection and were then declared scholars.

Poyneer, a graduate student in computer science from Renton, Wash., spent the past week participating in the final round of interviews for the scholarship.

"I'm totally exhausted from it," Poyneer said.

Poyneer traveled to Seattle last Tuesday and Wednesday for a banquet and a full day of interviews.

Interviews were conducted by a panel of seven members, six of whom are former Rhodes scholars. According to Poyneer, the interviews "weren't easy but they were friendly."

After all the candidates are interviewed they are gathered into a room together to wait while the judges deliberate and choose two students to advance to the district round. The finalists are then announced to the group.

Poyneer said that the two hours she spent with the nine other Washington applicants while the judges conferred were enjoyable.

It was a "really cool bonding experience," Poyneer said.

After Poyneer was chosen to proceed to districts, she went to San Francisco. Eleven students were interviewed in a process similar to the state process, and four students, including Poyneer, were chosen as scholars.

Poyneer had a perfect grade point average as an undergraduate and is committed to increasing the number of women in science and engineering.

While at Oxford, Poyneer will study for a a master of philosophy in linguistics.

Douglas could not be reached for comment.

Stiff competition for the Rhodes

The Rhodes scholarship has an intensive application process, including the submission of five to eight letters of reference. Although there is no minimum grade point average, "we tend to endorse people whose grade point averages are 4.7 or higher although we are open to [GPAs] below that," Vale said.

To qualify for the scholarship, an applicant must be between 18 and 24 years of age and have at least an undergraduate degree by the time he or she enrolls in Oxford.

For the past three years, the Rhodes scholarship committee has required that a university endorse its candidates. Applicants from MIT are interviewed and reviewed by Vale and Dean of Graduate Education Isaac M. Colbert.

"We endorse the vast majority of MIT applicants who approach our committee, and the majority of those are interviewed" by the Rhodes committee, Vale said.

Students can receive either an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree at Oxford.