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November 20, 2006

Four current, former students awarded 2007 Rhodes Scholarships

Nadiya Figueroa, '04, Ginger Turner, '05, Jacob Lemieux, '07, and Julie Veroff, '07, will head to Oxford University next fall as 2007 Rhodes Scholars.

The scholarships cover two to three years of study at Oxford, providing for all college and university fees, a stipend for necessary expenses while in residence and on vacations, and transportation to and from England. The total value averages about $45,000 per year. The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, the British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer.

Turner, Lemieux and Veroff are three of 32 American Rhodes Scholars. Figueroa is the Jamaican Rhodes Scholar.

Fighting AIDS, poverty

Ginger Turner earned a master's degree in management science and engineering and a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford in 2005. The 23-year-old Rhodes scholar grew up in Galveston, Texas, and plans to pursue a master of philosophy degree in international relations at Oxford.

At Stanford, she wrote her economics honors thesis on HIV/AIDS in the workplace in South Africa. She also founded the first HIV/AIDS hotline in Kazakhstan and currently works in the office of the chief economist at the World Bank, where she focuses on the effects of the industrial-policy environment on African firms.

In applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, Turner wrote that economic theory is insufficient to alleviate poverty and that, at the World Bank, decisions are based as much on political dynamics as on economics. "Studying only economic theory turns a blind eye to reality," she wrote. "To continue research on policy impacts, I need a solid grounding in international relations and politics."

Turner specified in her statement that she would like to work with Oxford faculty in the Global Economic Governance Program, Public Service Program and Research Network on Government in Africa who could supervise her studies and potentially advise her in doctoral work. Citing her background in HIV/AIDS economics research, Turner wrote that she could be well positioned to examine the international political economy of donor funding and impact evaluation.

"I hope such training would prepare me to apply similar in-depth study to future problems facing donor institutions," Turner wrote. "I hope my education and career will lead me to be a leader in an international development institution, without losing the insatiable entrepreneurial drive for tangible results."

Turner, a 2000 National Merit Scholar, came to Stanford after spending a year at Texas A&M University as a high school senior. A ballet dancer and swimmer, she counts among her accomplishments running the San Francisco Marathon and being the first American to swim from Robben Island to Cape Town, South Africa.

In 2004, she served as a Haas Public Service fellow in South Africa, researching the feasibility of solar-powered LED lighting in rural areas. That year, she also was one of seven applicants chosen to represent Stanford in India as an Asia Technology Initiative fellow, presenting a short documentary on Indian manufacturing at a conference in Bombay sponsored by the initiative.

Turner, once an aspiring playwright, was selected as a documentary filmmaker for the 2005 Stanford Film Festival, danced in the Cardinal Ballet Company from 2000 to 2005 and researched and wrote graphic novels depicting American history that were published for fifth- to ninth-grade students.

'Repairing the world'

When Julie Veroff was a child, she learned the Hebrew phrase "tikkun olam," which roughly translates as "repairing the world." The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Veroff said she was raised with a strong sense of responsibility to honor the memory of those who have died as a result of indifference and discrimination.

"That has always been a driving force for me," she said. Veroff, 21, will graduate from Stanford next summer with a bachelor's degree in international relations. At Oxford, she plans to pursue a master of philosophy degree in development studies. She wants to study women's empowerment and how that can be used as a goal and means for achieving development. "I think there's a lot of talk about women's rights but it doesn't translate into development policy," she said.

A lifelong resident of Fresno, Veroff said she was raised with a deep interest in the world around her but never thought much about women's empowerment until she was a high school senior. When a forensics teacher encouraged her to look into the role of DNA in rape prosecutions as a possible advocacy speech topic, she discovered that government funding to test DNA evidence after a rape is woefully inadequate. Outraged by the fact that rape victims are sometimes asked to pay for the cost of processing their own evidence, Veroff wrote a speech calling for increased funding and delivered it at debate tournaments around California. "Through this speech, I found my own voice and passion," Veroff wrote in her Rhodes Scholarship application. "I wanted to know more about the critical issues facing women throughout the world, why they existed, what could be done, and why more people weren't talking about them."

