The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships does not have a clear explanation for why no Penn students were awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for the fourth straight year.
“Honestly we’re puzzled by the fact that Penn hasn’t won any Rhodes the past few years,” Aaron Olson, CURF’s assistant director for communications, said. “It’s really hard to know what the committees — because they’re committees, not rubrics — are looking for.”
The last time a Penn student or graduate was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, which allows students to pursue graduate studies at the University of Oxford, was in 2009. This year, 21 Penn students applied for the scholarship, and five were finalists. Since the scholarship was established in 1904, 21 Penn students have won Rhodes Scholarships.
Because the reasons for the Rhodes Committee’s decisions are not made public, CURF has a limited amount of information about why Penn students haven’t won any the past three years.
Olson said CURF has revamped its support process for interested students over the past several years. At the center is the “Fellowships 101” program, through which CURF staff educate sophomores about the application process.
“We have a new, part-time staffer — it’s a rotating one-year position — that’s really focused specifically on [Fellowships 101] and on the fellowship process in general,” Olson said.
The new process acts as a “gatekeeper program” designed “to get people who are on the fence really interested, because it is a commitment, and it’s a lot of work.”
Penn has produced winners of other prestigious fellowships over the years and has had particular success in the Fulbright Scholarship, a scholarship that sponsors students to conduct research abroad. Penn has produced 159 Fulbright scholars since 2003.
“We overproduce Fulbrights compared to our Ivy League peers,” Olson said, attributing that success to undergraduate research opportunities at Penn.
Penn has also produced 11 Marshall scholars — the last in 2011 — since 1984.
For the first time this year, a Penn graduate won a Mitchell Scholarship. Meghan Hussey, a 2012 College graduate, was one of 12 Americans selected to receive the scholarship, which provides for graduate studies in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
Overall, about 41 students per year apply for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, Olson said.
About 857 American students were sponsored by their universities for the Rhodes Scholarship this year, and 32 American students were selected.
Among the colleges represented in the Rhodes announcement were Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities, which won six, three and two, respectively.
This article has been updated to reflect the following: A previous version of this article misstated the number of Penn students who applied for a Rhodes Scholarship this year. A previous version of this article stated that there were 48 Fulbright grants awarded to Penn students since 1965, but this number refers to Fulbright Scholar grants awarded to Penn faculty. There have been 159 Fulbright student grant recipients from Penn since 2003. A previous version of this article also misspelled 2012 College graduate Meghan Hussey’s name.
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