University News

Torabi ’15 wins one of 12 Mitchell Scholarships

Neuroscience student interested in volunteering, education set to complete masters in Ireland

By
University News Editor
Monday, November 24, 2014

Tara Torabi ’15 was named one of 12 recipients nationwide of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, a competitive fellowship that offers one year of graduate study in Ireland, this weekend.

Torabi, a neuroscience concentrator originally from Granville, Ohio, who now resides in Sedona, Arizona, said she plans on using the scholarship to complete a master’s degree at the National University of Ireland at Galway. Her yearlong course of study will focus on treatment and therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m really surprised and really humbled that I got this scholarship,” Torabi said. “What appealed to me about the Mitchell, as opposed to other scholarships such as the Rhodes or the Marshall, is that their program promotes the idea of really studying the environment, people and culture” of Ireland, she added.

The Mitchell Scholarship is one of the most selective fellowships in the country, garnering around 300 applicants for 12 spots each year, according to its website. It was established in 2000 to honor former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who played a leading role in the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland in the 1990s.

Two Brown undergrads have been named Mitchell Scholars in past years — one in 2002 and another in 2012, said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships. “It’s an encouraging sign to me that the Mitchell is starting to notice our students and take them very seriously,” she said.

Lucas Mason-Brown ’13, who used the scholarship to study mathematics at Trinity College Dublin, “reported having a fantastic time” meeting Irish government officials, Dunleavy added.

The application process began for Torabi in August, when she applied for University nomination for the scholarship. Five students applied for nomination this year by a committee comprising deans and faculty members from various offices and departments, Dunleavy said.

After earning a nomination from the University, Torabi submitted her application in October. After a Skype interview, she then traveled to Washington — as one of 20 finalists for the 12 spots — to complete an interview with a 10-person scholarship committee and attend a reception with members of Congress and former Mitchell Scholars.

Torabi received the phone call alerting her that she had won while boarding the plane back to Providence from D.C. “I was completely surprised,” she recalled.

Her Alzheimer’s research in Ireland will build on her advocacy surrounding the disease as an undergrad. She currently serves as co-president of Brown Alzheimer’s Activists, a student group that aims to raise awareness about the disease through fundraising and outreach at local nursing homes. She also works with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s as a volunteer for Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island.

The community service component of the scholarship will build on her engagement with the greater Rhode Island community while at Brown.

Torabi is “very committed to the mission of the Mitchell Scholarship and its commitment to public service,” Dunleavy said. “She probably has one of the most active public service records of anyone we’ve seen. Her list of activities is pretty extraordinary.”

As a sophomore, Torabi founded Brown University Brain Bee, a program that teaches students at urban high schools in Rhode Island about the brain. Last year, she helped underrepresented high school students in Rhode Island navigate the college application process as part of the AmeriCorps College Access Program.

This year, she and a friend cofounded BruNotes, a program that offers free music lessons to Rhode Island residents who cannot afford them. She also tutors adults with learning disabilities under Partnerships for Adult Learning.

“The aspect of community service is why I applied for the Mitchell specifically,” Torabi said, adding that she appreciates that the scholarship committee looks “for people who want to apply their intellectual interests in a way that benefits and serves others.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Torabi traveled to Washington for a Skype interview and then was notified of her selection as a finalist while boarding a plane back to Providence. In fact, she had a Skype interview, was selected as a finalist and then traveled to Washington for an interview, and she was notified that she had won as she was boarding a plane. The Herald regrets the errors.