IUPUI Rhodes Scholarship Applicant “Drought” is the Result of Low Promotional Advertisement and Student Enthusiasm

As seen on TheCampusCitizen.com

IUPUI’s lack of effective promotional advertisement and student enthusiasm is contributing to low application submissions to what is considered to be “the world’s most prestigious scholarship.”

The Rhodes Scholarship is an international scholarship funded by the Rhodes Trust, a British educational charity established in 1902. According to the official website of the U.S. branch for the Rhodes Trust, “applicants from more than 320 American colleges and universities have been selected as Rhodes Scholars.”

You won’t find IUPUI’s name in that list of 320 American colleges and universities

According to IU Bloomington’s Rhodes Scholarship campus representatives, only one IUPUI student has submitted an application for the Rhodes Scholarship from 2012 to 2016.

The result of such a low Rhodes Scholarship application turnout can be attributed to the fact that students might not even be aware of its existence in the first place.

The Rhodes Scholarship isn’t listed in the IUPUI Office of Student Scholarship’s database system, and the only IUPUI web pages that promote it can be seen via the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ “Graduate Student Scholarship and Awards” list, the Honors College’s “National Scholarships” page and a brief mention in the Study Abroad Program’s “External Grants Through IU” drop-down list.

Stephanie Leslie, director of the study abroad program and advisor for the Fulbright Scholarship at IUPUI, said she believes “more can be done to promote opportunities such as Rhodes, Fulbright, etc.”

Although she personally would like to provide more of a promotion for the Rhodes Scholarship and other competitive awards, Leslie says her role as the director of the study abroad program keeps her from being able to find any time to do so.

“As we work to increase the number of students who go abroad as part of their degrees, I unfortunately do not currently have a great deal of time to focus specifically on promoting competitive awards,” Leslie said.

Dr. E. Jane Luzar, founding dean of the IUPUI Honors College, also believes that IUPUI’s promotion of the Rhodes Scholarship could be more effective in reaching students.

“The communication over it definitely needs to be improved,” Luzar said. “IUPUI doesn’t have a Rhodes Scholarship campus representative right now, so communication to students over it has been limited.”

IUPUI’s former campus representative retired from the position roughly a year ago, and Luzar said she isn’t sure when a new one would be hired on. According to Luzar, the role of IUPUI’s campus representative is to not just inform students about the Rhodes Scholarship, but also represent IUPUI on IU Bloomington’s Rhodes Scholarship committee.

By not having an involved campus representative, IUPUI isn’t just missing out on sharing Rhodes Scholarship information with students, it’s also missing a liaison communication with the other Rhodes Scholarship IU Bloomington representatives.

Aside from having a lack of effective communication, Luzar also thinks the low number of application submissions also results from students simply being turned off by the Rhodes Scholarship’s rather pressing application and nomination requirements.

“A lot of students in the IUPUI Honors College check it out, but say it’s not worth it,” Luzar said.

That should come as no surprise, given the requirements needed to be considered an eligible Rhodes Scholar candidate.

Before students are chosen by the Rhodes Trust to become Rhodes Scholars, students need to be endorsed by their university.

Elliot Gerson, American secretary for the Rhodes Trust’s US branch, explained in an email interview that the endorsement process used to select students for nomination varies at each university.

“The Rhodes Trust does not get involved at all in university endorsement decisions,” Gerson wrote. “It is up to the university or college to determine the process that students need [to] follow to receive endorsement.”

For students within the IU school system, the endorsement is ran completely through IU Bloomington, and is setup via a rigid application process.

Before students enter the application process, however, they need to be in their senior year of study and must be able to meet a 3.7 GPA requirement minimum. If they qualify for this, students can then enter the application process by answering three personal statements, provide a curriculum vitae listing activities and honors and then include three references.

After completing this step, IUPUI students must then submit these materials to the IU Bloomington Rhodes Scholarship campus representatives, where their applications are mixed in with applicants from the other IU schools.

Paul Fogleman, the IU Bloomington Rhodes Scholarship campus representative who receives the student applications, explained in an email interview that after applicants submit their information, interviews begin to occur.

“Everyone who meets the GPA requirement and submits the materials is invited to interview for the nomination,” Fogleman wrote. “The panel that nominates students is composed of 3–4 faculty members who represent a variety of disciplines.”

According to Fogleman, the panel selects nominees based upon whether an applicant will appeal to the Rhodes Trust “on a national level.”

In order to be properly prepared for IU Bloomington’s application process, Luzar says students are encouraged to start preparing during their sophomore year as an undergraduate. In addition, IU Bloomington offers workshops to help students prepare for it.

Luzar says the Honors College is attempting to encourage more IUPUI students to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship despite its intimidating requirements.

“We want to hook them in before they are intimidated,” she said. “If they do become intimidated, we want to sit them down and offer support, talk them through how to do it.”

While IUPUI fails to have its students apply for the Rhodes Scholarship, IU Bloomington is a mirror opposite. According to the IU Bloomington Rhodes Scholarship campus representatives, 61 IU Bloomington students applied for the Rhodes Scholarship from 2012 to 2016.

With those types of application submission numbers, it’s no surprise that since 1905, seventeen IU Bloomington students have been chosen to become Rhodes Scholars by the Rhodes Trust.

IU Bloomington senior Morgan Mohr became the university’s most recent seventeenth winner after being selected by the Rhodes Trust during November of 2016.

During an email interview, Mohr explained why she felt the Rhodes Trust choose her as a winner.

“I think that my character and commitment to social justice [spoke out the most] to the [Rhodes Trust] panelists,” Mohr wrote.

When she said “commitment to social justice,” she wasn’t kidding.

As a triple major studying political science, history, and an individualized major in feminist policy, Mohr is also apart of five different political and social justice oriented organizations at IU Bloomington.

“I have to say I didn’t sleep much in my time at IU,” Mohr said.

Morgan Mohr, IU Bloomington’s seventeenth Rhodes Scholar

Because she was chosen as a Rhodes scholar, Mohr is awarded the opportunity to attend graduate school at the University of Oxford, with her tuition and additional academic fees all paid for by the Rhodes Trust.

“The Rhodes Scholarship is full-ride, including a stipend, so that alleviates a lot of financial worry,” Mohr wrote in an email.

She will be studying policy at Oxford in hopes of obtaining a Master of Science degree in comparative social policy and another master’s degree in public policy.

When asked about what advice she would give to students preparing to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship, Mohr’s response held an emphasis towards personal understanding.

“I think a student’s greatest asset moving into a fellowship process like this is self-understanding and self-reflection,” she wrote. “To make a case for yourself, you have to first understand yourself.”

The last bit of advice she shared is enough to prove to any IUPUI student that applying for the Rhodes Scholarship is indeed worth their time and energy.

“The beauty of processes like the Rhodes is that even if you don’t receive the award, going through the application itself gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself.”