National Recognition - fellows & Ramseys
2012 Marshall Scholar Matt Sellers | 2011 Rhodes Scholar Tracy Yang
Foundation Fellow Matthew Sellers recalls his first time at Oxford University, where he encountered a demanding academic environment as a freshman.
“It’s one of the most intellectually stimulating places I’ve ever been,” he said. “It fosters not just critical thinking but independence that you don’t get in a classroom elsewhere. It made me a better researcher and writer and motivated me in new ways.”
Now he will return as a 2012 Marshall Scholar to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom. He is the fifth UGA student to earn the award in the past decade.
“I’m looking forward to that same environment where everyone is engaged with work and where you have the opportunity to really dig into some heavy scholarship,” he said. “It’s also an international university that attracts students from around the globe, and I’m looking forward to meeting and interacting with all these people from different cultures.”
After graduating from UGA in May with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in history, Matt will pursue a master of studies program in modern literature followed by a doctor of philosophy program in English language and literature.
At Oxford, he will unite the two sides of himself – the one that enjoys literary analysis and the other that digs into applied policy. Envisioning a future as a professor, he hopes to take scholarly pursuit and make it accessible to others, sharing literature with his community in a way that helps members identify with themselves.
“I’ve attended a public land-grant university, where the work I’m doing should inform the constituents of UGA and Georgia as a whole. This motto ‘to serve’ is a mindset that I’m carrying with me to Oxford,” Matt said. “The work I’m doing is not solely theoretical or esoteric amongst the academy. It just as much needs to be a dialogue about literature, art, and culture that takes place on all levels, from the kitchen table to the seminar table, because the works I’m reading are important for everyone to dig into and understand.”
Matt’s grasp on policy is apparent through his various internships with National Association of Counties in Washington, DC through the Honors in Washington program; Organizing for America in Athens, GA; the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in Washington, DC; the University of Georgia Press; and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens, GA.
Matt has served in several leadership roles with UGA’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a national student-run think tank, and with UGA’s Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, an online publication encompassing all disciplines.
“Fusing the study of English literature with policy, politics, and curriculum development, I’ve integrated my passion for words with various academic and professional areas of study,” Matt said. “Whoever said English isn’t a relevant course of study apparently didn’t understand the achievement gap – a gap which I hope to close by developing culturally relevant curricula.”
Matt knew that he wanted to study literature after completing a research project as a 2009 summer fellow with the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Matt focused on the poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Penn Warren under the guidance of English professor Hugh Ruppersburg, who serves as interim dean of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. In his thesis, Matt explored how Warren depicts populism and populist leaders in fiction and compared those representations to current grassroots political movements.
“I plan to build on this research at Oxford, interrogating how literature … explores the changing experience of individuality in a globalized world while asserting the importance of selfhood – a celebration of difference rather than of divisiveness,” Matt wrote in his Marshall application.
Matt traveled to India and the United Kingdom through the Foundation Fellowship and has also been to France and Italy as a member of the UGA Chamber Choir in the Hodgson School of Music. Last year, he taught English and mathematics in a primary school in Tanzania, where he embraced his plans to move forward as a professor.
“On the edge of my recently expanded world, I realized the vital importance of a shared story as a way of communicating experience across cultural and political boundaries. I received a call to action from the improbable confluence of poetry and my students' stories: to celebrate the diversity of human experience by leveraging the power of the narrative.”
In a literary sense, this “call to action” describes the moment when main characters discover purpose. For Matt, the call beckons him to Oxford to study postcolonial literature.
“Until Africa, I never realized how powerfully emotive the call can be,” Matt said. “There’s a grand arc of human history, but along the way, there are so many narrative threads that flow into that arc. It’s important for scholars to weave them together to give a broader understanding of what it means to be human.”
Fourth-year Foundation Fellow Tracy Yang has been awarded a 2011 Rhodes Scholarship to attend England’s Oxford University. She plans to pursue an MSc in global health science. Tracy, also a 2010 Truman Scholar, will graduate from UGA in May with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She is one of 32 Rhodes recipients in the U.S. and the only one from the state of Georgia. Tracy is UGA’s 22nd Rhodes Scholar and third UGA female student to be selected since 1976, the first year women were eligible to apply. Before Tracy, UGA’s most recent recipients were Foundation Fellows Deep Shah and Kate Vyborny in 2008.
