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Sarah Hampton

Sarah Hampton is one of a growing number of University of Minnesota students who have been awarded nationally prominent scholarships in recent years.

Quality students, national awards

U students are winning major scholarships, bringing prestige to Minnesota

By Pauline Oo

May 5, 2006

Sarah Hampton hopes to develop a better method to help anthropologists identify seemingly unidentifiable fossils. Knowing what these remnants are and if they belong together, says the University of Minnesota junior, is a key to more accurately recreate ancient habitats to better understand those who came before us.

Hampton made University history last month by being the first U student to win the prestigious Beinecke Scholarship. Out of the 20 nationwide recipients this year, she is one of five completing an undergraduate degree at a public institution. As a Beinecke Scholar, Hampton will receive $2,000 immediately before entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending.

Hampton, an honor student in anthropology, is one of a growing number of University of Minnesota students who have been awarded nationally prominent scholarships in recent years. Since 2000, students from the Twin Cities campus have won 22 Goldwater scholarships, seven Harry S. Truman scholarships, six Fulbright grants (the 2006 winners will be released this month; the U has seven students in the running), four Rhodes scholarships, one Marshall scholarship (the British equivalent of the Rhodes), two Henry Luce scholarships, as well as a host of other national scholarships. Nearly all of these students have participated in honors programs.

"Our recent record has been excellent," says Sally Lieberman, a scholarship adviser who works in the Twin Cities campus College of Liberal Arts (CLA) honors office. "I recently compiled some informal statistics about the four scholarships that, I believe, are most closely watched--the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater. These statistics certainly show that the U is one of the leading public universities in the country for producing national scholarship winners."

In fact, Lieberman's findings, which are based on a survey of 2000 to 2006 winner lists from the scholarship sponsors' Web sites (in the case of the Goldwater, the lists go back only to 2003), show that, out of all U.S. public universities, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has the most winners--a total of 25.

Twin Cities campus 2006 national scholars

Beinecke: Sarah Hampton, junior in anthropology

Goldwater: Elizabeth Barnes, junior in physics; Eman Haidari, junior in chemistry and genetics, cell biology, and development; Akash Kumar, junior in chemical engineering and biochemistry; and Kimberly VanderWaal, junior in ecology, evolution, and behavior.

Luce: Joseph Walla, senior in political science

Rhodes Diana Fu, senior in global studies and political science

Truman: Rebecca Mitchell, junior in biology, society, and environment; Joseph Walla

In 2000, the National Association of Fellowship Advisors (NAFA) reported that prestigious scholarships were one of the fastest growing areas in all of higher education and one of the most important from the general public's point of view. More than 180 colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Minnesota, are NAFA members. Fulbright applications are one example.

"At the national level, the number of Fulbright applications has just sky rocketed," says Allison Skoberg, associate director of the U's Graduate School Fellowship Office. "I think last year alone the Fulbright program--which gives U.S. students the opportunity to study, conduct research, or teach overseas--received 6,000 applications [for about 1,200 available grants]"

One of the reasons national scholarships like the Fulbright have risen substantially in more recent years is the push throughout the U.S. for students to study abroad, says Skoberg. These days, it's not uncommon--compared to 10 years ago--for students to complete a component of their work in a different country.

Last year, 50 percent of the student body on the Morris campus studied abroad by the time they graduated. On the Twin Cities campus, 1,674 students studied abroad, up 770 in 1999. At 2004 graduation, approximately 22 percent of graduates had studied abroad.

The University has had an institutional pattern of nominating students for scholarships prized by the very best of students in the United States since the 1970s (the U had its first Rhodes scholar in 1977), and like many of its peers, the U is in the trend of having a designated adviser to help select and guide candidates for major scholarships. At the U, nominees for national scholarships are in most cases selected by committees of University of Minnesota faculty. Both the Graduate School Fellowship Office and CLA Honors administer the nomination processes and work with the candidates. Skoberg administers the Luce Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship Program, and German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD program, as it's known by its German acronym; Lieberman handles applications for more than two dozen scholarships for the U, including about a dozen that require an institutional nomination process, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Beinecke.

Did you know?

* 2006 is the second consecutive year that four University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students have won the Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes students who pursue careers in science, mathematics, or engineering. Since the scholarship program began in the late 1980s, 37 U students have been named Goldwater Scholars.

* Marshall winners can study at any university in Britain, and a Truman prize provides for three years of study at any American university.

* The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international fellowship. It was initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902 to bring students from around the world to the University of Oxford.

* The German Academic Exchange Service supports more than 70,000 people each year, making it the largest international exchange organization in the world.

While requirements vary with each scholarship, all the scholarships share the necessity of advanced preparation. Students must not only have outstanding grades and academic letters of recommendations to be a serious competitor, but they should have the ability to articulate their future academic direction or career aspirations. The Rhodes, for example, requires a 600-word essay and one lengthy interview by committees composed almost entirely of former winners--who are now attorneys, CEOs, judges, bank presidents, and government officials, with the odd academic or two thrown in. The Truman application demands an 800-word public-policy proposal, as well as an extensive record of public and community service.

"It's a credit to the student to complete the application process, much less have it be successful," says Skoberg. Participation in a major scholarship application process is an important academic opportunity for its own sake, she adds. Students who do not receive the University's nomination are able to recycle their applications into successful graduate school and professional school applications.

For Joseph Walla, the advanced preparation paid off. The senior in political science landed both the Truman and Luce scholarships earlier this year. Walla is going to Asia in September for an all-expense-paid 10-month professional internship with the Luce award, and upon his return, will pursue a graduate degree in public policy with the $30,000 Truman Scholarship.

Joseph Walla
U student Joseph Walla has snagged both a Truman and Luce Scholarship this year.

Walla is the second U student to land a prestigious double. David Simon, who graduated from the U in 2003, won the Truman in 2002 and the Rhodes just before graduating.

"I'm extraordinarily appreciative [of these scholarships]," said Walla, in a recent interview with the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily. "There are so many opportunities and so many support mechanisms [at the University]. If you look, [they're] right there."