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Students Get Grad School Boost With Cooke Scholarships

May 9, 2002-- Six graduating students who will don mortarboards and walk down the Lawn May 19 already have capped their careers at U.Va. being among the first 50 winners of Jack Kent Cooke Scholarships.

The recipients -- Anita Gupta, Sarah Hobeika, Esther Huang, Bryan Maxwell, James Puckett and Danna Weiss -- will pursue graduate studies without worrying about finances next year, thanks to the awards of up to $50,000.

For this inaugural year of the scholarships, the winners were chosen from the Virginia, Washington and Maryland region, whether residents or students. The criteria include academic excellence, exceptional promise, integrity and community service, according to Nicole Hurd, director of U.Va.’s College Fellowships Office.

"This is probably the most generous scholarship out there," Hurd said, and it can be renewed for five years, totaling as much as $300,000.

Danna Weiss is one of three Americans accepted into the University of Notre Dame's international master's program at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies. She has interned with the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program, focusing on the Sudan civil war, and has been active in University Mediation Services.

As a second-year student, she won a Harrison Undergraduate research award to conduct a contemporary study of the Talmud. She has traveled to Jerusalem to interview Jewish women scholars.

"Overall, I'd like to enter into the field of international conflict resolution and preventative diplomacy with an emphasis on religious conflict in the Middle East and North Africa," said Weiss, who's planning to use her fellowship to pursue two M.A. degrees and a Ph.D.

An Echols scholar, Bryan Maxwell combines his interest in literature with medicine. The political and social thought student will remain at U.Va. next year to pursue a master's degree as part of the new B.A./M.A. program in English, then go to Stanford Medical School. Eventually he hopes to practice either academic pediatric surgery or emergency medicine.

Maxwell, who would like to get involved in international aid projects such as Doctors Without Borders, has already conducted research on ethics in AIDS treatment. His distinguished majors thesis focused on ethical questions surrounding drug companies’ patents on HIV/ AIDS drugs.

"I argue, essentially, that public health should trump intellectual property as an ethically motivating concern for policy makers," he said.

Esther Huang is another Echols scholar who wants to become a doctor. She will spend the summer in Taiwan teaching in mission camps before heading to Harvard Medical School this fall.

While at U.Va., she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Carey, dean of the School of Medicine, using the Harrison Award for Undergraduate Research she received last year. Her work has been published in the journal Hypertension.

She also has worked in the volunteer medical services program through Madison House. "I hope to specialize in a field where I can interact with patients in a clinical setting while investigating molecular mechanisms for the disease in a laboratory, working to develop better treatments or therapies," Huang said.

In addition to her emphasis on medicine, she has played an integral role in publishing the literary journal, Inkstone.

Anita Gupta, an Echols Scholar who majored in biology and minored in Studies in Women and Gender, will go to Vanderbilt Medical School. She plans to go into pediatrics and practice either in a rural underserved area or abroad.

Gupta was a resident adviser last year and served as chief of staff for Student Council this year. She is a volunteer EMT, a certified health care triage worker with the Free Clinic and a sexual assault counselor.

"[Those experiences] will be invaluable" working with patients and families, she said.

Sarah Hobeika is another Cooke scholar who proves that negative stereotypes about Generation X don’t necessarily fit. She ought to know – her thesis for the politics honors program is on Generation X and politics.

"I analyzed the phenomenon that today's young people are highly involved in civic life yet highly uninvolved in politics," she said.

Also an honor adviser, Hobeika will attend U.Va. Law School this fall. She has interned with the Brookings Institution in Washington and the office of Virginia's Attorney General. She also worked for two years as a student volunteer helping five Afghan women resettle in America after fleeing the Taliban. And she is vice president of the Raven Society Council that heads the University’s oldest and most prestigious honorary society, founded in 1904.

James Puckett also will come back to U.Va. to attend Law School. He is considering going into some kind of public interest law or teaching law.

"It’s a really incredible opportunity, because it’s rare to get a scholarship for professional school. I’ll have more freedom in making career choices," he said.

Puckett majored in Spanish linguistics and likes to travel. He graduated a semester early and toured Europe this spring. He's also been to Costa Rica twice, and last spring tutored Serbian refugees in English.

Cooke, the wealthy media mogul who owned the Washington Redskins, never went to college but specified that an education foundation be set up with his fortune after his death. He died in 1997.

Contact: Anne Bromley, (434) 924-6861

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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