Five promising leaders from Yale named 2024 Marshall Scholars
Five Yale College seniors — Bobby Atkinson, Ayelet Kalfus, Robby Hill, Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind, and Olivia Sally — are among 51 recipients of prestigious Marshall Scholarships, which funds up to three years of graduate study in any academic topic at any university in the United Kingdom.
The recipients, who are considered among the most accomplished undergraduate students and recent graduates in the United States, were chosen following an intense selection process and will begin graduate studies at top universities across the U.K. next year.
The Marshall Scholarship program was created by an act of the British Parliament in 1953 as “a living memorial” for former U.S. Secretary of State General George Marshall and the assistance of the U.S. under the Marshall Plan.
This year’s class of Marshall scholars is the largest in the seven-decade history of the program. Half of the 2024 class will pursue degrees in STEM-related fields, including several who will study issues relating to the ethics and advancement of artificial intelligence.
“This year’s exceptional cohort boasts impressive academic achievement and promising researchers and innovators in a range of fields,” said Peter Abbott, British consul general to New England. “This class of scholars is already making a profound impact on the world, and their contributions will undoubtedly strengthen the U.K.-U.S. relationship and usher in a new era of collaboration — something which the world needs more than ever.”
Brief profiles of the five Marshall scholars from Yale follow:
Originally from Janesville, Minnesota, Bobby Atkinson is a first-generation college student studying global affairs. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and entered the Special Warfare training pipeline. Shortly after completing United States Army Ranger School, he became the first Air Force member to be selected and directly assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company (RRC). While at RRC, Atkinson conducted multiple combat deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq, receiving the Bronze Star medal twice. In addition to his military service, Atkinson interned at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, focusing his efforts on illicit drug supply reduction. He is interested in affecting U.S. drug policy, improving access to medication-assisted treatment, and eliminating the domestic opioid epidemic. Next fall, he intends to pursue an M.Phil. degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at the University of Oxford.
Ayelet Kalfus, a senior from New York, New York, is majoring in physics at Yale. Fascinated by interdisciplinary science, her research experience spans physics, biology, and computer science. Within the Yale STEM communities, Kalfus has served as co-president of both the Yale Undergraduate Quantum Computing Group and Yale Women in Physics+. Deeply committed to the arts, she is working on a mini documentary following undergraduates across their four years at Yale. Kalfus volunteered with Ukrainian refugees in Prague this past summer, and has established a fellowship to fund further volunteers, with the first two students traveling this winter. Currently a first-year counselor, she enjoys academically and emotionally mentoring first-year students in her residential college, as well as volunteering with New Haven Reads. Kalfus plans to pursue the systems and synthetic biology MRes (Postgraduate Research Masters) degree and the artificial intelligence M.Sc. degree at Imperial College London.
Robby Hill is majoring in ethics, politics and economics and receiving a certificate in human rights from Yale Law School. His research interests lie in the role of housing policy as a driver of social and economic inequality. His senior thesis, to be written in the spring semester, measures the effect of the Interstate Highway System in exacerbating New Haven's racial wealth gap. Last summer, Hill received a Liman Undergraduate Summer Fellowship to assist in the defense of low-income clients in Brooklyn's Housing Court. Prior to that, he served as an intern in U.S. Senator Chris Murphy's Washington, D.C. office and as the outreach coordinator for Desegregate Connecticut, where he helped pass the first statewide land use reform legislation in nearly 40 years. He is also the head first-year counselor for Jonathan Edwards College and a former winter tour manager for the Yale Glee Club. Starting next fall, he will pursue an M.Phil. degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at the University of Oxford.
Xavier Blackwell-Lipkind is majoring in comparative literature and writing a year-long senior thesis on Proust and music. A two-time recipient of the Yale English Department’s John Hubbard Curtis Prize, he serves as editor-in-chief of the Yale Literary Magazine, as Phi Beta Kappa president, and as a lead writing partner at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. He also tutors French and Portuguese and volunteers as a translator for immigration lawyers. His short stories and creative essays appear in publications including The Threepenny Review, The Drift, Gulf Coast, and West Branch, and he is working on a novel about a composer with a tic disorder. As a Marshall scholar, he plans to pursue an M.St. (Master of Studies) degree in comparative literature and critical translation at Oxford, followed by an M.A. in prose fiction at the University of East Anglia.
At Yale, Olivia Sally is pursuing a degree in education studies and political science. Sally, who hails from Oakland, California, spent the summer as a White House intern in the Office of the Vice President, where she served the vice president’s advance team, traveling throughout the country to help execute events. Last spring, she was appointed by New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker as the youngest member of the city’s Commission on Equal Opportunities, the oldest municipal civil rights agency in the United States. Before that, she served as Miss Connecticut Volunteer 2021, where she served as the first woman of color to hold a New England state title in the system’s history. On the Yale campus, she has helped build community for the next generation of students, previously serving as a recruitment chair and social chair of Yale Women’s Rugby and now leading the Yale Society Initiative. She has also served on The Yale Daily News managing board, in two butteries, and, currently, as a student assistant for the Yale Law School’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law. As a Marshall scholar, she will pursue a M.Sc. degree in education (child development and education) and a M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy). She is the first Marshall scholar from Yale’s Education Studies Program.
Since 1954, more than 2,200 students have received graduate degrees through the Marshall Scholarship.