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November 20, 2007

One current, two former students awarded 2008 Rhodes Scholarships

Laurel Gabler, '06, Aaron Polhamus, '08, and Scott Thompson, '06, will head to the University of Oxford next fall as 2008 Rhodes Scholars—three of 32 Americans selected for the prestigious international fellowships.

The scholarships, which cover two to three years of study at Oxford, were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil J. Rhodes, the British colonial pioneer and statesman who hoped to promote international peace and understanding by bringing together students from throughout the English-speaking world to study at his alma mater.

Focus on health

Laurel Gabler of Amagansett, N.Y., earned a bachelor's degree in psychology (with honors) from Stanford in 2006. At Oxford, Gabler, 23, plans to pursue a master's degree in global health science. After transferring to Stanford from Colby College in Maine during the 2004-05 academic year, she worked in the intensive care unit and the neurology clinic of the Stanford Hospital for a year and half, studying how doctor-patient interactions affect treatment decisions—research she incorporated into her senior honors thesis.

As a community service leader in her residence hall at Stanford, Gabler set up breakfasts for homeless people in Palo Alto and organized sponsorship programs for local families in need. She also organized and led a delegation of 30 Stanford students who spent their spring break working in New Orleans helping rebuild the community after Hurricane Katrina.

She hopes to become a doctor and has volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico, as well as at clinics in Ecuador and Tanzania. Currently, she is a Luce Scholar, working in a Thai hospital.

Where foreign policy meets daily life

Aaron Polhamus of Bellingham, Wash., is a Stanford senior majoring in public policy, with an emphasis on economic development policy. At Oxford, Polhamus, 21, plans to pursue a master's degree in development studies. Currently, he is an intern in the U.S. Treasury Department's Latin American Division.

At Stanford, Polhamus has served as a Bible study group leader with the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, and has participated in a university program to distribute sandwiches and clothing to homeless people in Palo Alto on Friday nights.

In his application, Polhamus wrote that his interest in public policy developed gradually as the result of work, study, travel and his transfer to Stanford in 2006.

Last summer, Polhamus conducted a microfinance research project in Peru, in which he worked with 13 different organizations offering financial services to rural clients. During that time, he interviewed microfinance directors, spoke with clients about their experiences, and discussed public policy and the macroeconomic context with government officials.

"After living in Peru for three months, it is clear to me that public policy exists to confront the daily challenges of hunger, sickness, and hopelessness, and that results must not be gauged merely by economic indicators (percentage changes in GDP or inequality) but by the tangible improvement in quality of life experienced by those living in poverty (what ones sees in the marketplace)," Polhamus wrote in his application.

At Oxford, he hopes to study the areas in which U.S. foreign policy intersects with daily life abroad, such as free-trade relations or drug-eradication policy.

"My vision is that my tenure at Oxford will allow me to specify a career direction in U.S. foreign policy by studying the linkages that exist between polices enacted in Washington and what is experience by those in the developing world," he wrote.

Initiatives for low-income communities

Scott Thompson of New York, N.Y., earned bachelor's degrees in psychology (with honors) and political science from Stanford in 2006. In his honors thesis, Thompson examined how different social contexts—racial, ethnic, regional and socioeconomic—instill different values and self-conceptions in young people.

At Oxford, Thompson, 23, plans to pursue a master's degree in evidence-based social intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.

During his senior year at Stanford, Thompson served as an intern at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, where he researched a variety of issues, including foster care, child abuse and neglect, and childcare facilities. He also served as an intern at Project Sentinel: Fair Housing in Palo Alto, where he assisted with housing discrimination investigations.

He spent a semester in Washington, D.C., where he served as an intern in the Children and Youth Policy Group of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also played trombone with the Stanford Jazz Orchestra and the Stanford Wind Ensemble.

Currently, Thompson is teaching U.S. history to 11th-graders in Bronx, N.Y., through the Teach for America program, a nationwide teaching corps of recent college graduates who commit to teaching for two years in the nation's poorest schools.

In his application, Thompson wrote that he has met many students whose natural ability, energy and genuine enthusiasm for learning were thwarted by obstacles he had never encountered growing up in a comfortable middle-class home in Nebraska—obstacles like drugs, violence, crime, and a lack of access to safe housing and health care.

His experiences inspired a new interest he will pursue at Oxford: developing new initiatives to benefit children and families living in low-income communities.

"My goal is to become a leader applying policy-relevant research to the creation of programs and policies that will address the challenges faced by at-risk children and families," he wrote. "In order to do this, I need to develop expertise in designing, evaluating, and applying research on social policy issues, taking the best ideas from research and turning them into practical, science-based solutions for social problems."



Kathleen J. Sullivan, News Service, (650) 724-5708,


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


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