Yale Students Win Three Rhodes and Five Marshall Scholarships

This year Yale College seniors won three Rhodes and five Marshall Scholarships, two of the most coveted academic awards for study in Britain.

Nathan Herring, Jessica E. Leight and Chelsea E. Purvis were the winners of Rhodes Scholarships.

Rachel Denison, Daniel Weeks, Alexander Nemser and Sarah Stillman were the recipients of Marshall Scholarships. Herring declined a Marshall Scholarship to accept the Rhodes.

Nathan Herring

Nathan Herring, who grew up on a farm in Marlboro, Vermont, was a top high school football player who continued to play on the team even as he took all the courses for his senior year at nearby Marlboro College. Herring spent his first two years of college at the University of Miami, where he played on the varsity football team and majored in economics. He transferred to Yale and switched his major to psychology, and, while maintaining a 4.0 average, volunteered at a local residence for mentally disturbed youth. “It solidified my desire to work with adolescents,” Herring says of the experience, which led him to develop an outdoor challenge and therapy program for troubled teenagers. Herring is president of his fraternity and has written and illustrated a children’s book following a logger and a mouse as they set about building homes for themselves. Titled “How Mouse Got His House,” the book is “fun visually,” Herring says, and has an inspiring message about surviving homelessness. Herring says of his accomplishments, “I give myself one task to focus on at a time, and I just want to do as well in that task as possible.” He plans to do an M.Phil. in Social Work at Oxford, and hopes to work with disadvantaged adolescents.

Jessica Leight

Jessica Leight, of Northampton, Massachusetts, majors in ethics, politics and economics. Her interests focus on the economics of developing countries, particularly of Latin America. An internship at the Council of Hemispheric Affairs in Washington led to a position as a research fellow. In that capacity, she has spent the past two summers in Chile and Argentina, and she speaks and writes about issues of trade, growth and politics in the developing economies of Latin America. Leight has also spent time in Haiti pursuing her interest in public health. She spent two years as national coordinator for The Student Campaign for Child Survival, a children’s advocacy organization founded at Yale, which now has 20 chapters nationwide. She has served the homeless of New Haven and has successfully campaigned to increase the capacity of city shelters. An accomplished musician, Leight plays piano in a trio and in Friends of Music at Yale. Leight plans to do an M.Phil. in Development Studies at Oxford, with the goal of earning a doctorate. She will spend the coming summer in China to improve her fluency in Chinese. “I could do academic research in Chinese,” she says of her ambitions for the future.

Chelsea Purvis

Chelsea Purvis, from Saratoga, California, is a history major who maintains a perfect grade point average. She has chosen as the focus of her senior essay an obscure 19th-century American teacher, Mary Brewster, whose diary she found at the Beinecke Library. Purvis will reconstruct the life of this New England pioneer, who moved by herself to Nevada in 1870, from the diary that Brewster kept for only five years. “That’s what I love so much about history: piecing together whole lives from just a few pieces of evidence,” Purvis wrote about her project. Among her extra-curricular activities are tutoring elementary school children, teaching Sunday school, and, as a co-leader of the student group Food for the Earth, organizing events to raise the food and environment consciousness of fellow students and New Haven school children. She has also provided service to Yale’s Sustainable Food Project by working at the College’s organic farm. Purvis’ commitment to providing humanitarian service has brought her all over the world: from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti to Sierra Leone and India. She also volunteers at the New Haven Animal Shelter. Purvis plans to do the M.Phil. in economic and social history at Oxford. Working at a non-profit community development group in London last summer, Purvis saw the need for legal expertise among advocacy organizations, and she plans on a career in public interest law.

The 32 American Rhodes Scholars this year were chosen from 903 applicants endorsed by 333 colleges and universities. Rhodes Scholarships provide two or three years of study at Oxford. The Scholarships, oldest of the international study awards available to American students, were created in 1902 by the Will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and colonial pioneer. The criteria for Rhodes Scholars are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.

