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Two From U.Va. Win Prestigious Rhodes Scholarships

November 25, 2004

By Carol Wood and Kathleen Valenzi

For the seventh time in University of Virginia history, two University representatives have been chosen as Rhodes Scholars in the same year. Meghan E. Sullivan, a fourth-year student and head of the Honor Committee, and Justin Mutter, Class of 2003, learned Saturday, Nov. 20, that they were among 32 recipients of one of the nation's most prestigious academic honors.

“They were so excited, they showed up at my house late Saturday evening to share the good news,” said Nicole Hurd, director of U.Va.’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which advises students about national and international competitions such as the Rhodes.

Sullivan and Mutter were chosen from among 904 applicants nationwide and will enter the University of Oxford in England in October 2005. They bring the total number of Rhodes recipients from U.Va. to 45 — more than any other public university in America.

Sullivan and Mutter join an elite group of U.Va. graduates who are Rhodes Scholars, including two current University professors — Larry Sabato and Jahan Ramazani — and the late Staige D. Blackford, long-time editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. The University's most recent recipients were Jeffrey David Manns, a 1999 Rhodes Scholar, and Micah Schwartzman, a 1998 Rhodes Scholar who is now studying law at U.Va.

“s I’m particularly proud that Meghan and Justin won,” Hurd said. “Not only do they epitomize the high caliber of student who attends U.Va., but they also demonstrate the rewards that can come to students who take full advantage of the many academic and research opportunities available to them at U.Va. Meghan, for example, conducted research in Belfast, Ireland, on one of two Harrison fellowships she received.”

In addition to her Honor Committee work and undergraduate research, Sullivan is majoring in politics and philosophy, is a Jefferson Scholar, and serves as a volunteer for Legal Aid and Restorative Justice. As a seriously committed philosophy student, she plans to pursue a B.Phil. in philosophy at Oxford. Sullivan is from Greensboro, N.C.

Mutter, who graduated from U.Va. in May 2003, majored in modern studies and religious studies. Since graduating, he has worked with a Partners in Health rural hospital in Haiti, where he has focused on helping patients with HIV/AIDS. Mutter intends to pursue a M.Phil in theology at Oxford. He is from Lookout Mountain, Tenn.

Having two students win a Rhodes Scholarship at the same time “is a huge achievement, particularly for a public university,” Hurd said. The reason, she explained, is that the applications of students who compete for Rhodes scholarships are first reviewed by state selection committees. Because the majority of a public university’s students come from within the same state —Virginia, in the case of U.Va. — those students end up competing against one another, thus reducing the odds of multiple students from a single state institution advancing to the district level of the competition.

Rhodes Scholarships provide two or three years of study at Oxford. They are the oldest of the international study awards available to American students, and were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and colonial pioneer. Winners are selected on the basis of 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 Rhodes's hopes that the scholars bearing his name would make an effective and positive contribution throughout the world. The first class of American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904.

The monetary value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field being studied, the degree pursued (bachelor’s, master's, doctoral) and the Oxford college chosen. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford and during vacations, and transportation to and from England. The total value averages approximately $35,000 per year.

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