“The Rhodes Scholarship is a signal accomplishment for a university student and a reflection of the rigorous academic environment on the recipient’s home campus,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “Tracy Yang is representative of everything that is good about the UGA student body. She is, first and foremost, a dedicated student, but she is also committed to a life of serving others. I have no doubt that she will be one of those people who have a significant and positive impact on the world.”
With aspirations to pursue a career as a physician-policy analyst, Tracy has concentrated her research as well as her local and international involvement on efforts to address public health disparities and improving access to services.
She also participated in the Nathan Schnaper Cancer Research Intern Program in summer 2008, and in a public health and emergency preparedness internship at Greater New York Hospital Association in summer 2010. She has traveled to Nicaragua, working with medical personnel who provide health services to residents through community hospital or home visits.
Tracy currently is working as an intern with the Athens Health Network, part of a community-based initiative to address poverty issues in Athens. She also serves as a mentor and ESL teacher in the local community.
Tracy’s interest in policy decision-making precipitated her involvement with UGA’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institution, a national student-run think tank, in which she has served in several leadership roles. She also is an editor for UGA’s Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, an online undergraduate research journal for the arts, humanities and social sciences.
“Tracy is an amazing person,” said David S. Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program and the UGA faculty representative for the Rhodes Scholarship. “She displays an uncommon intellect, a deep sense of dedication, profound empathy and extraordinary energy. Yet, she remains completely down to earth and is a delight to be around. Rhodes Scholars are not just impressive intellects. They are supposed to make the world a better place. I have no doubt that Tracy will do just that.”
Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. Candidates must first be endorsed by their college or university; then selection committees in each of 16 districts invite the strongest applicants for an interview. This year, 837 students were endorsed by 309 colleges and universities.
Muktha Natrajan led the field this year, earning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and a National Institutes of Health Oxford–Cambridge Scholarship.
These awards will facilitate the next steps on Muktha’s path toward becoming a researcher and policy analyst at the National Institutes of Health. With the funding and professional opportunities provided by these awards, Muktha will pursue a PhD in neuroscience next year, combining her interests in neuroscience and the environment by studying the effects of extrinsic factors on neural cell growth and development.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, established a decade ago through a $210 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, offers recipients who reside outside the United Kingdom the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. The scholarship program aims to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. Muktha is among a group of 30 U.S. recipients selected for this highly competitive award and is the fifth UGA student to receive the award since 2001.
The NIH Oxford–Cambridge Scholars Program provides accelerated, individualized training for doctoral students in the sciences. Students in this fully funded program are matched with two research mentors – one at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and one at either Oxford University or Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Students conduct research in both locations during their PhD.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is for doctoral students who are pursuing research-based graduate studies in mathematics, science, and engineering. Students may apply their NSF funding to any academic institution.
This is the third year that Muktha has garnered national recognition for her academic achievements. In 2010, Muktha received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship, a national award that recognizes sophomores and juniors who are pursuing careers focused on environmental or Native American issues. She was also a 2009 recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a prominent national award for undergraduates in math, science, and engineering.
Muktha began her undergraduate career as a CURO Apprentice, conducting stem cell research in the lab of Dr. Steve Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. Since then, she has conducted research for eleven weeks in China on an NSF grant and participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program in New York University Medical Center’s neurobiology department.
She has spearheaded efforts for campus sustainable solutions through the Go Green Alliance, served as inaugural director of environmental program implementation for Promote Africa, attended the 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen as a non-governmental organization delegate, and interned with the World Health Organization in Namibia.
Betsy Katz, Ramsey Scholar ’09, 2011 Mitchell Scholar
Betsy Katz, a 2009 graduate and Ramsey Scholar, was one of 12 national recipients of a 2011-2012 George J. Mitchell Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in intercultural studies at Dublin City University in Ireland. This is the third consecutive year that a UGA student has been named a Mitchell Scholar. The one-year post-graduate fellowship covers studies in any discipline offered by institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Betsy, who earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, Spanish, and religion from UGA, taught secondary mathematics in California as a Teach for America participant for two years after graduation.