Daniel Weeks

Marshall Scholar Daniel Weeks, a Yale Political Science and International Studies double-major from Temple, New Hampshire, is founder of Students for Clean Elections and director of the DemocracyFund PAC, for which he has developed and testified for campaign reform legislation at the local, state and federal levels. Weeks is a volunteer around education and economic development issues in New Haven, where he has taught literacy in the public schools, served as a moderator for community forums, and developed neighborhood revitalization and capacity-building initiatives. Prior to enrolling at Yale, he served as an assistant teacher and program director for AmeriCorps in Washington, D.C. and English teacher in Guongdong Province, China. As a high school student, Weeks co-founded the non-partisan New Hampshire Youth Voter Alliance to engage fellow students in the political process, and has appeared on state and national media discussing youth political engagement and campaign finance reform. He has been a director of Americans for Campaign Reform, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and New Haven Action. For his continued activism, Daniel has been honored with selection to Boys Nation, the U.S. Senate Youth Program, and the McKinsey Summer Leadership Summit. He is a recipient of the President’s Public Service Fellowship, the Sen. John Heinz Government Service Fellowship, the John C. Schroeder prize for public service, and the Coca-Cola Scholarship, for which he was featured in the 2005 edition of the foundation’s national magazine Quest. Weeks sings in the Yale a cappella group The Baker’s Dozen, which has frequently performed at the White House. He has served as a church organist in Peterborough, New Hampshire; participated in intra-mural athletics and independent circus arts; and written on public policy issues for the Yale Herald. He has maintained regular employment in order to pay his way through college. Weeks will use his Marshall Scholarship to pursue an M.Phil. in Political Theory at Oxford.

Rachel Denison

Rachel Denison, from St. Louis, Missouri, is a Cognitive Science major who is interested in the neuroscience of attention, awareness and perception. At Yale, she has worked in the visual cognitive neuroscience lab of Marvin Chun, where she helps to conduct psychological studies measuring subjects’ visual performance on specific tasks. With fellowships from Yale, Denison spent two summers doing research in her field, at the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development in London and at a center for severely autistic adolescents in Paris.At Yale she has been active in Mind Matters, an undergraduate organization focusing on mental health awareness, education and service, and has helped to develop a community service partnership with Fellowship Place, a New Haven community center for adults with mental illness. She has also tutored students of New Haven public schools and has been involved in television production on the Yale campus. Denison plans to earn a master’s degree in neuroscience at Oxford and eventually to get a doctorate toward pursuing an academic career.

Alexander Nemser

Alexander Nemser of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a literature major who studies poetry in English and in Russian. His poetry has been published in the New York Times and is forthcoming in The Atlantic Monthly and Literary Imagination. A poem of his will appear in the film “The Good Shepherd,” directed by Robert DeNiro, set for release next Christmas. He won First Prize in the 2004 Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest and represented Yale in the 2005 Connecticut Student Poetry Circuit. He is currently writing his thesis on the poets Robert Lowell and Boris Pasternak and the questions of poetic translation and poetic dialogue. He plans to pursue an M.Phil. in European Literature at Oxford.

Sarah Stillman

Named to USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team last year, Sarah Stillman wrote a book at the age of 15 for teenage girls (there are now more than 30,000 copies in print); founded a tutoring program for inmates at a maximum security prison; made a documentary about Barbie Dolls and the exploitation of the women who make them; and researched the plight of female factory workers in Latin America and China and joined them in their struggle for fair treatment. She has earned a 3.95 average as she pursues both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology. The recipient of the Elie Wiesel 2005 Prize in Ethics Essay Contest, Stillman donated her prize money to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Stillman will be pursuing an M.Phil. in Cultural Anthropology at Oxford, continuing her study of the gendered impacts of corporate globalization, from sweatshop labor and sexual exploitation to forced domestic work.

Over a thousand young Americans have received Marshall Scholarships since the program’s inception in 1953. The Marshall Scholarships were established as a British gesture of thanks to the people of 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 to continue their studies for two to three years at a British university of their choice.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345