University News

Record-high 4 students land Rhodes

Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, November 20, 2011

A record-high three undergraduates and an alum were awarded Rhodes Scholarships Saturday, making this the first multi-scholar year for the University since 1970.

Brianna Doherty ’12, Nabeel Gillani ’12, Emma LeBlanc ’11 and David Poritz ’12 were among the 32 United States recipients awarded the prestigious scholarship, which goes to “young women and men of outstanding intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service,” according to the Rhodes Trust website. The scholarship enables recipients to attend the University of Oxford and pursue any postgraduate degree of their choosing.

“It’s a sign that Brown has arrived,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships and pre-law.

The University sent six finalists to the various regional committees, Dunleavy said. All of the students had “confidence and maturity” that took them far in the competition, she said. The four recipients represent a “culmination” of institutional developments such as the Plan for Academic Enrichment, she said.

The major difference in the University’s application process this year was the fostering of relationships between the candidates, Dunleavy said — the finalists workshopped each other’s essays. Dunleavy also said she felt this year’s committees were more open to the University’s curriculum and what it offers students.

Doherty, a cognitive neuroscience concentrator, said all the finalists in her California region held hands before the decision was announced, and she “flipped out” when she heard she won the scholarship.

“I still can’t really believe that it happened,” she said.

Doherty is planning to study either experimental psychology or neuroscience.

Gillani, an applied math and computer science concentrator, said he felt “very blessed and very inspired by the community at Brown.”

 “Everyone had a hand in this,” he said.  

Gillani said the application process helped him focus his goals and decide to pursue two master’s degrees in education and computer science.

LeBlanc, who graduated with a degree in sociology last year and is currently pursuing a master of fine arts degree at Southern New Hampshire University, said the University’s strong support was key to her success. Dunleavy and the Brown Rhodes and Marshall committee did everything from essay feedback to mock interviews, she said.

LeBlanc said she plans to study anthropology at Oxford.

Poritz said winning the Rhodes Scholarship “marked the end” of an “exhilarating process” that was much more intense than that for the Truman Scholarship, which he also won. He said both Dunleavy and James Green, professor of history, were incredibly helpful throughout the application process. He initially planned on pursuing a master’s in Latin American studies but is also considering a master’s in business administration, he said.

Dunleavy said she hopes this year’s success staves off the “unattainable” mystique of the Rhodes Scholarship. “It’s the beginning of a new day at Brown,” Dunleavy said.

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