Three from Yale win top scholarships: two Rhodes and one Marshall

Two undergraduates and a Law School alumnus will be studying in England next year, having received one of the highest academic honors available to college students.

Senior Helen Jack and Law School graduate Ronan Farrow have been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and senior Sophia Veltfort has received a Marshall Scholarship.

The trio includes those who want to improve human rights, help the mentally ill, and study literature and writing, respectively. The prize-winners’ profiles follow:

Rhodes Scholars

Among the most well known and coveted of awards for international study, Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 at the bequest of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. The award provides all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England to those students who best exemplify "academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, and leadership potential."

Helen JackHelen Jack of Saybrook College wants to work to help homeless psychotics in Accra, Ghana, as well as heroin addicts in New Haven. The advocate for global health plans to use her Rhodes Scholarship to leverage her experiences in clinical research and patient care to develop policy and services for the needy around the world.

“These needy citizens of our world require an advocate, someone who will treat them with respect, understand barriers to their recovery, and push to restructure addiction and mental health care,” the Hanover, New Hampshire, resident wrote in a personal statement to the Rhodes committee.

Jack, a double major in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and international studies, plans to work towards a Master of Science degree in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford before attending medical school.

Already she is writing policy briefs for Ghana’s Parliamentary Subcommittee on Health, based on interviews she conducted at psychiatric hospitals during a seven-week research project in the country this summer.

She has worked as a volunteer for several advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, where she communicated with New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, and Physicians for Human Rights, helping with a campaign to increase U.S. support for global health initiatives.

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow, a 2009 graduate of Yale Law School, may be just shy of his 24th birthday but he is already a veteran human rights activist and global ombudsman for the disenfranchised and victims of political violence.

From 2001, when he was 14, to 2009 he was a UNICEF spokesperson for youth in Nigeria, Sudan, and Angola. He currently serves as a special adviser to Hillary Clinton and is the director of the U.S. State Department’s Global Youth Issues office.

At age 15, Farrow became the youngest person to graduate from Bard College, where his studies focused on biology, philosophy, and political science. Farrow was accepted at Yale Law School at age 16, but deferred attendance to work as special adviser to former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke. After graduating from the Law School, he continued working for Holbrooke, serving two years as the State Department’s special adviser for humanitarian and NGO affairs in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As a journalist writing in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, among other publications, Farrow has exposed the complicity of the Chinese government in the genocide in Dafur and has taken the U.N. Human Rights Council to task for not condemning Sudan’s rampage of ethnic cleansing in Dafur. He has also criticized the U.S. for supporting the Ethiopian campaign of terror against its own ethnic-Somali population. He has appeared as a frequent commentator on major television networks and as an expert witness before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

Farrow proposes to use his Rhodes to pursue a D.Phil. in international development at Oxford.

Marshall Scholar

The Marshall Scholarships were established in 1953 as a British gesture of thanks to the United States for the assistance received after World War II under the Marshall Plan. Financed by the British government, the highly competitive scholarships provide an opportunity for American students who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership to continue their studies for two to three years at a British university.

Sophia VeltfortSophia Veltfort of Calhoun College, an English major, is already well-launched on at least one track of her future career. Her non-fiction piece, “Missing,” was recently accepted for publication by The Harvard Review, an honor considered a feat for even the most accomplished writer. The autobiographical essay, which she wrote as a class assignment for a seminar she had with Yale writer-in-residence Anne Fadiman, also won the Wright Prize, the highest undergraduate distinction in the Department of English.

In the spring, as her senior project in the writing concentration, she will begin work on her first novel. Her adviser on the project is the novelist and Yale creative writing teacher Michael Cunningham.

While she plans to pursue a career as a writer, Veltfort says she is intent on an academic career as well, and hopes to eventually earn a doctorate in English literature and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.

The young writer cites reading as one of her favorite recreational activities, and counts Virginia Woolf and Leo Tolstoy as the authors she most enjoys. She plays classical and Spanish guitar, supplementing the lessons she had growing up in New York with classes at the Yale School of Music. She also dances, mainly classical ballet.

Veltfort will spend the first year of her Marshall scholarship at Oxford, where she will write a master’s thesis on the “literary portrayal of consciousness.” The following year, while pursuing her M.Phil. at Cambridge, she will write about the cultural context of consciousness.