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Two St. Olaf students named Rhodes Scholars
November 21, 2007
"We're happy for them and proud of them," Anderson says. "At the same time, their selection in this year's competition and St. Olaf's results in the Rhodes competition over the last decade represents an independent validation of the quality of St. Olaf students and the quality of the experience they have at St. Olaf."
Over the past decade, St. Olaf students have had more Rhodes Scholar selections than any other baccalaureate institution. Previous St. Olaf Rhodes Scholars include Joseph Tetlie (1910), Carl Solberg (1936), Ron Lee (1959), Kim Severson (1978), Beth Truesdale (1997), Katherine Larson (2000) and Decker Walker (2004).
St. Olaf Professor of History Gary De Krey, the college's academic adviser for Rhodes Scholarships, says he feels very strongly that Novak and Rambachan deserve the award. "They're both extremely intelligent and remarkably compassionate people, and sometimes it's hard to get those two qualities together," De Krey says.
That two St. Olaf students won the prestigious award is reflective of the strength of the college's programs and the support students receive, Rambachan says. "St. Olaf instills in its students from day one a value for service," she says.
Novak is a triple major in environmental studies, Spanish and Hispanic studies, with a concentration in statistics. Rambachan is a double major in political science and economics, with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies. Both women also participated in the college's Great Conversation program and ran cross country for at least one season at St. Olaf.
In addition to participating in the Great Conversation program, Rambachan studied abroad in the Middle East and Prague, Czech Republic. "Both of these experiences really introduced me to the poverty and status of women in the world," she says.
She went to India in the summer of 2005 on a Kloeck-Jenson Scholarship for Peace and Justice, where she worked to help women start small businesses. She also helped organize hundreds of students for Hurricane Katrina relief, which she says has been the highlight of her college career.
Rambachan, who is chair of the student senate at St. Olaf, will pursue a master's degree in development studies at Oxford, with a focus on women's development in south Asia. She wants to work to reduce poverty and hopes to one day work for the World Bank, the United Nations or the United States Agency for International Development.
Novak studied abroad in Central America, living with families in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala while she examined sustainable development. She also performed research at the World Health Organization in Geneva as part of a statistics program at St. Olaf. She is one of the three St. Olaf students who received the Student Research Award at the annual meeting of the North Central Council of Latin Americanists.
This summer Novak worked in migrant camps in southeastern Iowa, serving as an interpreter for a traveling health clinic. "It put together all the things I've learned about," she says.
For the past two years Novak has received a National Science Foundation stipend, and she worked with the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on one project assessing the impact of U.S. farm subsidies on developing countries and another assessing the migrant health data she collected this summer.
Novak plans to pursue a master's degree in global health science at Oxford. The graduate program sends students to research centers around the world, and Novak hopes she'll be able to return to Central America to do her research. Her goal is to work as an epidemiologist and encourage grassroots health and development programs.
Oldest international scholarship
Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest and best known award for international study, provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. They were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904; Rambachan and Novak will enter Oxford in October 2008.
Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. More than 1,000 students each year seek their institution's endorsement; this year, 764 were endorsed by 294 different colleges and universities. Committees of Selection in each of 16 districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview.
Integrity, respect, leadership
Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes. These criteria are high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor. These basic characteristics are directed at fulfilling Mr. Rhodes's hopes that the Rhodes Scholars would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. As he wrote, Rhodes Scholars should "esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim."
The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree chosen (B.A., master's, doctoral). The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. The total value averages approximately $45,000 per year.
Watch and read more about Novak and Rambachan at KARE 11, KSTP 5, the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.