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For the second year in a row, one of Penn's brightest will soon be heading to the United Kingdom as a Marshall Scholar. Our congratulations go to College senior Ari Alexander, who recently earned the high academic honor and who next year will study world ethnic conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Marshall Scholarship is one of the nation's highest undergraduate honors, and provides its recipients with two full years of paid study at a university in the U.K. Obviously, the competition for one of just 40 spots is always ferocious. Alexander deserves recognition for overcoming such tremendous odds. After all, he did prevail in a pool of more than 1,000 of America's most gifted and enterprising undergraduates. But his award is also much more meaningful. In a broader sense, a Marshall Scholarship is a victory for the University, as Alexander now becomes the second Penn student in the last two years to win the award after a decade-long drought. Andrew March, a 1999 College graduate, was a recipient last year. The recognition also speaks well for the future of undergraduate research initiatives at Penn. Alexander's honor is a feather in the cap of the new Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowships, and likewise a tribute to the work of CURF Director Art Casciato and Associate Director Claire Cowen. But more than anything else, Alexander's success should act as incentive for other Penn undergrads who have research ambitions. Over the last few years, the University has seen the caliber of its student body skyrocket. But as our acceptance rate continues to fall, major academic recognitions -- like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships -- haven't been as plentiful. Those students who may have an interest in doing research -- and thus taking the most active role in their own education -- should follow Alexander's lead. That's why this award is so significant, both for him and for the University. Good job, Ari.

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