Betsy’s commitment to teaching, service-learning, and civic engagement influenced her research and community involvement during her undergraduate career. In summer 2008, she was one of eight participants working with mathematics faculty at the University of North Carolina, Asheville through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates.
In spring 2009, she presented her Honors thesis research at UGA’s annual CURO Symposium. Her research, entitled “Translating ‘the Jews’ in the Fourth Gospel,” was chosen as an example of outstanding undergraduate work and published in the “Best of CURO 2009” issue of UGA’s Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, an online undergraduate research journal for the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Betsy served as a Spanish-English interpreter and tutor for the Clarke County School District and as an ESOL teacher, developing and teaching the curriculum through Casa de Amistad, a service organization helping underserved Hispanic populations in Athens. She also volunteered as a Spanish translator at Mercy Health Center, a medical clinic for the uninsured in Athens, and as a tutor for middle school students.
Betsy took her service-learning spirit abroad and volunteered at an assisted living facility through the UGA en Buenos Aires program in Argentina in fall 2006 and also worked as an ESOL teacher in Mexico in the summers of 2009 and 2010.
Aaron Marshburn, FF ’11, DAAD Scholar
Aaron Marshburn (FF ’11) earlier this year received a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Scholarship to spend six weeks at Freie Universität Berlin’s International Center for Journalism.
To gain insight into the perspectives and positions at play in 21st century geopolitics, Aaron joined more than a dozen other German-speaking American journalism students over the summer to develop their academic awareness of the politics, society, and culture of Germany, as well as the media structure and working conditions for journalists in that country.
The program also placed him for five weeks as a metro reporter at Die Welt/Berliner Morgenpost, where he published articles and contributed reporting to several major stories on topics as varied as a bacterial outbreak in the Spandau District water supply to ongoing campaigns for local elections to the 51st German-American Festival, a longstanding Berlin tradition. "Writing and researching in German was a daily challenge," Aaron says, "but that's part of what made the job so satisfying."
He approaches intercultural communication with the perspective that "everyone has a story to tell. It doesn’t matter how old they are, rich or poor, educated or not – there is something you can learn from every single person in the world," says Aaron, who in May earned degrees in journalism and international affairs from UGA.
Besides working a part-time job at CNN’s Idea Lab in Atlanta, Aaron has taken a hands-on foreign correspondence course in Prague, worked as a volunteer for special-needs children at a camp in South Africa, and has had travel-study stints in Cambodia, Costa Rica, England, Fiji, and Thailand.
“Cultural understanding is about reaching peak moments of existence that break down the elusive barriers separating one person from another,” says Aaron, who in 2010 was honored by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication as a McGill Fellow. “From the refugee camps along the troubled Thai-Burma border to Xhosa primary schools in the rough townships of South Africa’s eastern cape, I’ve spent every summer learning to tell stories that matter.”
The program that perhaps had the most impact on Marshburn’s interest in international journalism was the 11-day foreign correspondents course he took in Prague, where he “toured Radio Free Europe and engaged in focused discussions with international media professionals representing The New York Times and The Economist, among others,” he says. “In the second part of the course, I planned and executed a piece of original reportage about the issues surrounding the prospective expansion of the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant near the Austrian border.”
In addition to the UGA Foundation Fellowship and the McGill Fellowship, Marshburn was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Blue Key Honor Society and won a grant to attend the Asian American Journalists Association National Convention in 2010.
Victoria Akin, FF '12, Goldwater Scholar
Fellow Tori Akin ’12 and Honors students Michael Burel and Amar Mirza were awarded 2011 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, given to undergraduates who have outstanding potential and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering. Akin began her research activities in epidemiology modeling after her freshman year at UGA, working under the guidance of epidemiologist and statistician Andreas Handel in UGA’s College of Public Health. She created a computer program that simulates the progression of influenza, gathering data to support more efficient production of antiviral drugs. Since fall, she has been involved in numerical analysis research with mathematics professor Jason Cantarella.
