College senior Theresa Simmonds this weekend joined a select group of Americans awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship -- a group that includes U.S. Senator Bill Bradley and Supreme Court Justice David Souter. As one of 32 undergraduates chosen for the award, Simmonds, a double major in Urban and Environmental Studies who is also working toward a teaching certificate, will spend two years doing graduate study at Oxford University in England. The College senior, who last year won the Truman scholarship for study leading to a career in government, said yesterday that she plans to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. "At this point I'm still numb," Simmonds said yesterday of her award. "I don't think it's sunk in yet." School of Arts and Sciences Vice Dean Ira Harkavy -- who Simmonds credited along with her mother as being a mentor and role model -- said that the award was "well deserved." "I'm thrilled," Harkavy said. "She's an outstanding young woman. She exemplifies how students can do outstanding academic work while focusing on real problems." Harkavy said that Simmonds' work in the West Philadelphia community has made real improvements in the lives of people in the neighborhood, adding that her research into issues of volunteerism has "made a difference." Simmonds was active for five semesters in Harkavy's West Philadelphia Improvement Corps, during which she studied the feasiblity of a national youth service corps. In February of 1989, Simmonds joined Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., to help announce legislation proposing a $500 million effort to promote volunteerism through education. Simmonds said that her packed schedule has sometimes meant that she has had to sacrifice sleep and her social life, but added, "I wouldn't be happy if my schedule weren't as crazy as it is." College Assistant Dean Eric Schneider, who works with many students applying for graduate scholarships, said Simmonds has a special combination of intelligence and commitment to working for the betterment of society. The Rhodes scholarships were established in 1902 by the estate of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonialist who hoped that the award winners would contribute to world understanding and peace. In order to win the award, Rhodes scholars have to submit five to eight recommendations from professors, write a thousand-word personal statement and go through a series of intensive interviews. In the past, the award had been tied to demonstrating intellectual and athletic prowess, but recently the selection committee has given less weight to athletics, Schneider said. In addition to Simmonds, there were 14 other Rhodes scholarship winners from the Ivy League this year -- five from Yale, five from Harvard and one each from Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell. Simmonds said she hopes to go on to a career dealing with education and volunteerism, adding that one day she would like to be Superintendent of the Philadelphia School System. "Schools should be a hotbed of social revolution," said Simmonds, a native of South Philadelphia. "This is certainly a time when there need to be some changes made . . . for them to fulfill that function."Comments powered by Disqus
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