Campus & Community

Four students win Marshall Scholarships

7 min read

Four Harvard undergraduates have received the prestigious Marshall Scholarships, academic grants that will allow them to study abroad for two years.

Sponsored by the British government, the scholarships offer exceptional students from the United States the opportunity for graduate-level study at any university in the United Kingdom in a field of their choosing. In addition to its academic component, the program “helps scholars gain an understanding and appreciation of contemporary Britain.”

“A gift from one people to another, the Marshall Scholarship program is a public recognition of some of the brightest and most promising young people graduating from America’s colleges and universities,” said Harvard’s Director of Fellowships Paul Bohlmann. “The gift is two years of access to the best academic programs in the United Kingdom, all in the hope that recipients will be better able to achieve their promise of leadership for having studied and lived there.”

Kyle Mahowald the cruciverbalist

The opportunity to study abroad will help one Harvard wordsmith develop both a more nuanced and more scientific approach to understanding English. Senior Kyle Mahowald already knows how to play with the language; literally, he is an accomplished cruciverbalist, or a crossword puzzle creator. At 17, he was the youngest person ever to have a crossword puzzle published in The New York Times.

Mahowald calls crosswords “playgrounds for language” and says his love of words is “hardwired.”

An English concentrator, last summer he used a Harvard College Research Fellowship to study Middle English literature, Chaucer, the theory of the gift, and deconstruction. His senior thesis will examine the origins, literary evolution, and cultural significance of Shakespeare’s Queen Mab.

The Winthrop House resident, who hopes to attend Oxford University, will use his scholarship to study the history and structure of English as well as the more scientific context of linguistic principles. After the program, he said, he hopes to apply a linguistic methodology to literary studies, and will likely pursue a career in academics.

“In England, English and linguistic studies are a little more interrelated and I am hoping to [be exposed to] that type of approach.”

Emma Wu and cognitive neuropsychology

Senior Emma Wu ignored the first call that registered on her phone as “unknown.” The second time, she answered it and was rewarded with an interview for the scholarship. After that, she was on the lookout.

“I have been waiting for the ‘unknown’ on my phone. When I saw it I thought, this is either good news or bad news, and [the representative’s] first words were, ‘Hi Emma, I have good news for you.’”

Like Mahowald, Wu thinks a lot about language. Her interest in linguistics developed from attending a summer program at Harvard while in high school. Later, as an undergraduate, she wanted to combine the discipline with a more biological perspective. The perfect solution came in the form of Harvard’s Cognitive Neuropsychology Lab, which uses language to explore the brain. As a member of the lab, Wu is working on her senior thesis, examining the brain’s processing of action words, particularly as it relates to patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Wu plans to attend either University College London or the University of Edinburgh to study psychological research methods and cognitive neuropsychology.

The Mather House resident said she considers the scholarship a chance to complete a type of mini-Ph.D.

“It will give me a solid foundation for things that I want to pursue later as well as a sampling of the different fields within neuroscience so I can find out what I am really passionate about.”

Following her two-year stint in Britain, Wu intends to head to medical school where she will focus on psychiatry or neuroscience. Though the black belt in tae kwan do admits it sounds like a cliché, Wu says, “I’ve always been interested in trying to use science to help people.”

Andrew Miller to focus on Chinese media

Andrew Miller’s path to Chinese media studies began in his teenage years when he volunteered on a number of political campaigns and became fascinated with the role and influence of the media in shaping not only a candidate’s message, but also a national identity. A course in Chinese and subsequent trips to China cemented his interest in the country and understanding its media and its increasing global impact.

For the past several years he has examined the government’s restrictive policies, even getting a firsthand look as an intern in The Christian Science Monitor’s Beijing bureau in 2007. A social studies concentrator, Miller plans to study at the London School of Economics as well as at Oxford University to further his senior thesis research on Chinese press coverage of North Korea, examining how other “rogue states” are depicted in the Chinese media. He also hopes to broaden his understanding of the Chinese media, its impact on Chinese public opinion, and the relationship between Chinese foreign policy and coverage of international affairs.

“I am really pleased to be going somewhere that takes this kind of research seriously and has faculty that will really be able to challenge me and inspire me and maybe even send me in a whole new direction,” said Miller.

In addition to helping cover the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for City Weekend Magazine, Miller is also an editorial board member of the Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Political Review, and did national field organizing for Students for Barack Obama.

Miller’s reaction upon hearing the news was one of complete surprise.

“I was absolutely shocked. I screamed. I was in my bedroom when I found out, and my roommate thought I saw a rat.”

Though he’s not sure what career lies ahead, whether it’s in journalism, academia, or possibly an advisory role to a policymaker, Miller knows one thing is certain.

“I just think that the West is in desperate need of accurate, nuanced information about this incredibly important country, and I hope that in the future I will be someone who is able to provide that in a way that benefits society.”

John Sheffield to study politics

At Oxford University, John Sheffield plans to use the Marshall Scholarship to study politics with a focus on state weakness and human rights protection in Latin America.

In the summer of 2007, Sheffield began work as a research associate with Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre (Argentine League for the Rights of Man) in Buenos Aires, researching police brutality in Argentina’s urban shantytowns. He has written numerous articles on police brutality, crime, and family violence in Latin America, and is the founder and director of Proyecto Espartaco (the Spartacus Project), a joint effort to build a transnational human rights cooperative geared toward information sharing, research, and grassroots mobilization.

He has worked as a student teaching consultant and student associate at Harvard’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and as a peer tutor in political science and statistics at the University’s Bureau of Study Counsel. Sheffield is also a House committee member at Pforzheimer House and co-founder and vice president of the Harvard College Libertarian Forum.

The Marshall Scholarships were created by an act of Parliament in 1953. Named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, they were a means of thanking the United States for its aid and recovery plan for Europe after World War II. Eligible applicants must have a grade point average of 3.7 or higher. Academic excellence, future leadership potential, and public service are considered in the selection process for the scholarships, which cover all of the recipient’s university fees and cost-of-living expenses, and are worth approximately £23,000 per year.