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Ray Delgado, News Service (650) 724-5708,

Five students selected as Marshall scholars

Five Stanford students and recent graduates were selected as Marshall scholars today, joining two other students who were named Rhodes scholars Nov. 22 to give the university its best combined showing ever in these prestigious scholarship programs.

Better university outreach helped boost the number of applicants this year to 47, an increase of 16 from the previous year and well above the 18 applicants four years ago at the height of the Internet boom, said John Pearson, director of the Bechtel International Center. Previously, the most Stanford students selected in a single year was six in 1994, all of whom were Marshall scholars.

"This is a bit better spread," Pearson said. "It's a tremendous compliment to the students that applied. We had a strong core group of applicants this year. I'm just delighted and I hope this will continue."

The Marshall scholars selected from the university are Sameer Ahmed, who earned a bachelor's degree in international relations in June; Marden Nichols, a senior studying for her bachelor's degree in classics and a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies in humanities with an emphasis on ancient art and archaeology; Nick Rodriguez, a senior studying for his bachelor's degree in public policy and a master's degree in international policy studies; Michael Sulmeyer, who received his bachelor's degree in political science in 2002 and is currently a special assistant in the Department of Defense; and Tracy Williams, a senior political science and economics major.

A Stanford student and a recent graduate were named as Rhodes scholars late last month: Jared Cohen, a senior majoring in history and political science, and Tess Bridgeman, who earned her bachelor's degree in human biology and international health and development in June. Bridgeman was also named a Marshall scholar but declined so that she could accept the Rhodes scholarship.

As many as 40 top U.S. students are chosen for the Marshall scholarships, which allow the students to study toward a degree in any field of study at a university in the United Kingdom. The scholarships cover tuition, living expenses, and research and travel expenses and typically cover two years of education.

Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote letters of recommendation for Ahmed and Williams and said both were exceptional selections for the Marshall scholarships.

"I'm thrilled in both cases," Diamond said. "They're quite different students, of course, but they're both very successful academically. They have the drive to accomplish great things."

Ahmed, 23, found out that he had won a scholarship while he was fasting with his family in Leawood, Kan., in observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The former editor of the Stanford Daily was on a short break from a one-year internship at the American University in Cairo so that he could attend an interview for the scholarship and spend time with his family. After earning his bachelor's degree in international relations with a strong focus on the Middle East, Ahmed decided to continue his studies in Egypt with the internship. He is an adviser for the university's student newspaper and is also taking two Arabic classes.

Ahmed plans on to pursue a master's degree in international relations at the University of Westminster's Centre for the Study of Democracy. He said he hopes to gain a broader understanding of the hot-button topics of religion and politics in the Middle East.

"I want to study how civil society and Islam can go together to help democratize the Muslim world," Ahmed said. "I believe that if people had the freedom to express themselves politically, they wouldn't have to resort to violence to express their goals."

The Marshall offer came as an enormous relief for Nichols, 22, a senior coterminal student who planned to do whatever she could to find her way to England to study archaeology and art history for a future career as a museum attorney or university professor.

"I was really happy to get the call," Nichols said. "I definitely wanted to find a way to go to [Cambridge University] and study there no matter what."

Nichols will graduate from Stanford in the spring with a bachelor's degree in classics and a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies in humanities with an emphasis on ancient art and archaeology. She will then report to Cambridge for a year of study in the department of archaeology and spend her second year in London at the Courtauld Institute of Art studying art history. She then plans to attend law school and focusing on issues affecting art trade.

Rodriguez, 22, heard the good news over his cell phone while running errands for his parents in Ventura County.

"I was sitting in a parking lot about to go in somewhere," Rodriguez said. "It was overwhelming. These are long shots, but you apply for them anyway."

Rodriguez, a coterminal senior studying for a bachelor's degree in public policy and a master's degree in international policy studies, will report to the London School of Economics next fall after graduating in the spring. He plans on studying public financial policy and wants to eventually apply his knowledge to address socioeconomic issues and policies in general education.

Landing a Marshall scholarship has completely changed the post-Stanford plans of Williams, 22, a senior political science and economics major. Williams said she was fully prepared to enter the working world and was in the midst of extensive job interviews (including one job offer) when she found out she had won the scholarship.

"Getting the scholarship changes the realm of possibilities open to me," Williams said. "I feel like there's a lot more that I can do now. It's really exciting to think about where I can go from here."

Williams plans to study international history at the University of Wales for her first year and will likely study international development and democratization efforts in developing nations during her second year.

Sulmeyer, 23, was already planning to attend King's College at the University of London to earn his doctorate in war studies next year when he found out he'd won a Marshall scholarship. Sulmeyer, who graduated from Stanford in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in political science, was accepted into the war studies program and deferred until next year so that he could serve in the Department of Defense as special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy.

Sulmeyer's current job gave him an opportunity to go to Iraq this week as an "adviser, analyst, jack of all trades" on a national security policy team that is helping establish the new Iraqi army. He said he will likely be in Iraq for seven months and will return to the United States to begin preparations for his doctoral studies. Although his sights are set on the immediate task ahead of him, Sulmeyer said he was excited about the chance to study military history at King's College.

"I'm very pleased. The program that I want to do with the Marshall is one that really allows me to get a better understanding of military history," Sulmeyer said. "At some point, I'd like to be able to return to the Department of Defense and continue to play a role in how we think about defense policy."


By Ray Delgado

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