At Stanford, Veroff has explored gender in disciplines ranging from religious studies to history and human biology. She has examined the subject within the context of post-conflict reconstruction, democracy promotion and foreign aid. In addition, Veroff said, political science Professor Terry Karl's course Global Politics of Human Rights introduced her to the idea of bridging academia with activism. As a student, Veroff has volunteered in Nicaragua and Ghana. She also has worked with FORGE, an operating partner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to design and implement a women's empowerment program in a refugee camp in Zambia. This year, Veroff is co-leading FORGE on campus. She also is active in Stanford Hillel, plays the flute and has interned at the State Department.

Veroff's senior thesis, which is being written under the supervision of political science Professor James Fearon, looks at evaluating elections as a post-civil war reconstruction strategy and how elections might have an impact on the duration of peace and the quality of democracy. Although she doesn't have a defined career goal, Veroff wants to work in government on policy issues pertaining to development and women's rights in Sub-Saharan Africa. From that platform, she wants to promote gender equality as a primary objective in U.S. and multinational development policy.

Jamaica and its diaspora

Nadiya Figueroa is the one non-U.S. Rhodes scholar in this Cardinal quartet heading to Oxford next fall. A native of Jamaica, Figueroa, 24, earned bachelor's degrees in cultural and social anthropology (with honors) and history (with distinction) from Stanford in 2004.

She said she plans to pursue development studies at Oxford.

As president of the Associated Students of Stanford University during her senior year, Figueroa led campus initiatives on cost of living, diversity and advising issues. She co-founded the Cultural Awareness Associate Program, for which she received a Leadership through Education, Awareness and Diversity award. Nadiya also was a member of the student leadership team that began a campaign for an expansion of the Black Community Services Center, and was involved with the Caribbean Students Association and the Kuumba African Dance Ensemble.

Using an Undergraduate Research Opportunities major grant, Figueroa studied the elite members of the Jamaican diaspora in an effort to learn more about why they left and how they identified with their homeland. A very large percentage of college-educated Jamaicans live abroad, leading to a "brain drain" that afflicts the country.

She served on the search committee that helped to bring Greg Boardman to the university as dean of students two years ago. Among other university honors and prizes, she was named winner of the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award.

Biochemistry for a healthier planet

Senior Jacob Lemieux, a biological sciences major, plans to pursue a doctorate in biochemistry at Oxford. A native of New York City, Lemieux has combined his academic work at Stanford—which has included publications in professional journals—with his passion for social justice.

He helped to develop a program to install smoke-removing stoves in homes in South Indian villages, where the population is affected by smoke-induced respiratory illnesses. Lemieux began the project as a freshman. Its main focus was to reduce indoor air pollution to stem mortality rates of children under 5. Over three years, the effort succeeded in installing smoke-removing stoves in the homes of more than 350 families and included qualitative and quantitative surveys that, "on paper," reduced the prevalence of a major child mortality risk factor, Lemieux, 21, wrote in his application for a Rhodes Scholarship.

"I left India realizing that my professional goal is first to be a researcher focusing on diseases that affect people in developing countries," Lemieux wrote, "but that a second and larger goal is to directly bridge the gap between technological innovations and people: individuals, families, society and culture."

At Oxford, Lemieux plans to study the biochemistry of tropical infectious diseases in a program that allows for fieldwork. He stated a preference for the university's Center for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, which has infectious disease labs that do research on HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. Lemieux added that the research emphasizes a cross-disciplinary collaboration and partnership with industry, both of which have been important during his time at Stanford.

Jacob, who also led an effort to establish and support a girls' school in a Tanzanian village, described himself as the third generation of Holocaust refugees; his grandparents fled Nazi Germany in 1939. At various points in his statement, Lemieux quoted passages from the Talmud that hold great meaning for him.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief," begins one of the quotes he included. "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

This article was written and reported by Michael Peña, Lisa Trei and John Sanford.



Lisa Trei, News Service: (650) 725-0224,


John Pearson, Bechtel International Center: (650) 725-0889,

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