Todd Pierson, FF '13, Udall Scholar
Fellow Todd Pierson ’13 was one of 80 recipients of the national Morris K. Udall award, which recognizes sophomores and juniors who are pursuing careers in environmental or Native American issues. With the goal of combining a research and teaching career focused on ecological conservation, Todd has been conducting amphibian ecology research since he started at UGA. He has worked in the laboratory of John Maerz in UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and worked as a researcher, web designer, and photographer under the guidance of John Pickering in UGA’s Odum School of Ecology.
Jaime Ayers '12, Elizabeth Allan '12, Aisha Mahmood '12, Samantha Gray '12
Many other Foundation Fellows, Ramsey Scholars, and Honors Program students were awarded scholarships this year. Fellow Jaime Ayers ’12 received a Freeman Asia Internship to Indonesia. Fellow Elizabeth Allan ’12 and Ramseys Aisha Mahmood ’12 and Samantha Gray ’12 received Critical Language Scholarships to study languages important for U.S. national security. Allan, an international affairs/economics/Arabic major who is also pursuing a master’s in international policy, will study Arabic in Morocco this summer. Mahmood, a biochemistry and Chinese major, will study Mandarin in China. Gray, a studio art and Japanese major, will study Japanese in Japan.
UGA Honors Program students were recognized for their accomplishments with numerous national awards, including the Truman, Fulbright, Mitchell, Goldwater, Udall, Boren, Merage, Soros, Erasmus Mundus, and others. As you would imagine, many were Foundation Fellows. In the past few years, many Fellows have been offered Fulbright grants to teach English or conduct research in countries around the world. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest international exchange program in the country. This year, three graduating Fellows were offered Fulbrights – Betsy Allen (Indonesia), Kelsey Jones (Montenegro), and Ginny Newman (China).
Tracy Yang ’11 was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a national award recognizing outstanding juniors who are planning careers in government or other public service. Tracy, one of two UGA students awarded the Truman this year, has served in several leadership roles with UGA’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institution, a national student-run think tank. With her interests in health disparities and improving public health, she is currently interning with the OneAthens Health Team, part of a community-based initiative to address poverty issues in Athens. Tracy participated in a public health and emergency preparedness internship this summer with the Greater New York Hospital Association through UGA’s Honors Internship Program.
Muktha Natrajan ’11 received a Morris K. Udall Scholarship, a national award that recognizes sophomores and juniors who are pursuing careers focused on environmental or Native American issues. Muktha, also a 2009 Goldwater Scholar, has been conducting stem cell research in the laboratory of Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Steven Stice since her freshman year. She also has participated in New York University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program, spearheaded efforts for campus sustainable solutions through the Go Green Alliance, served as inaugural director of environmental program implementation for Promote Africa, attended the 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen as a non-governmental organization delegate, and interned with the World Health Organization in Namibia.
Jenny Taylor ’10 will enroll in a doctoral program at the University of Washington this fall to study microbiology and infectious disease with funding from two competitive fellowships. One is a three-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, awarded to students with superior academic records who are pursuing research-based graduate studies in mathematics, science, and engineering. The other is a three-year National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, awarded to students pursuing a doctoral degree in science and engineering disciplines of importance to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Logan Krusac ’12 will be studying Mandarin in Nanjing, China this summer on a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. The Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) for Intensive Summer Institutes are part of a larger U.S. government initiative to increase the number of students proficient in “critical-need” languages who in turn can apply these skills in their future careers.
Following his summer program, Logan will spend the academic year continuing his Mandarin studies in Yunnan and Harbin with funding from the National Security Education Program’s David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship. This merit-based scholarship aims to give students the skills to work in fields deemed important to U.S. national security through the study of less commonly taught foreign languages and immersion in those cultures.
Fellows alumni garner additional awards
Beth Shapiro ’98, a 1999 Rhodes Scholar who is currently Shaffer Career Development assistant professor of biology at Penn State, was selected as one of 24 MacArthur Fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The prestigious award is given to talented individuals in a variety of fields based on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
Deep Shah ’08, who was one of the University of Georgia’s two Rhodes Scholars in 2008, recently added to his honors by winning the nationally competitive Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans that will cover up to two years of graduate study in the U.S. He is currently in his first year at Harvard Medical School after earning a master’s degree in comparative social policy at Oxford University. While at UGA, Shah was a 2007 Truman Scholarship winner. He also served as co-founder and president of the UGA chapter of the Roosevelt Institution.
