Jan. 6, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 7

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    Four College students receive top scholarships

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    For the second year in a row, four College students have garnered the most prestigious British scholarships––the Rhodes Scholarship and the British Marshall Scholarship.

    Recent graduate Jesse Kharbanda was one of 32 American students to receive the Rhodes Scholarship last month, bringing Chicago’s total number of Rhodes scholars to 35. One week later, seniors Sarah Bagby and David Haglund and recent graduate Rob Chenault were awarded British Marshall Scholarships, making them three of 40 American students to earn this honor. [marshalls] by lloyd degraneThis is the first time three Chicago students have received the scholarship in one year, bringing Chicago’s total number of Marshall winners to 15.

    “Our students gained the confidence to manage the tough competition for these scholarships and win,” said Katie Nash, Dean of Students in the College. “Their success comes from the experiences they have had in our College. Research experience and close mentoring relationships with faculty prepare Chicago students to compete successfully.”

    All four students plan to study at the University of Oxford.

    Kharbanda, 22, will study economic theory and environmental science. He is particularly interested in the potential effects of global warming on small-scale farmers in the developing world.

    Eventually, Kharbanda would like to pursue a career in public policy or academics, through which he intends to conduct research and advocate environmental policies both in the United States and in the developing world.

    Kharbanda said Oxford is an ideal venue for studying the economics of developing countries because of the prevalence of economists working on Asia and Africa. “By studying at Oxford, I also will get a chance to interact with students analyzing development issues through different lenses: sociology, anthropology, political science, history and economics,” he said.

    “That broad multidisciplinary exposure ought to make me more sensitive to different policy approaches in my career in public service.”

    Kharbanda received a College Honors Scholarship and graduated Phi Beta Kappa last June with a double concentration in economics and environmental studies. For his bachelor’s thesis, he conducted research on the economic causes of groundwater depletion in Punjab, India.

    “Jesse’s senior project was meaningful to him because of his roots in India. But he also saw it as an important economics problem that he could begin to solve. The challenges he set for himself were at the level of a Ph.D. project,” said Theodore Steck, Chairman of Environmental Studies. “I believe Jesse wants to change the world.”

    During college, Kharbanda worked to improve energy conservation on campus and created the student-run Green Campus Initiative. He designed and taught a before-school environmental science course at Ray School for two years. Since 1991, Kharbanda has produced a total of five historical documentaries, one of which received the PBS Documentary Award. [kharbanda]During his leisure time, he can be found playing the cello or learning how to kayak.

    The Rhodes Scholarship was established in the will of Cecil J. Rhodes and was initiated upon his death in 1902. The scholarship provides tuition and a living-expenses stipend to 32 Americans for two years of study in any field at Oxford.

    Bagby, 21, would like to apply her Marshall Scholarship to study biochemistry at Oxford. She plans to explore the internal communication of single cells and how malfunctions in that communication can lead to diseases such as cancer and cholera. She hopes her research will lead to the development of therapies for these and other similarly devastating diseases.

    Bagby, who also is a 1999 Goldwater scholar, will graduate Phi Beta Kappa next June with bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and philosophy. As a student in the College, she has served as a teaching assistant for undergraduate biology courses, an experience that has motivated her to pursue a career in teaching as well as research.

    “Challenging my students stimulates me to challenge myself,” said Bagby. “And coming up with new ways of explaining what we know helps me to find new questions to ask about what we don’t know.”

    One of the vice presidents of the College Bowl quiz team, which is ranked first nationally, Bagby also tutors children at the Blue Gargoyle and plays the saxophone for the University Wind Ensemble.

    “Sarah is an extraordinarily capable student,” said Susan Art, Associate Dean of Students in the College and Scholarship Adviser. “Her understated wit and penetrating intelligence––which made her such a formidable member of the College Bowl team––will serve her well at Oxford.”

    Chenault, 23, plans to study classics at Oxford. After pursuing a doctorate in classics, he would like to explore ways to make Greek and Latin available to more students at a younger age. He hopes to one day establish his own educational academy that will include training in Greek and Latin––subjects he believes provide great joy while training young minds in interdisciplinary subjects.

    Chenault credits Chicago’s Classics Department with kindling his love for the subject. “When people ask me what there is for a classicist but to teach classics, I say nothing would please me more than to interest others in the field that has given me such pleasure,” said Chenault. “I look forward to the chance to introduce beginning students to the joys of Greek and Latin, and I hope to make a few converts myself.”

    Chenault discovered classics during his third year in the College, after he decided to concentrate in political science. His enthusiasm for the subject combined with the support of his classics professors led Chenault to declare a double concentration. “Rob made up for lost time by his extraordinary linguistic facility,” said Art. “His background in political science focuses his approach to ancient history and offers an unusual perspective for a classicist.”

    Chenault graduated with honors last June, receiving bachelor’s degrees in both classics and political science. He serves as a tutor and mentor to students at Chicago’s Midtown Educational Foundation, and he has designed and taught an adult GED class at the Association House of Chicago. Chenault also was an active member of the College Bowl team.

    Haglund, 21, plans to study English literature at Oxford. Eventually, he would like to write and edit for such literary publications as The New York Review of Books and New Republic. He also plans to write a biography of Wallace Stevens. But first, he would like to be an essayist.

    Haglund will receive his bachelor’s degree in English next June. “David’s approach to literature is broad-based and draws on his expansive knowledge of many disciplines,” said Art. “He is as close to a modern-day ‘man of letters’ as any student I have known over the past decade.”

    While at the University, Haglund has written essays for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. He also has served as a producer and writer for the Interactive Division of the National Geographic Society, creating geographic lessons on the Internet, which Yahoo! recently selected as a pick-of-the-week Web site. A program coordinator for the Robert Taylor Boys & Girls Clubs in Chicago, Haglund worked with young students on a Chicago guidebook that was based on their field trips together.

    An avid guitar player, Haglund composes and sings his own songs. He also has played intramural basketball, soccer and football.

    Haglund said he is grateful to all of the people who helped him find his way to England––including his family, teachers and friends. “I also must thank Wayne Booth (the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature) for feeding my growing passion for literature and thoughtfulness and then assisting that pursuit as perhaps no one else has. I’ve been very lucky,” said Haglund.

    The British Marshall Scholarship was founded by an act of Parliament in 1953 and commemorates the humane ideals of the European Recovery Programme, or Marshall Plan. The scholarship is funded by the British government and encourages long-lasting ties between the United States and the United Kingdom. The scholarship provides tuition and a living stipend to intellectually distinguished Americans for two years of study in any field at any British university.

    Don Lamb, Chairman of the British Scholarships Committee and Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, said the efforts begun by Art and Dennis Hutchinson, Professor in Social Sciences and Master of the New Collegiate Division, have strengthened the application process for Chicago students. During the last decade, Art and Hutchinson have increased students’ exposure to and interest in the British scholarships. In addition, they have worked with the British Scholarships Committee to create mentoring relationships with applicants.

    “We try to discover qualities in our students that don’t necessarily come out in written applications. There is no doubt that the students who apply are absolutely outstanding, and we want to help make sure that comes out in our letters of endorsement and during their interviews,” Lamb said.

    “It’s very uplifting to contribute to this process,” said Lamb. “Seeing these young people, I feel like the future of the world is in good hands.”