UChicago graduates win Rhodes, Marshall Scholarships

An aspiring anthropologist with a focus on human rights and a student of the American justice system have been awarded prestigious academic scholarships for study in the United Kingdom.

Stephanie Bell, a 2008 graduate of the College at the University of Chicago, is among the 32 American men and women chosen as Rhodes Scholars this year. Amol Naik, who received his degree from the College this past spring, has been offered one of 40 Marshall Scholarships.

"To win a Rhodes Scholarship and a Marshall Scholarship is a brilliant achievement, manifesting extraordinary talent, creativity and disciplined, hard work," said John Boyer, Dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History. "Stephanie and Amol have honored all the members of our community, and we are very proud of them."

Bell, from West Des Moines, Iowa, was an Anthropology and Gender Studies major at the University. She first became interested in the importance of anthropology while an intern with the University's Human Rights Program in South Africa, where she worked for an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization, the Treatment Action Campaign. She will use her Rhodes scholarship to pursue an M.Phil in Development Studies at University of Oxford. Her goal is to help in the global fight for social justice, particularly for Africa and people with HIV/AIDS.

"It doesn't matter how many clinics, doctors and medications you can provide to address the AIDS epidemic if people don't believe in Western medical solutions," said Bell, 23, about her time in South Africa. "Anthropologists are crucial to devising ways in which Western medicine isn't a challenge to local understandings of medicine or broader local value and religious systems. But it's important that those anthropological insights can be communicated across development policy teams, which are often dominated by economists, statisticians and political scientists.

"Oxford's program is a great fit for me in that it has programs in economics and political science as well as anthropology, so that I'll learn the methodologies used by other people on development program teams," Bell said.

Bell's Rhodes is the University's 46th and its seventh in the last five years. The Rhodes Scholarships were established in the will of British colonial pioneer and statesman Cecil J. Rhodes and were initiated upon his death in 1902. The awards provide tuition and a living stipend for two years of study in any field at Oxford.

As a College student, Bell was elected a Student Marshal, the highest academic honor the University bestows to undergraduates, and was a Truman Scholar, a distinction awarded annually to about 65 socially committed college juniors in the United States.

"Stephanie worked very hard for this, and we're delighted that she will have the opportunity to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar," said Mary Daniels, Senior Adviser for Scholarships and Fellowships in the College.

Bell currently works for Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that helps nonprofits form strategies and develop their organizations. In her current role she has helped develop plans for the education of disadvantaged groups, including strategic planning for the Gates Foundation and the National Parent Teacher Association.

Naik, a native of Oak Brook, Ill., majored in political science and history at UChicago. He will study at the London School of Economics for two years with his Marshall Scholarship, for an MSc in both the history of international relations and in human rights.

Naik, 22, is interested in reform of the U.S. criminal justice system in the United States, including studying models of restorative justice and how punishment is meted out. He currently works as a research fellow at the Urban Education Institute, working to improve low-income charter schools. At UChicago, Naik was a Student Marshal and founded the Chicago Justice Initiative.

"My father has a medical clinic on the South Side of Chicago," said Naik when asked what inspired his interest in criminal justice reform. "I saw American poverty, specifically urban poverty, at a young age. The legal system is the one institution that we depend on to be fair, but when we look at American prisons and justice policies, we are disproportionately punishing people from poor communities. There, the prevailing view is that the system works against rather than for people of color. It is really problematic. It breeds institutional distrust and tears the fabric of civil society."

"What I hope to bring back to the United States [from LSE] are the tools necessary to bring a human rights framework to bear on the inequalities in the U.S. justice system."

"Amol is truly an exceptional individual," said Daniels. "I have no doubt that he will put his Marshall Scholarship to good use."

The Marshall Scholarship was founded in Britain by a 1953 Act of Parliament to celebrate the ideals of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. effort to rebuild Europe after World War II. Naik's Marshall award brings the University's total number of recipients to 17.

"We are all immensely proud of Stephanie's and Amol's accomplishments," said Susan Art, Dean of Students in the College. "They are enormously talented students who have shown a remarkable capacity to bridge theory and practice. I know that this next chapter of their educations will further equip them to become effective agents of change."