“I am particularly grateful to the University of Georgia for its support during the application process,” says Deep. “The Honors Program provided valuable guidance throughout this period and organized mock interviews. It is highly unusual for an undergraduate institution to offer this level of assistance to alumni. We should celebrate this special relationship that our university fosters with its students.”
The major scholarships office, which oversees the Foundation Fellows and Ramsey Scholars, also assists current students with applications for these national and international awards, as well as with applications for graduate and professional schools.
Foundation Fellow Christina Faust made history this year when she became the first UGA student to win the Udall, Truman, and Mitchell scholarships in a single undergraduate career. We like to call her our Truditchell Scholar. Christina graduated May 2009 with a dual bachelor’s/master’s degree in ecology from the Odum School of Ecology.
She began her winning streak in 2008 as a third-year Fellow, garnering the Morris K. Udall and the Harry S. Truman awards. The former is awarded to second- and third-year students who are planning careers related to environmental policy, and the latter recognizes third-year students who are preparing for public service careers.
This spring, Christina was one of only 12 students in the U.S. awarded the prestigious George J. Mitchell Postgraduate Scholarship, named in honor of the former U.S. senator who helmed the historic peace negotiations in Northern Ireland in 1998. Under the auspices of the Mitchell Scholarship, Christina will spend the 2009-2010 academic year studying at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth for an M.Sc. degree in immunology and global health. This course of study is the next step in preparation for her future career in wildlife conservation with an emphasis on infectious diseases and their impact on wildlife and human populations.
“More and more, professionals are recognizing the interconnectedness of the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems, and this is the nexus where I would like to make contributions to conservation. I plan to direct policy not only to mitigate disease transmission between and among animals and humans but also to encourage sustainable development in order to address the multitude of challenges conservation must encompass,” says Christina.
On any given day, the UGA campus is crawling with bicycles zipping through traffic and the mass of students, but we could usually spot Christina near the Ecology building, pedaling by with a Nalgene dangling from her backpack and a helmet atop her head.
During her four years as a Fellow, Christina has combined infectious disease research with ecology by examining the influence of bivalves and environmental factors on avian influenza transmission. She has worked on research projects with the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology at UGA, the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Prevention and Control in China, the Arcturos wildlife conservation nongovernmental organization in Greece, and the New Zealand Conservation Volunteers in New Zealand. She has presented her research at several conferences, including the International Wildlife Disease Association Conference as one of only 12 student presenters.
In addition to her research pursuits, Christina has provided leadership for conservation efforts on the UGA campus. As the co-coordinator of the Gameday Recycling program, she collaborated with volunteers from the Ecology Club, the Go Green Alliance, and UGA Habitat for Humanity to collect plastic and glass from tailgaters, saving thousands of pounds of recyclables from the landfill and contributing hundreds of dollars’ worth of aluminum to UGA Habitat for Humanity’s Cans for Homes initiative.
Heading the Go Green Alliance Council, Christina organized the first collaborative group of students, staff, and faculty interested in sustainability issues on campus and in the Athens community to discuss issues and implement solutions. Prior to that, as co-chair of the Ecology Club’s Sustainable Development Committee, she organized a forum for university students on sustainability challenges at UGA and drafted a 35-page report on student-supported sustainability initiatives for UGA.
These accomplishments – in addition to Christina’s involvements as co-president of UGA Habitat for Humanity, counselor for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Georgia, team member of the #7 nationally ranked UGA Women’s Rugby Football Club, and Honors Teaching Fellow for first-year Honors students – are a testament to the kind of student the Foundation Fellowship attracts. Christina exemplifies what can be achieved in four years at The University of Georgia with the support of the Fellowship.
David Williams concurs. “Many of our students impress me, but Christina truly inspires me. We need leaders who understand the delicate, interwoven nature of our complicated ecosystems and who can envision and articulate answers and approaches. Christina is a leader for our times,” says Dr. Williams.